Category archive

News - page 3

Instagram, Facebook Take Down Yellowstone Star Cole Hauser’s Unauthorized Use Of Casper Photographer’s Photo

in Yellowstone TV show/News
22273

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Two social media companies intervened Monday on behalf of a Casper photographer to take down photographs that “Yellowstone” star Cole Hauser posted without the photographer’s permission.

Laura Redmond was excited to see her photo of Hauser from the Cody’s Fourth of July parade where he’d been grand marshall featured on his social media accounts. Her photos had also been used with her permission in a story about the parade by a media outlet in Casper that credited both her and her Heart of Wyoming Photography company.

Initially, she was thrilled that Hauser had shared her photo on July 7 with his more than 1.1 million Instagram followers and his more than 200,000 fans on his “Cole Hauser Fans” Facebook page. Then she noticed that unlike the media outlet, her photos on both social media sites were reposted from her company’s Facebook page without giving her credit.

Posting another user’s photos without permission is considered a violation of intellectual property rights on both Facebook and Instagram, per their terms of use.

When Redmond saw her photo, she posted on both of Hauser’s social media pages, thanking him for using it and asking that she be given credit for the shot. That request and a subsequent private message from Redmond went ignored. 



Shortly after she’d sent the message, the photo was “pinned” to the top of his fan Facebook page, and Redmond wasn’t sure that was meant as a defiant response to her request.

She gave it about two weeks before ultimately filing intellectual property complaints with both Facebook and Instagram, which agreed that Hauser’s page had violated the terms of agreement. Her photos were removed from his two accounts on Monday.

Redmond has no idea if Hauser runs his own page or has a team or person who manages it, but as a professional photographer, she was offended by the lack of response.

“It’s cool that he or someone thought enough to take the photo, but it’s disheartening to think they didn’t think enough of me to credit it, especially in a profession where you are recognized for the work you do,” she said.

Even more disheartening for Redmond was the response from her friends who found the story interesting or funny but didn’t consider it a big deal. Others discouraged her from complaining publicly or taking legal action against Hauser because of his stardom and fears she would be attacked as a “whiner” or receive negative reviews on her business page from avid Houser fans.

When she suggested pursuing legal action – which was her next step had the social media companies not intervened – one of her lawyer friends refused to take on Redmond’s case because she said nothing good would come of it.

While Redmond understood, she still found it upsetting that movie stars are held to a different standard. Had the roles been reversed, Redmond believes she would have heard from Hauser’s team almost immediately.

Apart from not getting credit, Redmond said the larger concern for her professionally was that the tables might have been turned on her and she could have been blamed for stealing the photo from Hauser, which would have put her own reputation and career in jeopardy.

It is legal in the U.S. to take photographs of  public figures without their permission as long as it is in a public place where that person would have no expectation of privacy. The photographer then holds exclusive rights to that image, per U.S. copyright laws. 

As someone who studied online marketing and public relations in college, Redmond goes out of her way to credit other people for their work and would have felt bad about using someone else’s photos without permission.

“That’s why there’s a ‘share’ button to tag that person and thank them,” she said.

She wasn’t looking for an apology or payment, but just wanted to be credited for her work, she said.

“It isn’t about money,” she said. “It’s just about integrity and professional courtesy.”

She said she would have been happy to give him a copy of the photo for free had he just asked.

She added she felt validated that the social media companies took down the photos.

A message from Cowboy State Daily to the “Cole Hauser Fans” Facebook page was not immediately answered.

UPDATE: 11:43 a.m. A person from the Cole Hauser page said, “This was my fault and I took it down immediately, I saw it on a group and re-posted it, so sorry to you and the owner [sic] picture, next time I’ll credite [sic] for the photo!”

He further said he planned to contact Redmond.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Twitter’s Popular, And Partisan, RoomRater Bashes Hageman, Praises Cheney

in News/politics
22267

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

The interiors of homes belonging to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and her top congressional opponent Harriet Hageman were recently a featured topic of the popular Twitter account RoomRater.

Not surprisingly, the popular Twitter account which is unabashedly partisan, ripped Hageman and lauded Cheney.

“Nice rough hewn timbers. Deserves honor and recognition. Even if it means having to move home to Virginia. Reframe to reduce headspace,” the Room Rater post remarked about part of Cheney’s home as seen in a backdrop for a TV interview. 

She earned a score of 8 out of 10 score for modern mountain home decor.

It was the same room Cheney has been seen in while questioning witnesses in some of her taped testimony for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.



What RoomRater Is

Room Rater is a social media account run by Claude Taylor and Jessie Bahrey. It reviews the appearance of home spaces used by public figures in the background of their TV interviews. 

The account started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in response to the surge of people doing interviews from home rather than a TV studio. 

The account now has more than 412,000 followers, following what Taylor describes as a running joke on a modern day subculture, or a “universe within that universe.” 

A classy bookshelf usually helps get a high score as do antique globes and “power pillows,” an item complemented in one recent screen grab on the account. 

An intriguing fixture or ornament wins additional brownie points.

Former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill became well known on the page for a cake stand featured in the background of many of her interviews, causing followers to speculate about what kind of sweet dessert might be inside.

The reviews are intended to be fair but lighthearted.

“I’m not an interior decorator, I just pretend to be one,” Taylor told Cowboy State Daily.

Zero Out Of 10

They also review interviewees for their technical preparedness, commenting on visible cords (“cord violations”), bad camera angles and smudges to their computer camera. 

The account reviewed Hageman on July 8, saying that, “A cord violation is the least of her problems.” 

She received a score of 0 out of 10 score and some harsh words, not to mention the scathing comments that followed.



However, Taylor admitted that Hageman’s decorating skill may not have had a lot to do with the final score.

“I wasn’t trying to be fair, I was definitely trolling her,” Taylor said. 

Hageman has done more visually appealing interviews than the one she was most recently ranked for. 

In a September 2021 interview with Fox News, she appeared with a framed up camera view and Wyoming memorabilia in the background. 

Although he is a resident of the Washington, D.C. area, Taylor, a self-described “political junkie,” said he watched the entire Wyoming House debate that was held in late June. The manager of a Democratic political action committee, he has a pretty low opinion of both candidates.

“(Hageman) is insane without a grip on reality,” he said. “I’m aghast to even think of putting that woman up for dog catcher, let alone Congress. And there’s some fine dog catchers out there that don’t deserve that type of comparison.” 

Not A Cheney-Lover Either

Taylor is not a big Cheney fan either, adding in the comments of her review that, “She spent most of her adult life in Virginia before moving back ‘home’ to Wyoming to run for Congress.”

Taylor, who was also a member of former President Bill Clinton’s staff, said political bias absolutely factors into the reviews. Room Rater is considered a subset of his Mad Dog PAC.

He said if he or Bahrey do come across a Republican they don’t like with a quality backdrop, they usually won’t review them. But that’s not to say Room Rater hasn’t complimented conservatives for an eye-pleasing home ambiance before, featuring Republican strategist Rick Wilson.

Cheney and Hageman are the the only two Wyoming figures to win a rating from Room Rater. 

Leo’s Score

I was featured on Room Rater for an MSNBC interview I did last October about Kanye West. Room Rater may have gone easy on me, critiquing my camera angle, but seemingly giving credit for two antique Buffalo Bill posters showing in the background.



“Love the western art. Can we get a closeup? Nice chair-and-a-half,” the post snarkily remarked.

Maybe I could take a few notes from the book Room Rater recently published, “How to Zoom Your Room.” 

Inside, readers can find illustrations of visually stunning set-ups and tips from all-star Zoom roomers on how to improve one’s interior ambience for the next virtual meeting. Also included are Oval Office decor anecdotes from presidential historian Michael Beschloss and several recipes from McCaskill. 

Taylor believes Room Rater has served a legitimate function in society, helping people land jobs, as well as making financial contributions to charitable causes. Room Rater gave $391,000 in proceeds from a recent fundraiser to the Navajo Nation for facemasks. Now, Taylor said he is in talks with a well-known producer for a reality TV show. 

Cheney has done a few televised appearances since the Room Rater review, with improved framing. Hageman has not done any since her recent review.

Taylor doesn’t believe home interviews will ever go away entirely. 

“I think there will always be a hybrid between home and the office,” he said. “This Zoom experience is here to stay.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Tuesday July 19, 2022

in Gas Map/News
22304

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

The price of gasoline in Wyoming declined by 3 cents per gallon on Tuesday over the previous 24 hours to average $4.71.

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is down 9 cents from a week ago and is up $1.28 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained above the national average of $4.47.

High and Low Prices:

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Tuesday was in Moose, near Jackson, at $5.79 per gallon. The lowest price in Wyoming was $3.97 per gallon in Gillette, at the Conoco station at 302 W. Lakeway Road. 

The county with the highest average price was Teton at $5.07. Natrona County had the lowest average price at $4.40.

These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stationed surveyed.

*The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $4.78; Big Horn $4.91; Campbell $4.59; Carbon $4.75; Converse $4.72; Crook $4.69; Fremont $4.89; Goshen $4.66; Hot Springs $4.80; Johnson $4.93; Laramie $4.53; Lincoln $4.72; Natrona $4.40; Niobrara $4.72; Park $4.91; Platte $4.72; Sheridan $4.87; Sublette $4.72; Sweetwater $4.80; Teton $5.07; Uinta $4.74; Washakie $4.83; Weston: $4.54. 

*The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.77; Buffalo $4.71; Casper $4.24; Cheyenne $4.37; Cody $4.70; Douglas $4.63; Evanston $4.59; Gillette $3.97; Jackson $4.94; Kemmerer $4.85; Laramie $4.24; Lusk $4.45; Newcastle $4.48; Pinedale $4.79; Rawlins $4.69; Riverton $4.84; Rock Springs $4.61; Sheridan $4.82; Sundance $4.67; Thermopolis $4.77; Wheatland $4.83; Worland $4.79.   

Tim’s Observation:

Teton County was the only county reporting an average above $5.00 per gallon on Tuesday, with an average of $5.07. 

There are finally prices below $4 per gallon prices showing up in our report. One station in Gillette is reporting a price of $3.97.

A hoax alert continues for the Shell station at 707 N. Center Street in Casper, where someone is reporting a price of $4 per gallon to GasBuddy.com. The actual price is $4.53 per gallon.

*Note: Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered just prior to posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

California Couple Charged With Killing & Dismembering Man In Laramie Motel

in News/Crime
22221

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A California couple has been charged in connection with the murder and dismemberment of a homeless man in Laramie, court records show.

Hunter Orion Fulton has been charged with second-degree murder, mutilation of a dead body, possession of a deadly weapon and aggravated assault and battery. He faces 40 years to life in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if found guilty of all the charges.

Erin Brittany Wade has been charged with being an accessory to second-degree murder, conspiracy to mutilate a body and accessory after the fact to assault and battery. If convicted of all charges, she faces a little more than 10 years in prison.

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed in Albany County District Court, Fulton is accused of murdering and dismembering a homeless man around June 25.

While the affidavit only identified the victim as “M.T.C.,” the Laramie Police Department issued a plea to the public in late June seeking help in finding a missing person identified as Mathew Caggiano whose identity matched that of the murder victim.

Police were contacted on June 27 about M.T.C., who had not gone to work that day and had not been in contact with anyone in days. He was living in his vehicle, a Gold Dodge Ram with Idaho license plates, at the time.

The affidavit states that on the evening of June 24, Wade and Fulton went out to a couple of restaurants and bars in downtown Laramie before ending up at Copper’s Bar.

Wade told police when she was interviewed via phone that after she and Fulton arrived at Copper’s, they hung out with M.T.C. until he made a “sexual pass” at her. Fulton confronted the man, who apologized and then bought them drinks.

The couple ultimately left the bar and returned to their room at the Gas Lite Motel, where they then snorted cocaine.

At some point, Fulton left the room to get ice and kept the door open. M.T.C. then allegedly entered the room and attempted to sexually assault Wade at knifepoint, the affidavit said.

Fulton returned and got into a violent altercation with M.T.C. Wade said she soon heard a gunshot and realized her boyfriend had shot the man in the head.

Wade told police that the victim’s body was placed in the hotel room’s bathtub. Witnesses later told police that they saw Fulton leaving his room on multiple occasions.

On June 29, police arrested Fulton, who was sitting inside of his running vehicle in the hotel’s parking lot.

“You will find everything you need inside the room,” Fulton told police. “If your girlfriend would have gotten raped, you would have killed him too.”

Police found a receipt from Ace Hardware on June 25 that showed Fulton purchased trash bags and a saw, which they determined was likely used to dismember M.T.C.

When police searched the room, they found M.T.C. inside of a large black plastic bag in a state of decomposition with cuts to his torso.

A medical examiner determined a gunshot wound to the head killed M.T.C, and the cuts were made after his death.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

California’s New Gun Law Could Hurt Wyoming Gunmakers, Sellers

in Guns/News
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
22244

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

A new California law designed to allow lawsuits against the entire firearms industry when its products are misused could affect gunmakers in Wyoming, according to a Second Amendment expert.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on July 12 signed into law Assembly Bill 1594, which is scheduled to go into effect next July. It enables lawsuits against any person or business in the gun industry by individuals who have been wronged in California incidents involving guns and gun-related products.

Newsom touted the bill in an announcement last week.

“Gun manufacturers and distributors have been shielded from the mass destruction they cause for too long,” Newsom said in a Twitter post. “Today, CA changes that. I just signed a bill that will allow victims of gun violence to sue the makers of these deadly weapons & hold them accountable.”

In his official statement, Newsom implied that the bill is designed to rid California’s streets of gun violence.

“To the victims of gun violence and their families: California stands with you. The gun industry can no longer hide from the devastating harm their products cause,” Newsom said. “Our kids, families and communities deserve streets free of gun violence and gun makers must be held accountable for their role in this crisis. Nearly every industry is held liable when people are hurt or killed by their products – guns should be no different.”

Newsom did not return a phone message requesting additional clarification on how the law impacts gunmakers outside California.

‘Where It’s Crazy’

But a Second Amendment expert in Wyoming said the law could affect gunmakers across the country, including in Wyoming.

“It very clearly affects those who sell firearms in California,” said George Mocsary, University of Wyoming law professor and co-author of “Firearms Law and the Second Amendment.”

“Where it’s so crazy, where it really goes beyond the tail is – unless I’ve missed something – (the law) seems to at least attempt to cover a firearm that made it into California despite the absence of any attempt to target California for firearms sales,” said Mocsary.

Mocsary pointed to features of the new law that make it “vague.”

For example, the bill tells gunmakers they are to avoid lawsuits by applying “reasonable controls” on how they market firearms. “Reasonable” controls are then defined as “reasonable” methods applied to prevent sales to traffickers, to straw buyers and to people who aren’t allowed to have guns and also to prevent thefts from gun stores, and to ensure that the firearm industry doesn’t promote unlawful gun use or marketing.

“It defines ‘reasonable’ as ‘reasonable,’” said Mocsary. “That’s kind of circular reasoning.”

The law appears to create a negligence standard for gunmakers on a number of outcomes, and tells the courts to presume that the firearm products are “abnormally dangerous” if they fall under the law’s embargoes.

For example, a gun or gun-related product that appears “most suitable for assaultive purposes” instead of self-defense or hunting could cost a gunmaker or gun dealer in a California lawsuit.

“I don’t know what that means. I don’t think anyone does,” said Mocsary. “Generally the same features of a firearm that make it useful for self-defense also make it more accurate and more effective (in assault scenarios).”

Products that “foreseeably promote” conversion of legal firearms into illegal firearms also can hurt the gun industry in court, under the new law.

“I feel like that could cover a file. A metal file that lets you file off a firearm to make it fully automatic,” could possibly trigger a lawsuit under the law, said Mocsary.

Notoriously Hostile

The law’s power over the firearms industry is enhanced by the climate inside California’s judicial system, Mocsary said, where judges and often juries, lean against gun advocates.

“It might be tough to get a fair trial in California on a thing like this… the Ninth Circuit (U.S. Court of Appeals) is notoriously hostile to Second Amendment claims,” he said.

The court system, headquartered in San Fransisco, has reversed a number of cases upholding Second Amendment rights since 2014.

“It’s typical for what you get out of California,” said Mocsary. “The laws don’t really aim to enhance safety but it feels a lot like their main focus is to harass gun owners and makers, and anyone for whom firearms are important.

“People like that are considered very much an outgroup in California, or at least to the California elites who control lawmaking there,” he added

Mocsary, who also has extensive experience in business law, said gunmakers and other businesses may try to survive the increased liability by “over-lawyering,” that is, lacing all their business with “a big paper trail” showing their compliance and their attempts to prevent downstream marketing that disagrees with California’s standard.

Into Court

The other option is to challenge the law in court, which a prominent gun rights group now has pledged to do.

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday the organization plans to ally with other groups to challenge the assembly bill.

“This is clearly an effort by the radical left California state Legislature that is rabidly anti-Second Amendment to create a financial burden on anyone connected to the firearms industry,” said Paredes.

He noted that before this bill, there already were provisions for individuals to sue companies which make defective products.

“That’s not what this is about.”

Paredes compared the law’s potential to a vehicle collision victim suing Ford car manufacturers. He also opined strongly that the law could impact Wyoming’s firearms industry members.

“The manufacturers, the dealer who sold the gun… in Wyoming is liable. The distributor who delivered the gun in Wyoming is liable,” said Paredes. “This has potentially massive national implications.”

But Paredes said due to what he called the bill’s likely clash with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, his organization expects it to be defeated in court.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Georgia Couple Identified As Passengers In Bighorn Mountains Plane Crash

in Plane crash/News
Courtesy, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
22254

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A Georgia couple were victims of the plane crash in the Bighorn Mountains last Thursday, according to relatives of the deceased.

The cause of the crash is still unknown, but friends and family of Charles “Charly” Schell and Kelli Taylor Schell of Hartwell, Ga. have identified the two as being onboard the ill-fated private plane.

Friends say the couple were well known for owning and operating a golf club in Northeast Georgia.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday morning announced that there were no survivors in a plane crash which occurred Thursday in a remote section of the Bighorn National Forest.

Sheriff Rod Odenbach said a private airplane which was carrying two people departed at noon from the Powell Municipal Airport and was to arrive at the Johnson County Airport but never reached its destination.

Los Angeles resident Estevan Roth said he met and spoke with the couple before they took off from the airport. Roth, a self-described airplane enthusiast, provided Cowboy State Daily a grainy video of Schell’s plane which he took at the Powell Airport before takeoff.

Roth said he was at the airport as he was interested in purchasing a plane.



“They just seemed like a regular couple,” Roth told Cowboy State Daily.

Roth said he was shocked when he found out the news and surprised the plane went down, as Charles Schell was a former Army pilot who owned multiple planes.  

The Schells were flying in a Cessna P201N. Roth said these turbo prop planes are usually more reliable than a typical private airplane because of their ability to fly at a higher altitude. 

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed a Cessna P201N did go down near Buffalo on July 14 but has not released the names of those involved in the incident.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office was notified of a fire near the Middle Fork of the Rock Creek in Bighorn National Forest and located wreckage from an airplane crash, which is believed to have started the fire.

Temporary flight restrictions have been placed in the airspace 15 nautical miles northwest of Buffalo to provide a safe environment for investigation into the accident, as well as search and rescue, according to the FAA’s flight restriction website. 

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Casper Man Loses Control Of Prosthetic Leg; Drives Car Through Convenience Store

in Oops/News
Photo by Tim Mandese
22248

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

A prosthetic leg is being blamed for an accident that sent a car through the front of a Casper convenience store on Monday.

Veronica Fresorger, manager of the Good2Go convenience store on Valley Drive in Casper, was doing paperwork in her office when she heard what “sounded like an explosion hit my store.”

A pickup truck had driven through the front of the business.

Fresorger said the unidentified driver of the pickup truck had problems with its accelerator and was unable to stop.

“The gentleman said his foot stuck on the gas pedal,” she said. “The accelerator was down and he came in through the store. It was just bad luck.” 



It appeared the senior driver’s prosthetic leg became caught on the accelerator and he wasn’t able to free it in time to stop the vehicle, she added.

“I came running out and he was just getting out of the vehicle,” she said. “The first thing through my head was to call 911.” 

After being questioned by Casper police the man was released to his daughter.

There were no injuries reported in the incident. 

“Everyone was safe, everyone was good, including the driver.” said Fresorger.

The damages to the building were extensive, however causing the temporary closure of the business. 

“He took out my entire front wall, all my windows are broken,” Fresorger said. “The whole bottom wall from side to side will have to be replaced, and he took out my open air cooler.” 

No estimates on value of the damages were available. 

A cleanup crew was just arriving Monday afternoon and the front of the store will be boarded up until repairs can be made. Although the store is open out front for gas sales, the inside of the store is close for business until Tuesday morning. 


Photo by Tim Mandese

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Southeast Wyo Temperatures Explode, Set Records; Torrington At 107, Cheyenne Hits 99

in News/Don Day
22240

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Despite soaring temperatures over the next two weeks, Wyoming weatherman Don Day assured Cowboy State Daily reporters and readers on Monday that no one in the state would actually melt.

However, the Cowboy State Daily meteorologist did say that the next two weeks in Wyoming would be hot, with temperatures reaching the 90s and 100s.

“It’s summer and in Wyoming, the hottest temperatures are seen between mid-July and mid-August,” Day said on Monday. “There will be a slight cooldown on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, but it’s definitely going to be hotter over these next two weeks of July.”

Several Wyoming cities on Monday saw record-breaking temperatures including Cheyenne — with a record of 99 degrees surpassing the previous high for the date of 97 degrees — Torrington, where the temperature reached 107 to break the previous record of 105 and Laramie with a high of 91 compared to the previous record of 89.

Day said the hottest temperature on record in Wyoming is 116 degrees at Bitter Creek in Sweetwater County on July 12, 1900.

He does not expect the next two weeks in Wyoming to get quite that hot, although he did concede that it is warm across the state, by anyone’s standards.

“I got a call today from a guy down by Hawk Springs that swears his thermometer said it was 114 today,” Day said. “I don’t believe that, people put thermometers in places they shouldn’t be all the time.”

The hottest spots in Wyoming are the Bighorn Basin and towns on the edge of Nebraska, as they are at some of the lowest altitudes in the state.

Day also said temperatures this year are not quite as high as the summers of 2003 or 2012, some of the worst summers for the Central Plains.

“We’re getting a taste of the heat right now, but we’re not suffering nearly as bad as people in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas are,” he said.

Afternoon thunderstorms are expected by the weekend, which Day said will alleviate the heat, at least a bit. There will not be significant cooling, but it should help a little, the weatherman said.

“It looks like pretty typical Cheyenne Frontier Days weather,” Day said, alluding to the “Daddy of ’em All” kicking off on Friday.

He said he hoped that the Laramie County area would not see the usual hailstorm that typically passes through at least once during CFD. In 2016, the town of Pine Bluffs saw major damage due to the late July storm.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming Caucus Leader Says 3 Reps Running For Senate Are ‘Abandoning’ Conservative Cause

in News/politics
22237

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

The upcoming GOP primaries in Wyoming are crucial to establishing and pursuing “true conservative” causes in the state House, according to a leading member of the House Freedom Caucus.

“We’re worried about that — this election,” said Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette.

Which is why, he said, he finds the decision made by three House Republicans to run for the state Senate to be an act of abandonment of the Freedom Caucus, made up of conservative members of the state House of Representatives.

“Look at the sheer numbers of who the true conservatives are, they abandoned us,” Bear said.

Wharff, Fortner, Laursen

Reps. Bob Wharff, R-Evanston, Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, and Dan Laursen, R-Powell have decided to run for the Senate.

Although Republicans hold a solid majority in the House and Senate chambers of the Legislature, many staunchly conservative members of the party have said their faction of the GOP holds a minority stake in the party.

According to political rating website Wyorino.com, “RINOs” a term for those described as “Republican in Name Only,” have the majority in both chambers.

Even the Freedom Caucus itself is divided over which members can be considered true conservatives. 

Guns

The debate stems from two Second Amendment bills that were considered during the Legislature’s budget session. 

A bill supported by Bear, SF102, which had the support of most of the Freedom Caucus, passed, while a bill supported by Wharff, Fortner and its sponsor Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, did not.

Fortner told Cowboy State Daily he refused to compromise and support SF102.

“They wanted us to play ball with them, I didn’t falter” Fortner said.

Wharff and Fortner said it was the split over these bills that led them to stop participating in the Freedom Caucus. 

Both bills would prohibit Wyoming law enforcement officers from enforcing any federal gun regulations considered unconstitutional. The successful SF102 would have allowed for criminal charges against any law enforcement officer enforcing an unconstitutional regulation.

The other bill would also have allowed residents to sue law enforcement officers if they tried to enforce a regulation considered unconstitutional.

Wharff said SF 102, the bill he opposed that passed, does nothing for Second Amendment rights and gives politicians a cover to claim they support guns. 

“SF 102 was the worst bill ever passed in Cheyenne,” Fortner said.

Guns vs Guns

Support for the competing pieces of legislation largely followed lines of support between two firearms rights groups — Gun Owners of America, which Bear is associated with, and Wyoming Gun Owners, which Wharff supports.

The debate has created division that are not good for the party,  Wharff said.

“Conservatives need to quit fighting amongst themselves,” Wharff said, a point Bear has agreed to.

The Freedom Caucus is not a highly defined organization. Bear, a leading voice within the caucus, said the group does not publish a membership roster to avoid showing its true power when lobbying for certain bills. 

When it comes to meetings, he said at a certain point the caucus stopped inviting Wharff, Fortner and Laursen because they weren’t showing up. Wharff and Fortner said when the caucus began, they were made members without ever having been asked to join.

No party disagrees at this point that Fortner, Wharff and Laursen stopped participating in the caucus on their own volition.

“We didn’t like what the group was doing so we left,” Wharff said.

Fortner and Wharff believe that Bear’s push for political power is playing a role in the race for Senate District No. 1, where Fortner is challenging Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Roger Connett.

Fortner and Wharff believe Connett was recruited to run to dilute the vote and pull votes away from Fortner. 

Driskill

If Driskill wins re-election, he will most likely be named Senate president due to his current No. 2 ranking in that body. 

Fortner suspects Bear “did a deal with the devil” to stay in good favor with a highly influential member of the legislature, lobbying others to hold back from giving him campaign donations. 

“These guys want to move up so fast so bad,” Fortner said. “Wyoming is not in the kind of position to have these kinds of games being played.”

Bear denies all of these charges of collusion and said there is “no record” tying him to any involvement in the SD1 race. 

Driskill did not return multiple requests for comment.

Ethical

Bear said he has done “nothing that is not part of the normal (ethical) strategy to get anyone elected” and the “incumbent is the most likely legislator to win whether you like it or not.”

“I’m not supportive of Bill Fortner leaving the House to run against an incumbent when he could choose to return to the House,” he said. “It puts the conservative vote at risk. That’s bad political strategy and I definitely don’t support that.”

Bear said establishing relationships with those in leadership positions in the Legislature is critical to getting bills passed.

Wharff also suspects there is a loyalty split trickling down from the U.S. House race between Bouchard and Harriet Hageman. Wharff is a longtime friend and colleague of Bouchard, while Bear has formally endorsed Hageman. 

“Supporting Bouchard Is An Enemy”

Wharff said he has been told by certain legislators who support Hageman that anyone supporting Bouchard is an enemy. He added he has been called a liar by others.

“There is nothing more offensive than to call someone a liar,” Wharff said. “You can’t get me to lie, I won’t lie.”

Wharff and Fortner said the Freedom Caucus is straying away from firmly conservative causes in return for political power. 

“I’m not going to compete with what I think is right,” Wharff said.

For now, the three former caucus representatives are focusing on their respective elections. Bear is running unopposed in his district and said his main goal is helping true conservative candidates win. 

Although every member of the Legislature still has until the end of the year before their terms expire, Bear said the caucus is devoting its full attention to elections. 

“We’re not taking any other new action until we learn who our new members are for the next term,” Bear said.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Woman Who Killed Pinedale Man In Drunk Head-On Collision Gets Sentence Overturned By Supreme Court

in News/Wyoming Supreme Court
22227

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The sentence of a woman convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide and driving under the influence in a fatal accident near Pinedale in 2021 was overturned Monday by the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Justices agreed the judge who handed down the 15- to 20-year sentence for Jade Jewkes improperly took into consideration her refusal to speak to investigating officers in the case and should not have applied what he called “community expectations” in handing down the sentence.

Under the Constitution, neither factor should have figured into Jewkes’ sentence, said the opinion, written by Justice Kari Gray.

“We cannot know what Ms. Jewkes’ sentence would have been had the district court not incorporated constitutionally prohibited factors into its sentencing decision,” it said. “The application of not one, but two, constitutionally prohibited aggravating factors in sentencing undermines the fairness and integrity of judicial proceedings and is plain error.” 

According to the ruling, Jewkes pleaded guilty to both the charge of aggravated vehicular homicide and driving under the influence after the car she was driving crossed the center line on U.S. Highway 191 and collided head-on with a pickup truck driven by Shane Deal.

Deal died in the New Year’s Day accident. An investigation revealed that Jewkes had a blood-alcohol content of 0.22% at the time of the accident.

During sentencing, Judge Marvin Tyler commented on the fact that Jewkes refused to speak to the Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers who first contacted her after the crash and refused to take a breathalyzer test. The ruling also said Tyler mentioned that Jewkes refused to answer questions from a trooper who contacted her at the hospital where she was treated for her injuries.

But Jewkes argued she was “punished” for exercising her constitutional right to remain silent. 

Justices agreed, noting that a person’s cooperation with authorities is an appropriate factor take into consideration in sentencing.

“Conversely, it is fundamental that an individual’s exercise of a constitutional right cannot be used as an aggravating factor in sentencing,” the opinion said. “The district court sentenced Ms. Jewkes in part because she ‘refused to answer questions’ on the scene and later at the hospital, effectively punishing Ms. Jewkes for exercising her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.”

Tyler also said that as a judge who has been assigned to criminal cases in a number of counties, he has found that different communities have different expectations of what kind of sentence should be handed down in criminal matters.

“And so I try to consider that as a separate factor and consider where I am and what the citizens of our jurisdiction where this crime is when I’m doing the sentencing expects me to do,” Tyler said during sentencing.

Justices found that the judge had no documentation on which to base his decisions for “community expectations,” so Jewkes’ rights to due process of the law were violated.

“The district court relied on its unsupported view of what the community expects in sentencing Ms. Jewkes,” the opinion said. “We find that the district court’s sentence, based at least in part on its subjective view of community expectations, violated Ms. Jewkes’ right to due process.”

Justices, in sending the case back to state district court for a new sentencing hearing, said there is no doubt the two errors combined created prejudice in Jewkes’ sentencing.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Grizzly Bear Relocated From Cody To Yellowstone After Eating Pig Slop

in News/Grizzly Bears
22228

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A grizzly bear was moved from the Cody area to a spot not far from Yellowstone National Park, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department official told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

The subadult male grizzly was captured and relocated on Saturday after it was caught getting into trash and eating pig slop, large carnivore Supervisor Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

“This bear got into garbage in a dumpster,” Thompson said. “We secured the dumpster but he also got into some ‘pig slop’ adjacent to the dumpster. Luckily he avoided the pigs.”

Thompson said this particular bear had no previous conflict history, so it was relocated from Cody to the Fox Creek area, about eight miles from Yellowstone’s northeast entrance.

This was the third grizzly bear relocation to take place this year, Thompson noted.

“We still have a long summer and fall ahead of us,” he said.

The most recent relocation took place earlier this month, when another young male grizzly was taken from Cody to the Five Mile drainage area, which sits about 5 miles from Yellowstone’s east entrance.

That particular bear was caught preying on cattle in the area, but had no prior conflicts, Thompson said at the time.

Bears that are considered a threat to human safety are not relocated, but killed.

In March, the department released its annual grizzly bear report, which showed 45 bears were captured in 2021 in 49 separate incidents. Four bears were captured more than once.

Of those 45 bears, 30 were killed by the department, with at least one being killed due to poor health.

In 2020, only 18 grizzlies were killed by the department, while in 2018, 32 were killed.

The report said that 17 of the 30 bears killed were found outside of the demographic monitoring area, the area considered suitable for the long-term viability of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Bears are killed after the department receives authorization from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “after careful and thorough deliberation taking into account multiple factors unique to each conflict situation.”

Reasons for killing grizzlies include that they have grown used to getting food from human sources or that they have killed livestock.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Another One Bites The Dust: ‘Saratoga Bullfest’ Canceled Due To Record High Diesel Costs

in News/wyoming economy
Courtesy, Saratoga Bullfest
22222

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Joshua Wood, Cowboy State Daily

No bull.

The 2022 Saratoga Bullfest, which was set to celebrate its 26th year, has been officially canceled, according to organizers of the event.

Bo Alameda, chairman of the Saratoga Bullfest Committee, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that the nationwide fuel increase was one of the major factors in the cancelation of the annual regional bullriding competition.

“The biggest thing would be, we were going to have to pay the contract help more because it would cost them a lot more to get here. The bull guys, that’s one of the biggest things,” said Alameda. “They’re dragging a trailer full of bulls … wherever they’re coming from and $6 a gallon diesel kind of adds up after a while.”

Saratoga Bullfest has been unique in that it doesn’t work with just one stock contractor, but several. In the past, bullriders have not been the only competitors to have an opportunity to win money in Saratoga. The stock contractors compete as well for the opportunity to win money based on the performance of their bulls.

“Those guys bring a team of bulls and they’re taking the same chance that the bullriders are. They’re not getting paid, they’re taking a chance at winning some money,” said Alameda. “If their bulls do well, then they’ll win some money.

According to Alameda, while the cost of fuel was one significant factor, another was low entries at similar events elsewhere. 

Alameda could not specify whether declines in entries are being seen regionally or across the country, but he said the drops are occurring “just all around.” These included professional events as well.

“Numbers are down, that’s the best way to put it,” said Alameda.

Bullfest isn’t the only animal-centered event in Wyoming to be canceled due to nationwide influences. Earlier this year, both Park and Campbell counties announced the cancelation of their annual pig wrestling events. In both cases, the lack of available pigs was cited as the reason. Both events received their pigs for the event from Double D Livestock in Greybull.

While this year’s Saratoga Bullfest may be canceled, there are plans in place to overhaul the event for 2023. On its Facebook post, Saratoga Bullfest promised “a new format and some exciting changes” for next year.

According to Alameda, those changes are still in the works. Changes already made include raising more money for bigger payouts and getting away from the stock contractor competition portion of the event. Instead, Saratoga Bullfest may hire just one stock contractor to provide the bulls for the event.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming One Catastrophe Away From Severe Increase In Gas Prices

in Energy/News
22217

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming could be just one catastrophe away from a severe increase in the already sky-high fuel prices, industry leaders told a state panel studying Wyoming’s gas and diesel prices Friday.

“If any of the refineries shut down, it takes more supply off the market,” John Dooley, owner of Dooley Oil, Inc. said. “We could be in a dire situation pretty quick.”

The handful of oil and gas industry members who testified before the Gas and Diesel Price Working Group on Friday afternoon in Cheyenne painted a gloomy forecast for the future of oil and gas prices in Wyoming. 

The Working Group was formed by Gov. Mark Gordon to examine rapid increases in the cost of gas and diesel in the state and possibly recommend solutions. He did not attend Friday’s meeting or speak to the group.

Tax Revenue Drop

Ron McMurry of the Cheyenne Logistics Hub industrial park said a catastrophic supply hit could lead to a drop in tax revenue for the state as consumers would likely curb their gas consumption. 

Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs said the state makes about $100 million in additional revenue for every $10 paid at the pump. Each penny of sales tax generates about $180 million per year. 

Sam Shumway, Wyoming state director for AARP, asked Peter Obermueller, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, what he should tell his members who are struggling to pay their bills due to the increase in prices. 

Obermueller agreed the problem affects people’s livelihoods, but said oil and gas companies are independent groups that operate in a global market where collusion is illegal.

“Because of that, we don’t have the ability to set the price,” he said. “The answer is not simple.”

Stith and Obermueller said the Legislature could restore a property tax rebate program for elderly and the disabled that helps the state combat a proverbial ocean wave with “a canoe and paddles.” 

“It may get to the goal, which is relief for Wyoming consumers,” Stith said.

Obermueller also said a reconsideration to the state’s oil and tax structure could help the energy industry better prepare for gas price crisis scenarios like the one the state currently finds itself in.

The price of gasoline in Wyoming averaged $4.71 per gallon on Monday morning, an increase of almost $1.31 from one year ago.

Price Gouging

Cheyenne resident Les Moore accused oil and gas producers of price gouging, but McMurry, his co-worker Joe Stephenson and Dooley said their profit margins are thin. Obermueller said gas companies have become more conservative with their cash flow management due to prior recessions, which has slowed the amount of supply available on the market.

Obermueller said the high prices cannot be simply resolved by having Gov. Mark Gordon tell producers to create more oil or sell it at lower prices. In addition, wholesale gas and diesel suppliers have no control over the prices at the pump, which instead are heavily reliant on the global markets and outside pressures like the war in Ukraine, government spending, inflation and environmental policies, he said.

Obermueller said it would be detrimental for Wyoming if all its producers started retaining all production in-state.

“I think we need a bit of humility about the ability at the state level to do anything about price at the pump,” Obermueller. “As far as what the state of Wyoming can do, there’s not a lot more that can be done.”

Moore said CLH and other producers were being purposely ambiguous about their numbers at the meeting to obscure the large profits they are making.

“They’re telling us, the public, they stored tons of oil (during the pandemic) and took a loss on it,” he said. 

But McMurry said his company does not have enough storage volume to make it economically profitable to ship out crude oil to take advantage of shifting prices due to the current volatility of that market.

“If the prices change overnight, we could lose millions of dollars,” McMurry said.

Supply, Not Demand

Dooley said supply, not demand, has the biggest effect on fuel prices. Despite rising gas prices, demand has stayed somewhat steady in America this summer.

The current price of crude oil is $97.59, down from a high of $122.11 on June 8.

Dooley said his industry benefits more from lower gas and oil prices than high, because of the generally stable supply market accompanying it. The suppliers presenting at the meeting universally agreed that increasing supply will lower costs for consumers, but few answers were provided as to where this could come from.

Since 1978, Wyoming has lost 12 of its 15 refineries and produces 80,000 fewer barrels of oil per day. Conversely, the state population has grown by around 150,000 people and uses twice as many vehicles as it did in 1980. 

Dooley said his company relies heavily on the Suncor Refinery outside Denver for its gas and added his company’s supplies were significantly affected by the decision of the HollyFrontier refinery in Cheyenne to switch from making gasoline to making renewable diesel.

As a result of HollyFrontier switching over to renewable diesel, Obermueller said it reduced Wyoming’s overall oil production by 26%. He said HollyFrontier was prompted to make the change because it was spending $250 million to comply with federal regulations while refining gasoline.

“It was a motivating factor for them switching over,” he said.

The lack of oil pipelines and other supply sources in the Rocky Mountain Region was a frustration expressed by multiple producers at the meeting. 

New Refinery

Steve Cure, a staff member with Dooley Oil, said it would take about seven years to get a new refinery built, assuming there was no pushback from the federal government or any other outside groups.

Currently there are 21 oil and natural gas rigs in production in Wyoming, down from the 31 that were operating prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but up from the 14-16 operating during the winter and 18 in early June. Crude oil production had recovered to about two-thirds of its pre-pandemic production by March. Demand for gas is slightly lower than it was at this point last year.

Obermueller said the fossil fuel policies of President Joe Biden’s administration have caused a “chilling effect” on Wyoming’s energy industry, with the administration openly saying its policy is to end oil and gas drilling on federal land.

Tax Holiday

The idea of a fuel tax holiday has been proposed in some circles as a way to reduce gas prices, with about a dozen Republican Party members sending a letter to Gordon in June requesting it. Brenda Henson, chair of the Working Group, said the only letters her board has received on the topic are from groups voicing opposition to a fuel tax holiday. Wyoming has the second lowest fuel tax in the region.

Rep. Mike Greear, R-Worland said he opposes adopting a tax holiday as he believes its benefits will be mostly limited to out-of-state travelers.

Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Luke Reiner said a reduction or cut to the state’s 24-cent per gallon fuel tax would have a dramatic effect on his department’s ability to fix and manage roads and start new projects. Since the tax is assessed on each gallon sold, rising fuel prices do not directly affect the cost of the tax itself on consumers. Last year, the fuel tax brought in $81.5 million in revenue for the state. The fuel tax cost the average resident $171 over the year.

The state typically builds new roads with a 90% match from the federal government. Reiner said having funds available to take advantage of matching programs like these is critical for the state’s infrastructure. He added WYDOT runs on a $350 million annual deficit, paying more than 2,000 employees with a $175 million annual payroll. 

Discussion also took place about removing a Wyoming state law that prohibits gas stations from selling their gas at their cost, with no markup. Stith said the move could incentivize stores to lower their prices and possibly recoup their losses with the sales of donuts and other items inside their stores. 

Cure expressed concern about this idea, mentioning a scenario in western Colorado where a corporate supermarket sold gas below cost to put a small convenience store out of business. The bigger store was able to sustain itself with the many more products it sold for a profit.

Reiner said the complicated gas distribution network, filled with many interstate reimbursement agreements, could soften any possible gains expected from revoking this law. 

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

USDA Weakens Federal Gender Identity Mandate; Schroeder Skeptical

in News/Education
Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder
22219

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

The federal agency that in May asked for sweeping gender identity-friendly policy changes in schools nationwide now says it only meant to change its own programs within those schools.  

But Wyoming’s top education official on Friday countered, saying the federal narrative is only shifting due to national pushback.  

The Original Directive

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 5 dispatched a statement announcing its adoption of a new interpretation of Title IX, a section of federal law protecting students from sexual discrimination in education, to include “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” as groups protected from discrimination.    

USDA then asked state agencies funded by its foods program to make a major policy change: 

“State and local agencies, program operators and sponsors that receive funds from (USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services program) … must also update their non-discrimination policies and signage to include prohibitions against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation,” the announcement said.    

The Wyoming Department of Education, which oversees public schools in the state, receives about $40 million a year from the Food and Nutrition Services program, primarily for school meals.  

The department’s general nondiscrimination statement does not include the two new protected groups.  

Wyoming top officials reacted with alarm to the USDA mandate, especially in light of federal court cases such as Grimm vs. Gloucester County School Board, in which a federal appeals court ruled that Title IX’s anti-discrimination language should uphold transgender students’ rights to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.    

The Narrower Version

But a USDA representative on Friday told Cowboy State Daily in an email that the agency’s actual intention in issuing the guidance was to transform only nondiscrimination statements that specifically apply to its own food programs – not the entire education department.  

“The nondiscrimination statements specific to the federal nutrition assistance programs must be updated by state agencies and program operators that administer such programs,” the email reads.    

Pushback By Half Of The Country

But Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the USDA’s narrative has changed multiple times – which could be a sign of the massive pushback against the agency.  

Attorneys general of 26 states, including Wyoming’s AG Bridget Hill, on June 12 sent a letter to President Joe Biden demanding his administration retract the guidance, saying it is not legally sound and the USDA didn’t properly consult with the states.  

Because the guidance is not yet an official rule, said Schroeder, “that might be why when they (USDA) were challenged by so many states across the union through their attorneys general, they started issuing follow-up statements that seemed to contradict their first statement.”  

‘Our Sovereignty’

A USDA spokesperson on June 3 told Cowboy State Daily that the change was intended merely to give recourse for LGBTQ+ people who experience discrimination “when they access federally funded food and nutrition services.”    

The spokesperson at that time, however, reiterated the original mandate, saying “state and local agencies, program operators and sponsors that receive funds from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service must… update their non-discrimination policies and signage” to include the new groups.   

Wyoming’s Education Department is a state agency that receives Food and Nutrition Service funding.  

Ten days later, the USDA reportedly told the Council of Chief State School Officers, a national association for state school superintendents, that it intended the policy change to be voluntary, not a funding threat.  

Schroeder and his department waited for an official USDA statement corroborating the statement to the CCSSO, he said.  

No official statement ever came.  

Conversely, the USDA since has told members of the media that it would cut funding over noncompliance if necessary.   

Schroeder on June 22 advocated for Wyoming to withdraw from USDA school meals funding.  

“As I confer with state superintendents around the country, they’re prepared to take whatever steps necessary if the USDA decides to push this,” Schroeder said Friday, adding, “(The agency behaves) like we can’t govern ourselves… So if we don’t fight for our own state sovereignty who’s going to?”  

The rule could change and intensify during USDA’s official rulemaking process, continued Schroeder, which he saw as a reason to push against it harder during its preliminary phase.   

Much Bigger Than USDA

The Wyoming Department of Education’s general nondiscrimination policy does not include sexual orientation and gender identity in its protected groups.    

According to the USDA’s latest comments, the department’s over-arching policy no longer needs changed to meet USDA standards, but  Wyoming may be asked to change that policy soon anyway, to reflect the latest judicial views of Title IX.    

A federal judge in October 2020 opined just that.  

“At the heart of this appeal is whether equal protection and Title IX can protect transgender students from school bathroom policies that prohibit them from affirming their gender,” reads the federal appeals court ruling in Grimm vs. Gloucester, a case involving a transgender boy whose right to use the boys bathroom at his high school was upheld by the court. “We join a growing consensus of courts in holding that the answer is resoundingly yes.”    

This judicial attitude toward existing laws is the basis on which the USDA founded its new guidance, although USDA in the guidance referenced a different case, Bostock vs. Clayton County, which concerned anti-discrimination policies linked to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, not the Title IX education amendments USDA is reinterpreting.    

In Bostock vs. Clayton County, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “sex” as a protected nondiscrimination qualifier also includes sexual orientation and gender identity.    

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon’s office on June 22 said there could be a far broader impact than the USDA’s acknowledgement of the new interpretation.    

“We are already having discussion within the executive branch about the true impact and costs associated with the proposed USDA rule, which could go much beyond the food assistance program,” Gordon spokesman Michael Pearlman wrote in a text to Cowboy State Daily. “We could be talking about a much higher dollar figure, as Title IX funding extends well beyond school nutrition programs.”    

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter*** 

Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Monday July 18, 2022

in Gas Map/News
22242

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

The price of gas in Wyoming declined by 2 cents per gallon over the previous 24 hours to average $4.74.

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is down 2 cents from a week ago, and is up, $1.33 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained below the national average of $4.50 and is 24 cents below the Wyoming average.

High and Low Prices:

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Monday was in Moose near Jackson at $5.79 per gallon. The lowest price in the state was $4.05 in Gillette at the Maverick station at 1616 E. U.S. Highway 14-16.

However, a hoax report to GasBuddy.com for a time identified the cheapest gas in the state as being $4 at a Casper station.

The county with the highest average price of gas in the state Monday was Teton County, at $5.13 per gallon. The county with the lowest average was Campbell at $4.33. 

These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stationed surveyed.

*The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $4.62; Big Horn $4.88; Campbell $4.33; Carbon $4.78; Converse $4.64; Crook $4.72; Fremont $4.90; Goshen $4.72; Hot Springs $4.80; Johnson $5.00; Laramie $4.53; Lincoln $5.08; Natrona $4.45; Niobrara $4.72; Park $4.95; Platte $4.86; Sheridan $4.86; Sublette $4.72; Sweetwater $4.82; Teton $5.13; Uinta $4.73; Washakie $4.84; Weston: $4.54. 

*The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.77; Buffalo $4.71; Casper $4.25; Cheyenne $4.39; Cody $4.70; Douglas $4.64; Evanston $4.59; Gillette $4.05; Jackson $4.97; Kemmerer $4.85; Laramie $4.24; Lusk $4.45; Newcastle $4.48; Pinedale $4.79; Rawlins $4.69; Riverton $4.84; Rock Springs $4.64; Sheridan $4.82; Sundance $4.67; Thermopolis $4.77; Wheatland $4.84; Worland $4.79.   

Tim’s Observation:

There was a false report of $4 per gallon in Casper. 

When a report on GasBuddy.com showed a Shell station was selling gas for $4 per gallon, I called and spoke to a very annoyed attendant who said she had received about 15 phone calls inquiring about the low price. I also personally went by the station in question to verify the price was actually $4.53 per gallon. 

It appears that a GasBuddy user with the handle “Derry5150” is continuing to report a false price for this particular station. As soon as someone posts the correct price, this uses reports the false $4 price again. Please do NOT call this station to ask about the price. 

The lowest price among our surveyed cities is at the Mavrick at 1616 E. U.S. Highway 14-16 in Gillette, with a price of $4.05 per gallon of regular. 

Want to help us gather the most accurate gas prices for this report? Consider downloading the GasBuddy app and submit the gas prices in your area. 

*Note: Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered just prior to posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

No Survivors In Plane Crash In Remote Section Of Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest

in Plane crash/News
Courtesy, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
22203

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

UPDATE: Passengers have been identified.

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday morning announced that there were no survivors in a plane crash which occurred Thursday in a remote section of the Bighorn National Forest.

Sheriff Rod Odenbach said a private airplane which was carrying two people departed Thursday at noon from the Powell Municipal Airport and was to arrive at the Johnson County Airport never reached its destination.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office was notified of a fire near the Middle Fork of the Rock Creek in Bighorn National Forest and located wreckage from an airplane crash, which is believed to have started the fire.

“District resources have successfully hiked into the fire and their suppression efforts are being aided by a load of smokejumpers out of West Yellowstone and the Wyoming State Helicopter,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported.

Agency personnel were able to reach the crash site, examined the wreckage, and said there were no survivors and the remains were “unidentifiable.”

A team as sent to investigate the crash and to retrieve the remains early Saturday morning, Sheriff Odenbach said.

“Because of the time, remote location, an active fire in that area, hazardous conditions and access to the area would most likely be on foot, it was decided that a team would be sent early the following morning,” he said.

Members of the sheriff’s office, Johnson County Search and Rescue and the U.S. Forest Service arrived at the crash site at 9:30am on Saturday and also reported there were no identifiable markings on the plane and there were no survivors.

The remains of the victims were transported from the crash site to the Johnson County Coroner’s Office for identification.

Calls to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service were not returned on Sunday.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

After Getting Severely Mauled By Grizzly In Northwest Wyoming, Man Says Leave Bear Alone

in News/Grizzly Bear Attacks
22142

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Barry Olson holds no animosity toward the grizzly bear that attacked and mauled him almost one month ago, he told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

“I was in his space,” Olson said. “I think it was a coincidence we crossed paths. I saw him and then he saw me.”

Olson was attacked by the grizzly bear on Francs Peak in Park County at the end of June. Officials said that the time that Olson, 68, had been “severely” mauled.

“Shook Him Like A Rag Doll”

The Buffalo, New York, resident said the attack lasted, at most, 60 seconds, but he noted the bear charged and hit him around five times.

“It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to get my bear spray,” Olson said. “So I dropped down to the fetal position, with my back to the bear, and he ran at me. I think he ran into me.”

The bear repeatedly picked Olson up and shook him like a rag doll. During this time, Olson played dead, so the apex predator would lose interest, which it quickly did.

Olson said once the bear left, he grabbed his bear spray and prepared it in case the grizzly came back and then he got his personal location beacon out to call for help.

Recovering In Greybull

After officials arrived and assessed Olson’s injuries, they transported the Greybull native to a hospital in Billings, Montana, where he spent about four days.

He said his mother, who lives in Greybull, likely had some sleepless nights and he “scared the hell” out of his daughter when she heard of the attack.

Since then, Olson has spent the last few weeks recovering in the Park County area. He will likely have to have a skin graft on one of his thighs, he said, and is keeping an eye on one of the wounds to avoid infection.

“I’ve had very little pain ever since it happened,” Olson said. “Even when I was in the hospital, they’d ask me to rank my pain level on a scale of one to 10 and it would be somewhere around three or four.”

He is walking around the neighborhood he’s staying in with a cane, but around the house, he does not need any walking aids.

Olson said he believes that with enough recovery time, no one will ever know that he was attacked by a grizzly bear, although he will likely have some scars on his legs from the mauling.

Despite this being a frightening and potentially life-threatening encounter, Olson said the attack would not keep him from recreating outdoors, either alone or with others.

“If my legs got back underneath me, hell, I’d go again [to Francs Peak],” he said.

Rescue Beacon

Olson, who was hiking alone, was rescued because he was carrying a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). He activated the distress signal after the attack and the signal was picked up by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center which notified the Park County Search and Rescue team.

A PLB is a beacon characteristically seen in maritime applications and not typically carried by hikers in recent years. Most outdoor enthusiasts carry a device which communicates with satellites to triangulate a position to within a few feet.

However, a PLB transmits on a radio frequency which is typically associated with downed aircraft Emergency Location Transmitter.

Olson said he has carried a PLB with him for the last 15 years.

“They’re supposed to take the search out of search and rescue, and they work,” he said.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Former Cheyenne Policeman Now Makes Studio Scale Models For Lucasfilm, Disney

in News/Good news
22156

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Steve Neisen had to repeat the fifth grade because of “Star Wars.” 

“(From the moment) when the Star Wars music played and the star destroyer came across the screen, I was lost,” Neisen told Cowboy State Daily – lost in “a galaxy far, far away.”

He was so lost that he completely neglected his school work, Neisen said

“I remember my mom showing up to the school, and the teacher walked over to my desk, which had the flip-up lid,” he said. “And when they lifted that lid, nothing but Star Wars cards and action figures and drawings and Star Wars fell out. So we moved to Louisiana after that, and I got to repeat the fifth grade because of Star Wars.”

His fascination with the franchise never waned, Neisen told Cowboy State Daily, and led him to the career he has today – creating scale models for collectible companies who own licenses for Star War and Star Trek and work closely with Lucasfilm/Disney and other major movie companies producing licensed studio scale models.



From Photos To TIE Fighters

Neisen said that he was never into “toys,” as they were never accurate enough for him. Rather, from a young age he enjoyed building model airplanes and other replicas.

“Every Saturday, I would go pick up comic books from the Piggly Wiggly (grocery store),” he said. “They had the magazine rack, and they had this behind-the-scenes of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ special edition book. It showed how they made the movie, and I started noticing these guys are working on these models.”

Neisen said he started making his own models using whatever parts and pieces he could find, drawing from photos as his patterns. He joined the military in 1986, and during his 20-year tenure he discovered a treasure trove of information about model building on the internet.

“I was part of one of the first forums, called RPF, Replica Prop Forums,” Neisen said, which put him on the ground floor of the studio-scale replica industry. But he was still in the military, so his hobby often got sidetracked.

“I went to three or four combat zones during that same time,” Neisen said, “and what I ended up doing is researching these models and finding all the little kit parts to make them exactly like the ones that they used in the movies.” 

Neisen said the first Star Wars model that he ever built was a TIE (Twin-Ion Engine) fighter, piloted by the Empire’s forces in the series.

“I taught myself how to do rubber molding and casting, pressure casting and things, and then folks liked what I did,” he said. “I could replicate this for folks if they wanted one of these in their collection, so I started doing that on the side.”



Hollywood Calls

His work soon became noticed by none other than the special effects team for Lucasfilm, which caused him a bit of alarm at first.

“I’m a military policeman, you know, and a phone call comes from this company, Master Replicas, the license holder,” Neisen said. “I’m thinking I’m in trouble. And they said ‘No, no, no, you’re not. We want to know if you’d help us.’”

Neisen was asked to provide lists of the model parts necessary to build an AT-AT Walker, an armored troop carrier introduced in the movie “The Empire Strikes Back.” 

“Fast forward, I made a ton more kits, I’ve made a ton more models, and then I’m retired from the military,” he said. “I joined the Cheyenne Police Department, and while I was on patrol, my phone rings and it’s this guy, he used to work for Master Replicas, but he started his own company called EFX Collectibles.”

EFX offered Neisen work as a subcontractor, designing and building licensed scale model patterns for the Star Wars franchise, which he did for several years, while still building his own models on the side for fun.

Then, in 2014, Disney called.

“We’re going to do a Star Wars Land at the parks, and we want you to provide the models for the Star Wars Launch Bay,” was the offer, Neisen said, explaining that the Launch Bay was an area that was open to the public while Disney was developing the Star Wars attraction at both Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida. 

“We’re looking at 30 models – 15 models, two of each, and it’s a 4-foot Star Destroyer, a 6-foot Blockade Runner, X-Wings, drop ships, Slave 1, everything you could imagine,” Neisen said, “to be delivered in four months.”

Needless to say, that kind of work couldn’t happen in his off hours. So after 20 years in the military and another eight with the Cheyenne police force, Neisen decided it was time to devote his full attention to the “hobby” he’d been fascinated with since childhood.

Technology Changes

“Model making has gone from all by hand, then a little bit of computer, now mostly everything’s done in the computer,” Neisen said. And the advent of 3D printing has made model-making light years faster than in the past.

“With 3D printing and 3D modeling, if I can’t find the part and I have a good reference for it, I don’t have to wait or leave it off the model,” he said. “I can create it on the computer and then print it.”



From Comic Books To Comic Con

Neisen said he’s a regular now at Star Wars conventions and other sci-fi gatherings around the country.

“I leave for Comic Con (in San Diego) on Tuesday, (working in the EFX booth),” Neisen said. “I think we’re going to have a baby Yoda with the ‘pram’ that he rides in. I’ve gotten to meet all my model-making heroes, who now come look at my models.”  

And he’s had other dreams come true, as well.

“I’ve been to Skywalker Ranch, like, three times,” Neisen said. “I stayed in the little villas, rode a bicycle to the archive. It’s a magical place. I mean, it’s a whole little community. The green is greener, the blue is bluer. I spent four or five days in the archive taking pictures and re-measuring (the original models) and having full access.” 



Adding To Sci-Fi Universe From Cheyenne

Neisen’s hyper-accurate models have been the basis for computer generated images in a number of blockbuster films, in franchises outside of the Star Wars universe.

“I did work on a lot of other movies, different franchises,” he said. “I’ve done Star Trek stuff. We had the Marvel license for a long time, and we did Loki’s helmet (from “The Avengers”). We’ve done a couple of Iron Man.”

And Neisen said he creates fully licensed models for other companies as well, not just for the movies.

“A watch company called Cross, they took one of my models, the studio scale model (of the Slave 1 ship from Star Wars), which is about 30 inches by 26 inches, and they had me convert it to a wristwatch holder,” he said. “You take the canopy off, and then you put their $175,000 watch on this little pillow inside the cockpit. I’ve got a contract for 11 of those, so in the next year, I’ll be doing one a month.”



Expanding His Own Universe

Neisen has created a network of people who help him with the bigger jobs, but he said he does most of the model work himself.

“I just sent off yesterday, a studio scale Slave 1, the Boba Fett ship,” Neisen said.

Up until recently, Neisen has put together all of his models from his 2-car garage. But his equipment needs are growing as fast as his business, which is why he recently bought a 5-acre piece of property, on which he is constructing a 2,500 square foot shop.

“I bet I have the largest 130-watt laser in the state,” he said. “I have a 63-by-54 inch laser that I use to help make patterns, and I’ve got 3D printers, I’ve got a heat sublimation t-shirt manufacturing setup, I do all kinds of stuff.” 

Anyone interested in seeing what Neisen is working on is welcome to check out his website, https://www.nicenmodeldesigns.com/ or his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/nicenmodeldesigns

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Trump’s PAC Gives $500,000 To Help Harriet Hageman Get Elected In Wyoming U.S. House Race

in News/politics
Photo by Matt Idler
22163

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Former President Donald Trump has given $500,000 to help get Harriet Hageman elected to the U.S. House.

The Save America PAC, which organized the Save America Rally with Trump and Hageman in May, gave Wyoming Values, a super political action committee set up on behalf of Hageman, $500,000 in April.

FEC filing data also shows Save America paid the Ford Wyoming Center $20,000 on May 4 to rent the space for the one-day event. Save America did not give any money directly to the Hageman campaign.

The Save America PAC was created by Trump immediately following the 2020 election. Trump has endorsed Hageman over her opponent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who has been an outspoken critic of the former president.

Wyoming Values raised $742,075 during the second quarter, spending $732,586. 

Not Released Yet

Hageman’s official finance information for the second quarter, which ran from April 1 to June 30, had not been posted on the FEC website as of Friday evening. Her campaign released a press release on Thursday saying her campaign has raised more than $4 million after getting $1.8 million in the second quarter.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort owner John “Jay” Kemmerer gave $25,000 to Wyoming Values in June. Timothy Mellon, a heir to the Andrew Mellon banking fortune who lives in Saratoga, gave $30,000 to Wyoming Values in April.

Conservative Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA., a Trump supporter, paid $25,000 to a Strategic Event Management LLC in Wyoming on March 3, but it is unclear if this had any connection to the U.S. House race.

The House Freedom Fund PAC, a group representing some of the most conservative U.S. Congress members, gave Hageman $68,342 in the second quarter. 

Wyoming Values spent $520,000 on TV and radio ad placement in May, $26,517 on billboards in April, $44,438 for text messages in June and July, $34,980 on direct mailers in July. The super Pac also paid $370,000 for TV and radio ads on Wednesday that also ran back in May. This sum will be counted as part of Wyoming Values’ third quarter filing that will finalize at the end of September.

Almost $3 Million

The Cheney team raised $2.9 million in the second quarter, giving her campaign $13.1 million and nearly $7 million on hand. This beat her previous campaign record of $2.5 million raised in the first quarter of the year. She raised $3.03 million during her entire 2020 campaign.

Cheney received $1.9 million in individual donations during the quarter.

In the second quarter Cheney spent more than $2.7 million, a sum greater than what Hageman has spent through her entire campaign. More than half of her expenditures in the quarter, a total of $1.3 million, was spent on digital marketing and advertising and other various media during the campaign. She spent $174,710 on print advertising. 

Cheney has spent $6.3 million in total over the campaign.

The Great Task political action committee, set up on behalf of the Cheney campaign, gave her $154,600 in the second quarter. 

The UPS PAC gave Cheney $10,000, as did the Value in Electing Women PAC. American Israel Affairs PAC gave her $9,612.  

Robert and Rebecca Pohlad, whose family owns the Minnesota Twins Major League Baseball franchise, gave a combined $13,800 to her campaign. 

Hageman said she has $1.4 million on hand, while Cheney has $6.9 million.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming Economy Crawling Back To Pre-Pandemic Levels, Economist Says

in News/wyoming economy
22149

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s economy is crawling back to pre-pandemic levels, slowed by lagging recovery in the mining, government and information industries, a top Wyoming economist said. 

“We’re still behind pre-COVID job numbers by about 7,000 jobs,” Wenlin Liu, Wyoming Division of Economic Analysis chief economist, told Cowboy State Daily. “Wyoming’s pace of recovery is a little slower than the U.S. average.” 

Wyoming’s unemployment rate is below the national average at 3.2%, which is good for job seekers, but bad for businesses, Liu said. A lower unemployment rate can mean stiffer competition for the labor pool, which is aging out due to Wyoming’s above average percentage of baby boomers, he explained. 

With a job growth rate of about 2% to 3% in May, Liu said Wyoming trails behind its neighboring states, some of which are reporting job growth rates of up to 5%. 

Energy

Of Wyoming’s lost 7,000 jobs, about 4,000 are within the mining sector. Government jobs, including some education positions, have the second-largest lag in recovery, followed by the information sector, which includes newspapers, Liu said. 

In February 2020, Wyoming tallied about 5,600 jobs in the mining sector, but in May the sector only accounted for about 1,600 jobs, he said. 

“Drilling was already going down heading into 2020,” Liu explained. “And  after every downturn, we see the industry gets more efficient, automating more processes and reducing the number of employees needed for operations each time.” 

In 2019, Wyoming was home to about 30 oil rigs, a number that fell to about 22 by early 2020. The Economic Analysis Division’s June 2022 Wyoming Insight report stated 17 oil rigs are currently active in the state as well as three natural gas rigs. 

Although energy prices have soared since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Rob Godby, a University of Wyoming Department of Economics associate professor, said production remains low. 

Despite the energy sector’s hesitant response to booming markets, Godby said the state’s energy revenues have “gone through the roof” as a result of energy prices nearly doubling since the pandemic began. 

Wyoming Insight reported June sales and use tax collections from the mining sector were up $3.3 million year-over-year, and increase of about 74%. Wyoming’s mining sector collections have increased year-over-year for 10 consecutive months, according to the report. 

Population

Beginning in 2020, Wyoming bucked a six-year-long trend of declining population, seeing growth in its population by about 1,500 people in 2020 and another 1,500 in 2021, Liu said. 

“There are likely a number of factors, but we saw a lot of people leave metropolitan areas during height of the pandemic,” he said. “As more people are being called back to the office in 2022, I don’t know if we’ll see population growth to that extent this year, but I think we might stay positive for a couple more years.” 

Godby was less than optimistic about the growing population.

“It’s barely gone positive, a 0.2% increase isn’t exactly significant,” he said. “And the weird thing is people coming into the state aren’t coming to major cities throughout Wyoming.”

Instead, they appear to be flocking to rural areas, which might indicate the added populace is mostly retirees or people with income sources that don’t require them to enter into the local job markets.  

“The migration we’re getting seems to be, in some ways, trying to avoid other people,” Godby said.

On the upside, Liu said the leisure and hospitality sector has matched pre-pandemic numbers and even gone beyond those levels as pent-up tourism demand soars across the country. 

Tax Collections Up

Total statewide sales and use collections were up $9.6 million, about 16%, compared to June 2021, Wyoming Insight reported. 

Whereas mining sector tax collections are down about 20% compared to June 2019, the state’s total tax collections are up 12%, mostly due to increases in retail trade and the leisure and hospitality sectors. 

Godby said the increase was welcome, but a significant portion of the revenue gain is attributable to inflation. 

Every silver lining comes with a cloud, however. Godby said both state and private sector revenues could again stutter with the forecast of a recession in the coming months. 

“While that recession, by historical standards, could be relatively minor,” he explained. “It could be a drag on energy prices. There’s a dark cloud out there for sure.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming Highway Patrol’s K-9 Specifically Trained To Sniff Out Fentanyl; One Of Very Few In Nation

in News
22129

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Reno is a black Labrador retriever who loves getting a tennis ball to play with after she’s done with a hard day of work.

Her unique job sniffing out fentanyl usually does not take too long, especially if she does it well. Needless to say, she gets a lot of time with her tennis ball.

Reno is a fentanyl-sniffing dog for the Wyoming Highway Patrol, one of the few K-9s at any police department in the country specifically trained to sniff out pure fentanyl. On Thursday, she gave a demonstration of her skills for members of the media, sniffing out three bags of fentanyl in just minutes.

“It doesn’t matter if the fentanyl is watered down, so to speak, or cut with other substances, it doesn’t change the chemical makeup of the fentanyl itself. She can find it, either way,” Lt. Josh Hardee of the Wyoming Highway Patrol told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.


Reno, the drug-sniffing K9, sniffs out a bag of fentanyl during a media demonstration Thursday.

The WHP has had Reno for about a year and in that time, she has made a number of drug busts, including sniffing out a 24-pound haul of fentanyl last year that landed a Washington man in prison for six years.

Mostly, Reno will work in Cheyenne and Laramie County, since the WHP headquarters is in the city. But, she could pop up in cities and towns across the state.

Hardee said Reno loves her job and he can tell she was a Lab “born to do this.”


Reno loves getting a tennis ball after a hard day’s work.

He also said there is a possibility that all of the WHP’s K-9s will be trained in detecting fentanyl, but for now, Reno is likely the only dog in the state who can set her nose on finding the dangerous drug.

“Reno and her handler make a great team and they’re finding more than just fentanyl,” Hardee said. “She can sniff out marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, too. There’s all kinds of drugs out there.”

Fentanyl has become a particular concern in Wyoming and across the country.

Legally administered, fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.

It is considered a Schedule II controlled substance and is typically prescribed after surgery or for pain associated with early-stage cancer and can be administered as a shot, a patch or in lozenge form.

The illegally-manufactured fentanyl coming across the border is sold in powder form, dropped onto blotter paper, put in eye drops or nasal sprays or pressed into pills stamped with “M30,” which Hardee said is a common form of fentanyl found in Wyoming.

“We want to be at the forefront of taking these drugs off the streets,” Hardee said. “At the Wyoming Highway Patrol, we know this is an epidemic and we wanted to do something about it.”

In 2019, 11 Wyoming residents died from fentanyl-related overdoses, followed by 21 in 2020. The following year, this number more than doubled, increasing to 45 in 2021.

With Reno’s help, the WHP hopes to keep fentanyl from killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

“You can see how much she likes doing it, because she gets excited and wags her tail,” Hardee said. “We don’t have to motivate her to go to work, she’s ready.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Republicans Out Of Freedom Caucus; Other Wyoming GOP Trade Barbs Over Gun Bills

in News/politics
22140

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Even though it was approved by the Legislature more than three months ago, Wyoming’s Second Amendment Protection Act (SAPA) continues to divide members of the state’s Republican Party, causing infighting and caucus snubs between members.

Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette said on Facebook that his fellow Gillette Representative Bill Fortner and Rep. Bob Wharff, R-Evanston, have been kicked out of the House Freedom Caucus because “they abandoned us at a time when we are making real headway toward a more conservative legislature.” 

Although Bear later told Cowboy State Daily on Friday the two were removed from the caucus because they are now running for the state Senate, the fact remains they also were not invited to a recent Gun Owners of America (GOA) dinner event. 

“They were not invited because they … have made numerous disparaging remarks about GOA with little or no back up or details,” Bear said on Facebook.

Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell also was taken off the caucus since he’s running for the Senate.

Wharff said he hasn’t been kicked out of the Freedom Caucus and is leaving on his own volition.

Bouchard vs Bear

Also joining the fray is Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, who jumped in on the debate with an invitation to Bear to debate the merits of the Second Amendment Protection Act bill, a bill Bear voted for that passed last session. Bouchard referred to SAPA, Senate File 102, as a “nothing burger” and a “fake bill.”

He stoked the flames on Facebook Thursday, encouraging Bear to debate him if, “you think you can handle it.”

The dispute stems from the Legislature’s review during its budget session this year of two bills designed to allow Wyoming to resist gun control measures that may be issued by the federal government.

The bill that was ultimately passed, SF 102, prohibits the enforcement of federal firearms regulations on Wyoming citizens. Under the law, the state and all political subdivisions are prohibited from using any personnel or state funds to enforce, administer or cooperate with any federal rule that unconstitutionally infringes on or impedes the Second Amendment. 

Weak Bill

But Bouchard, who sponsored a competing bill, said the Second Amendment Protection Act has no language to prevent criminals from using the statute to defend themselves against firearms charges and only allows criminal penalties against government offiidals who enforce the federal rules.

Neither provides sufficient protection for Second Amendment rights, he said.

“Politicians run ‘do nothing’ bills that have a great name, but do nothing more than regurgitate language that is strikingly similar to political promises,” he said on Facebook. “To the bad actors, the ‘shorter’ the bill, the better. They want you to read the words—while ‘imagining’ the national anthem is playing in the background.”

Bouchard’s own Second Amendment Preservation Act failed on introduction in the Senate on a vote of 20-9. 

This bill also would have prohibited officials from enforcing or attempt to enforce any federal laws or acts that infringe on the Second Amendment, but with the caveat that residents could sue law enforcement officers who tried to enforce the rules. It would also carry a civil penalty for those violating the law.

Sheriffs

Every Wyoming sheriff opposed Bouchard’s bill and instead support SF102, which was drafted by Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, a longtime legislative adversary of Bouchard.

Only 13 states have a SAPA bill and Bear said Wyoming’s has the strongest language with a criminal penalty.

The sparring over these two bills ran parallel to factions created by GOA and fellow Second Amendment group Wyoming Gun Owners. Wharff and Bouchard are prominently linked to WyGO, which supported Bouchard’s bill, while Bear and Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan are associated with GOA. 

Competing Letters

This divide also recently surfaced in the form of two separate letters sent to U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, demanding they not support gun control legislation currently moving through Congress. 

The first of the letters was written by the House Freedom Caucus while the second was spearheaded by Bouchard and Wharff. The timing and authorship of the two different letters created a public rift among firearms rights advocates.

Bouchard, who is running for the U.S. House against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman, said factions in the congressional race also link to the recent gun bill debate.

He said Hageman supporters are rallying behind SF102, the bill approved by the Legislature. Bear has endorsed Hageman and spoke at her May rally with former President Donald Trump.

Debate

Bear said he would be willing to debate Bouchard on Aug. 17, the day after the Republican primary election, but also tossed out July 30, Aug.6 and Aug. 13 as other possible dates.

“I also would prefer sooner than later, but as I stated before, you sir are in a competitive race and should be concentrating on that,” he told Bouchard.

Bear said although he’s proud to be a member of a party of “free thinkers,” he finds that the Republican Party has more visible division than the Democratic Party, which he considers to be “group thinkers.”

“Our disputes tend to be more public,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “I think unity in politics is important as it’s the only way to get things done. The more unity the better.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Central Wyoming College Students Trek To Mount Everest To Test Climate Sensor Technology

in News/Good news
22144

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

It’s not easy getting to the top of the world. Or even to the jumping off spot for the trek.

Central Wyoming College Professor Jacki Klancher and five of her students learned this life lesson in May, when they did exactly that.

Klancher and the five students accompanied First Circle, the first all-Black climbing team to summit the world’s tallest mountain, to the south base camp of Mount Everest in May, taking the opportunity along the way to test new climate sensor technology.

Full Circle reached the summit of Everest on May 12.

“I’ve been friends with (team members) Phil Henderson and James Kagambi for about three decades,” Klancher told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “So when they started to launch this expedition, I wanted to be supportive and I thought about whether this could be an opportunity…to integrate some research and climate technologies into their expedition.”



After back and forth conversations with the Full Circle team members, Klancher and a handful of her students were offered the opportunity to come along to the base camp in Nepal at a little more than 17,000 feet in altitude.

Klancher said since there are not really any Black students at Central Wyoming College, she thought about which students would best fit in with the Full Circle team. From there, she selected four Native American students and one white student who is the first member of his family to attend college.

It was important to Klancher to showcase the diversity of both her team and Full Circle to enourage equity for underrepresented groups.

The team quickly came together, with the students being selected in January and then leaving in May for Everest.



Antoine Day, an Eastern Shoshone member, was chosen to come along and photograph students’ expedition to base camp, which he will soon turn into his own photo exhibit that will be on display at CWC later this year.

“This was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Day said on Friday. “As a Native American, I thought it was important to document this trip and I could do it from a unique perspective.”

Although well short of Everest’s peak, the trek to base camp is no cakewalk and climbers usually spend several days there just acclimating to the altitude.

Although Klancher, Day and the rest of the group are fairly active people who regularly work out, the lack of oxygen at the high altitude took a toll on their bodies, Klancher said, and members of the group suffered from shortness of breath and fatigue while at the camp.

The group tested emerging climate sensor technology during the trip and got the opportunity to learn about Nepal and the local culture, an experience that was priceless.

“Even though we’re in different cultures across the world, we managed to find common ground,” Klancher said. “They were all so welcoming and eager to share their lives and homes so that we may experience how they lived.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Northern Arapaho Tribe’s Top Governing Official Endorses Liz Cheney

in News/politics
22135

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

The Northern Arapaho Tribe’s top governing official on Thursday endorsed U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for re-election to the U.S. House, but he’ll have to change his voter status from unaffiliated to vote for her himself. 

Jordan Dresser, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, touted Cheney in a Facebook video posted Thursday, pointing to her efforts to secure additional funding and regulatory exemptions for American Indian tribes. 

“Liz Cheney has been an ally to Indian Country, and she’s been a great ally to the Northern Arapaho Tribe,” Dresser said in the video. “She takes the problems and the issues we have on a national level, so we can find solutions, and she’s helped us tremendously in the last couple years in getting key things moved for us. Join me in voting for Liz Cheney on Aug. 16.”

The Northern Arapaho Business Council (NABC) is the tribe’s six-member governing panel. It has both executive and legislative power.  

Cheney is seeking her fourth term as Wyoming’s lone U.S. representative. She faces four other candidates in the Aug. 16 Republican primary for the office.

Indian Country 

Multiple commenters and reactionaries on the post challenged Dresser’s statement that Cheney has been instrumental in advancing Northern Arapaho interests.  

“I would like to see receipts on what Liz Cheney has helped Indian country with?” Aaron Ferris, a commenter who lives on the Wind River Indian Reservation, wrote on his Facebook page.

Cheney has signed onto multiple efforts aimed at helping American Indian Tribes garner extra funding or less regulatory oversight, but these efforts are still in legislative limbo.  

For example, in 2019 Cheney co-sponsored H.R. 779, which has not yet passed either chamber of Congress. The bill aims to exempt Indian tribes on tribal lands from restrictions under National Labor Relations Act, which bars unfair labor practices and promises employees the right to form unions and take collective action.  

That year she also cosponsored H.R. 4586, which, if it passes, would require the U.S. Department of Education to give additional money to tribes for private tutoring, other programs and educational supplies for students in tribal and federally-run schools.   

In 2020 Cheney spoke in favor of H.R. 895, which, if it clears the Senate, would allow tribally-controlled grant schools to participate in the Federal Employee Health Benefits program. That year she also sent a letter to the Secretaries of the U.S. Treasury and Interior Department asking them to consider the Wind River Indian Reservation when distributing CARES Act money to tribes.  

Last year, Cheney cosponsored House Resolution 368, aiming to make May 5 the “National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and girls.”  

She then cosponsored H.R. 4348, which, if it passes, would give more money to tribal family programs like the Northern Arapaho Department of Family Services, which receives Wyoming state funds as well.   

She co-sponsored H.R. 5735 in October 2021, which, if approved, would open certain tribal, state, and local COVID-19 funding streams to be used for infrastructure projects and natural disaster recovery.  

The bill also would give Indian tribes an extra year to use their COVID-19 funding.  

And this April, Cheney cosponsored H.R. 7455. If approved, it would make federal monetary reimbursement criteria for tribal contracts more inclusive.  

Melting-Pot Primary 

Aug. 16 is the primary election, when Wyoming’s two major political parties of Republican and Democratic will, through separate ballots, select their preferred candidates for the Nov. 8 general election.  

However, because Cheney has an adversarial relationship to former President Donald Trump, some Democrats are expected to switch their parties on paper, to sway the Republican primary in Cheney’s favor, Cowboy State Daily reported on June 19

One of Cheney’s opponents, Harriet Hageman, has Trump’s endorsement in the race.

In Dresser’s case, he’ll have to cross not from Democratic, but from unaffiliated to vote for Cheney.  

Dresser voted in 2016, 2018 and 2020, and was not affiliated with either of the major parties in each of those elections. 

In 2014, however, Dresser voted as a Democrat.  

The tribal chairman still was unaffiliated as of Friday. 

Dresser did not respond Friday morning to a text message requesting additional comment.  

Tribal spokesman Matthew Benson said Dresser’s endorsement was in his “personal capacity” and not an endorsement by the entire council.   

Tribal Member Snub 

Dresser isn’t the first Northern Arapaho political leader to endorse Cheney.  

Lee Spoonhunter, an NABC member and former chairman, made headlines on June 6, for endorsing Cheney over his fellow tribal member Lynnette Grey Bull, who is vying for the Democratic nomination in the primary election against Meghan Jensen of Rock Springs and Steve Helling of Casper.  

Grey Bull told Cowboy State Daily last month that tribal members’ endorsements won’t be predictable because, like any other group of people, the tribe is made up of diverse and unique individuals.  

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming Moves Closer To Approving New Charter Schools Focused On Classical Education

in News/Education
Hillsdale College
22115

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
clair@cowboystatedaily.com

Wyoming’s top elected officials approved a change Wednesday to the rules of a state board that could soon allow the creation of two new Wyoming charter schools focused on classical education.  

The State Lands and Investment Board, made up of the state’s top five elected officials, adopted the rule change needed to create the charter schools without local school board involvement.

On Friday, the SLIB will begin accepting applications from proposed schools such as the Wyoming Classical Academy in Casper and the Cheyenne Classical Academy in Cheyenne.

If approved, the schools will be free and publicly funded just like normal state schools, but will educate students with more emphasis on the philosophy and civics underpinning Western civilization.  

Inspired By Riots

For Russell Donley, chairman of the Casper school’s board of trustees, the idea for a new charter school started with the 2020 riots nationwide.  

“I was watching the beautiful young people marching to change America into a socialistic country, and that type of thing, back in 2020,” Donley told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “And I thought, that’s what’s wrong, it’s just education: people just don’t understand what a great country this is and how it should be, and what was intended by our founders.”  

The Cheyenne and Casper schools are independent of one another and have separate nonprofit organization filings and boards, but both have been approved under the Barney Charter School Initiative, a curriculum and outreach program by Hillsdale College, which is a Christian, classical liberal arts institution.  

The two Wyoming schools were among just seven public charter schools approved this year under Hillsdale’s umbrella.  

‘The Great Works’ 

State Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, is the founding board member and attorney for the proposed Cheyenne Classical Academy. And he’s very excited about the prospect of opening the charter school, he told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.  

“Classics education spends time making sure we emphasize a proper understanding of (the Western civilization) government, where it came from, what it looked like in ancient Rome, ancient Greece, and continues to study some of the great works that came out of that time,” said Olsen, noting that the other subjects such as arithmetic and art will be taught as well, all through a lens of understanding Western heritage.  

Olsen graduated from Evanston High School and his wife is a public school teacher. He emphasized that he had nothing bad to say about Wyoming’s existing schools’ curricula.  

But he also said that throughout the nation and Wyoming, he has been noting a decline in civics understanding that could be remedied with a focused educational effort. Specifically, he said, it would benefit society to spend more time on civics and their historical and philosophical drivers, and to spark children’s interest in those themes.   

“Being able to participate in your government is a unique function in politics,” said Olsen, adding that people should cherish and fully understand the privilege. “Throughout the history of our world, it’s not a predominant form of government.”  

A pillar in the classical curriculum known as the Trivium explores grammar, logic and rhetoric.  

Donley said the Hillsdale curriculum also includes Singapore math — a math curriculum originating in Singapore public schools — and an exploration of the United States’ founding and contributing documents — such as the Federalist Papers — and American and world history.  

“It’s just a really good classical education all the way through. We’re really excited about it,” said Donley. 

Applications Incoming 

The SLIB, which consists of Gov. Mark Gordon, Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder, Auditor Kristi Racines, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan and Treasurer Curt Meier, met Wednesday to review the new law allowing them to approve public charter schools. The board had to adopt rules to let it do what the law, which took effect on July 1, directed it to do.

Before the 2021 passage of the law, which was sponsored by Senate Floor Majority Leader Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, people proposing charter schools had to be established by their local school boards, even though they would have to compete against those very school boards for state funding.

It was Donley who in 2020 approached legislators, including Driskill and Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, about crafting legislation making it easier for public charter schools to get started in Wyoming. Scott is now vice chair of the board for the proposed Casper school.  

There was a natural imbalance in the old process, according to Nathan Winters, board chair for the Cheyenne charter school.  

“It was almost like the chicken having to go to the fox to ask for its right to live,” said Winters.  

Winters estimated that the charter schools will operate at about 80% of the typical cost of a Wyoming school.  

The SLIB is scheduled to begin accepting applications this Friday.  

Olsen said that for the Cheyenne school, he expects to submit the 140-page application Friday.   

Donley said he’ll be submitting the Casper school’s application early next week.  

Both schools aim to become K-12 schools eventually, though they plan to open only to the lower grades initially while expanding facility capacities and staff. If approved, both schools would open August 2023.  

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Grizzly 399 Offspring Killed By Wyoming Game And Fish Dept Because Of “Dangerous Behavior”

in News/Grizzly Bears
22108

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Jimmy Orr & Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

One of famed grizzly bear 399’s four youngest cubs was killed on Tuesday by Wyoming Game and Officials, the department’s large carnivore supervisor told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

On Tuesday, a two-year-old male grizzly, known as grizzly bear 1057, was captured and killed by wildlife officials due to being “highly human food conditioned” and because of “continued bold behavior around residences,” according to Dan Thompson, large carnivore supervisor for Wyoming Game and Fish.

“The decision was made based on the previous conflict history and current behavior of the bear,” Thompson said. “Management actions and subsequent decisions were conducted as a result of constant communication between personnel within the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Joe Szuszwalak, spokesman for the USFWS, told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department requested the authorization to kill grizzly 1057 because of “dangerous behavior” of the bear and 13 previously documented conflicts.

Szuszwalak said a resident near the town of Cora tried to haze the grizzly from the front porch of a house with warning shots on Tuesday but the bear did not move or show reaction.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized this action out of concern for human safety as this bear became more emboldened in their behavior while seeking food rewards and habituation to the presence of humans,” he said.

Signs of Bad Behavior

Thompson previously told Cowboy State Daily that he was concerned about the safety of some of the cubs once they left the den, as there had been a few instances where the grizzly family was caught getting into human trash and finding other food rewards.

“This particular bear was taught this behavior the past two years from the maternal female,” Thompson said on Thursday. “The bear naturally dispersed from the natal area, traveling through an abundance of secure habitat absent of human occupation or residences before localizing in the current area over the past two months and actively seeking foods from houses and residences throughout the area, with the behavior of actively seeking human foods escalating in the past.”

It was not clear if this was the same cub of grizzly 399’s that was hazed away from a Jackson residential area in May, just days after breaking away from its mother.

Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Game and Fish declined further comment.

But Jack and Gina Bayles, wildlife advocates and guides in the Greater Yellowstone Area who run the popular website ‘Team 399,’ condemned the action.

“Things stay the same in Wyoming,” they posted on their Facebook page. “Cora, Wyoming has a population of 142 and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Game and Department couldn’t figure out how to get them to put their food away so they executed 1057 instead.”

Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich told Cowboy State Daily that it was a “sad day for wildlife.”

“This is a failure on our part, a failure to eliminate rewards and reduce conflict,” Ulrich said.  “I hate to see it come to this.  We need to do better, we need to find better short and long term solutions that don’t involve authorized kills.”

Ulrich stood up for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said the department was doing “the best they can” but placed the onus on Wyoming citizens to do their part.

“We are encroaching, we are rewarding, and it’s our responsibility to change,” he said.

Fed Is Dead

Photographer Jorn Vangoidtsenhoven, award-winning wildlife photographer based in Jackson, blamed the bear’s behavior on humans that didn’t heed the warning that “a fed bear is a dead bear.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Any animal that has to be put down is heartbreaking, because typically it involves, in the first place, people behaving badly.”

Vangoidtsenhoven referred in particular to a situation in 2021 in which a homeowner in the Solitude subdivision north of Jackson was investigated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for feeding grizzly bears – including Bear 399 and her offspring – at her home for years.  

“It doesn’t mean that the bear is going to die because you feed it,” Vangoidtsenhoven clarified. “It means that the bear is going to be put down because it’s been fed,” and learned bad behavior, he said.

Vangoidtsenhoven expressed his frustration at a system that just “slaps the hands” of people who feed bears, because those bears lose their fear of people.

“The authorities who give the hand slap are the ones who know in the back of their mind, ‘This is probably a bear we’re going to put down in a year or two because of this,’” he said. “They just logically assume that in the future, if we see this bear anywhere near where people live, it is probably looking for food.”

“These four cubs, they were brought up in front of thousands of people,” Vangoidtsenhoven said. “And so you would think they are used to people, which doesn’t always speak in their favor as far as long term prospects of living a long and happy and healthy life.”

“It makes you fearful for the other three,” Vangoidtsenhoven said.

The cubs and grizzly 399 first appeared this season back in mid-April. They were escorted out of Jackson in November after being caught near houses, beehives and other attractants.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

No More Babies Born On Side Of The Road: Sublette County To Get Its Own Hospital

in News/Health care
Photo by Dave Bell
22086

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Kari DeWitt nearly bled to death when she was pregnant with her son in 2014.

In 22 counties in Wyoming, she could have gone directly to a hospital to deliver her child. However, since she lives in Sublette County, she had to wait 45 minutes at the local clinic to get a flight to Idaho.

“I told them that I thought I needed a blood transfusion and they told me they didn’t do that at the clinic, since it wasn’t a hospital,” DeWitt told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “I mean, we’re in Wyoming, but this is not the 1800s, this is not the Wild West. There are basic services we need.”

Thankfully, DeWitt got her flight to Idaho and her son was delivered via C-section just an hour later. While both mother and son were healthy, DeWitt knew a change had to made in the county.

In late June, the county received approval for a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that will pave the way, literally, for Sublette County to finally have its own hospital after 100 years without one.

A Long Time Coming

On June 24, the Sublette County Hospital District received approval for a $32.2 million USDA rural development community facilities loan, which will fund the construction of the hospital.

Dave Doorn, Sublette County Rural Health Care District administrative director, told Cowboy State Daily that in addition to the hospital, the loan will fund the construction of an updated long-term care center.

The new facilities will help prevent stories like DeWitt’s and that of SCRHD board member Dave Bell, who told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that he has also felt the painful impact of having no hospital in the county.

“About 15 years ago, I was passing a kidney stone and it turned out to be a big one,” Bell said. “The doctors here asked whether I wanted to fly or drive to Jackson. I said I didn’t want to do either, because I couldn’t afford it.”

Instead, the doctors gave Bell a shot of “something that [made] him feel good” and sent him down the road to Jackson, with his young daughter and her friend, in the middle of a snowstorm.

“That’s not a common occurrence, but it is something that’s happened to people, where they have figure out whether to drive to Jackson, take an ambulance or fly,” he said. “This hospital in the county is important, because it will alleviate many of those instances.”

The new hospital will have 10 inpatient beds, plus a pharmacy and laboratories. It will also advanced imaging capabilities, such as ultrasounds, X-rays, CT scans and mammograms.

The 50-bed long-term care facility will have a 10-bed memory care unit for patients struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The hospital will be only one of two centers in western Wyoming to feature such a unit.

Sublette County currently has two clinics, one of which has an attached emergency room. However, certain amenities, such as overnight stays for care, blood transfusions and chemotherapy, have never been available in the county.

Doorn said the hospital’s groundbreaking will take place in September and from there, it will be an 18- to 24-month construction process.

“The Sublette Center is our current long-term care facility and it’s got a great reputation, but the building is 57 years old and it really needs to be replaced,” Doorn said. “So we’re getting a hospital and a new nursing home, all in one shot. We’re trying to solve two really big problems in the county to ensure those services last into the future.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Cheney, Hageman Campaigns Rake In Millions, Set Wyoming Election Records

in News/politics
22117

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and one of her GOP primary opponents for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, Harriet Hageman, continue to set records for fundraising as the primary moves to a little more than one month away.

Information about campaign fundraising and spending released by both campaigns in advance of official Federal Election Commission reports to be issued Friday showed that both candidates raised millions in the second quarter of 2022.

Hageman has raised more than $4 million since her campaign began in September, her campaign announced in a news release, including $1.8 million raised during the second quarter of the year, which runs from April 1 through June 30.

Although it was a record quarter for Hageman’s team it still doesn’t come close to what Cheney brought into her coffers.

The Cheney team reported raising $2.9 million in the quarter, giving her campaign a total of $13 million in donations and nearly $7 million on hand. This beat her previous campaign record of $2.5 million raised in the first quarter of the year. 

She raised $3.03 million during her entire 2020 campaign.

In the second quarter, Cheney spent more than $3 million, a sum greater than what Hageman has spent through her entire campaign. That total also nearly matches what Cheney spent during her entire campaign through the end of March. 

Hageman made the finance announcement in a Thursday morning press release, one day before the Federal Election Commission second quarter numbers were released publicly. 

During the April 1 through June 30 time span, donors provided Hageman $1.8 million, giving her a total of $1.4 million cash on hand.

Hageman said she raised $3.9 million through the first two quarters of the year, but raised enough in the past two weeks to put her over the $4 million watermark. 

“Wyoming is crying out for representation in Congress because we don’t have any right now, and I am grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support for our campaign,” Hageman said in the press release.

This past quarter was the biggest for Hageman donations as well, beating her first quarter 2022 accumulation of $1.3 million. She has around $400,000 more available cash in her war chest than on April 1.

Her campaign has raised $3.25 million in 2022, about 81% of total contributions since announcing her campaign in September 2021.

After raising $301,921 in the first month of the campaign, the pace of donations slowed a bit for Hageman, only raising $443,360 in the last quarter of 2021. 

Her team roughly tripled that amount the next quarter. 

Hageman’s spending has been more measured than Cheney’s, with about $2.6 million in total expenses through Thursday, a sum around $900,000 lower than what Cheney had spent through the end of March. 

None of these numbers included donations given to political action committees working independently on the candidates’ behalf, which will also become publicly available on Friday. Millions of dollars of out-of-state and PAC money have flooded the race, already by the end of March the most lucrative in Wyoming political history.

The main issue separating the candidates, who lead all of Cheney’s other primary opponents in fundraising, has become where they stand regarding former President Donald Trump.

Cheney has spoken out against Trump and his claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.

She also serves as the vice chair on the Jan. 6 Committee, a congressional committee convened to investigate Trump’s alleged involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Hageman has defended Trump, earning his endorsement for her campaign and holding a rally with him in Casper in May.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso raised the importance of making in-person contact with voters in Wyoming, during a Fox News interview on Sunday. Hageman has been traveling across the state consistently throughout the campaign while Cheney has made few in-person appearances.

On Wednesday night, a TV commercial aired throughout Wyoming opposing Hageman. The commercial was paid for by Wyomingites Defending Freedom and Democracy, a super PAC supporting Cheney.

The ad attacked Hageman for her involvement in a water pipeline project that would have diverted water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir near Green River to lower basin states and Colorado. 

A statement Hageman made to the Casper City Council was played in the commercial. 

“That is their water and Colorado has the ability to do whatever is in its best interests,” Hageman says in the 2010 recording.

The narrator asks why Hageman doesn’t stand up for Wyoming interests. 

“It sure seems like Wyoming is Harriet Hageman’s last priority,” the narrator said in a grave tone. 

This last gibe may be a response to Hageman’s claims Cheney has stopped caring about and representing Wyoming residents.

“Liz Cheney has turned her back on us to pursue her own personal war with President Trump and we are fed up with having no one to stand up for us in the House of Representatives against the disastrous policies of the Biden administration,” Hageman said in her Thursday press release.

More detailed FEC information will be released on Friday. Check Cowboy State Daily for more updates.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Friday July 15, 2022

in Gas Map/News
22136

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s gas prices fell by 3 cents per gallon on Friday over the previous 24 hours to average $4.76.

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is down 5 cents from a week ago, and is up $1.36 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained above the national average of $4.56.

High and Low Prices:

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Friday was in Jackson at $5.59 per gallon. Once more, the lowest surveyed price in Wyoming was $4.24 at Laramie’s Tumbleweed Express at 4700 Bluebird Lane.

Lincoln County had the highest average price of any county in the stqte at $5.14 per gallon. The county with the lowest average was Campbell at $4.60. 

These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stationed surveyed.

*The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $4.63; Big Horn $4.87; Campbell $4.60; Carbon $4.79; Converse $4.77; Crook $4.77; Fremont $4.91; Goshen $4.77; Hot Springs $4.91; Johnson $4.90; Laramie $4.56; Lincoln $5.14; Natrona $4.52; Niobrara $4.77; Park $4.94; Platte $4.77; Sheridan $4.87; Sublette $4.95; Sweetwater $4.89; Teton $5.13; Uinta $4.78; Washakie $4.77; Weston: $4.71. 

*The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.77; Buffalo $4.71; Casper $4.34; Cheyenne $4.43; Cody $4.84; Douglas $4.65; Evanston $4.35; Gillette $4.51; Jackson $4.99; Kemmerer $4.85; Laramie $4.24; Lusk $4.69; Newcastle $4.50; Pinedale $4.94; Rawlins $4.69; Riverton $4.82; Rock Springs $4.49; Sheridan $4.82; Sundance $4.69; Thermopolis $4.77; Wheatland $4.85; Worland $4.79.  

Tim’s Observations:

Although the national average price of gas is dropping, Wyoming’s price continues to be 20 cents per gallon higher than the national average. 

Individual counties across the state saw mixed averages Friday. Most counties saw a a decline of a couple of cents, but the biggest drops were in Fremont County, down 19 cents per gallon, and Uinta County, down 42 cents. 

There were counties where prices went up Friday, notably Albany, Carbon, Converse and Goshen counties, with saw prices go up as much as 10 cents.   

Supply and demand is driving the oil and gasoline markets. According to GasBuddy, oil inventories are “skyrocketing.” Crude oil inventories increased by 3.3 million barrels, to a total of 427.1 million. Inventories are 10.5 million barrels below last year’s — 2.4% — and are about 5% below the five-year average for this time of year.

Gasoline inventories are also increasing. Gasoline inventories increased by 5.8 million barrels to a total of 224.9 million. Even at that level, inventories are down 11.6 million barrels —- 4.9% — from one year ago and are 5% below the five-year average for this time of year. 

Let’s hope this trend continues into the fall when heating oil demand will be added to the equation. 

Want to help us gather the most accurate gas prices for this report? Consider downloading the GasBuddy app and submit the gas prices in your area. 

*Note: Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered just prior to posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Pinedale Woman Arrested In 25-Year Cold Case Where Baby Was Thrown In Michigan Septic Pit

in News/Crime
22075

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Pinedale woman was arrested on Tuesday in connection with a 25-year-old Michigan case in which a dead baby was found in a septic pit, Mackinac County, Michigan sheriff’s officials announced on Wednesday.

The 58-year-old woman was arrested July 12 after she was interviewed by Mackinac County investigators and confirmed she was the mother of “Baby Garnet,” who was found June 26, 1997 by a worker in a Garnet Lake Campground septic pit in Michigan, according to sheriff’s officials.

Mackinac County Sheriff Edward Wilk told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that at most, the woman will be held at the Sublette County Jail for up to 30 days while police and judges get her extradition authorized. If she waives her right to an extradition hearing, she will be in Michigan much sooner than that.

The sheriff’s department did not identify the woman. However, the only 58-year-old woman being held at the Sublette County Detention Center as of Thursday was Nancy Ann Gerwatowski, who was listed as being a “fugitive from justice.”

“This happened almost 25 years to the day and I think that’s pretty incredible,” Wilk said. “I have to commend not only the investigators who are working on the case now, but even the deputy who took the initial call all those years ago. He managed to sort through all kinds of things in the septic pit and kept what he thought could be helpful later down the road.”

It was not clear if the baby girl was dead prior to being placed in the septic pit. The Detroit News reported that the baby’s body was too decomposed to be identified or to reveal details such as the child’s race. 

Wilk said that the baby’s race has been identified, but he also could not reveal that information at this time.

Case Went Cold

While investigators attempted to solve the case when Baby Garnet was first discovered, they could never confirm her identity and the case went cold.

However, in 2017, county and state police reopened the case and ultimately decided to use forensic genetic genealogy in hopes of identifying the girl.

A genealogist traced the baby’s blood lines and found the name of the woman who was likely her mother, who had since moved from the Garnet area to Wyoming in the 25 years that had passed.

Wilk did not know when exactly the woman moved to the Pinedale area, but he said he believed she left the Garnet community not long after Baby Garnet’s death.

He also noted that the girl’s father, siblings and other family members have been identified. He said he hopes the family will receive closure from knowing what happened to Baby Garnet.

Probable Cause

According to sheriff’s officials, the woman provided additional comments that provided probable cause for police to arrest her for murder.

According to news outlet MLive, forensics tests conducted on the baby showed that she had gestated for between 38 and 40 weeks, indicating the mother carried her to full term.

The outlet also reported that police at the time believed the girl was placed in the outhouse as early as June 1, 1997, and that her parents likely lived in the region.

The community raised nearly $1,000 to bury the girl in a white casket at Hudson Township, Michigan Cemetery. About 40 people attended Baby Garnet’s funeral, bringing flowers to the memorial service.

“We’re a county of about 11,000 people and that township has a couple hundred people, so when something like that happens around here, people take notice,” Wilk said. “Even though the case isn’t closed, we’re a step closer to bringing the community closure.”

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Murder Charges Dropped In Laramie County, New Charges Filed In Park County

in News/Crime
22105

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man accused of strangling a woman to death and transporting her corpse across the state to Cody is facing new charges after a judge recently found him not mentally fit to stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder.

Park County filed the charges against Joseph Underwood on July 5 after Laramie County District Court Judge Peter Froelicher dismissed the first-degree murder case against him on June 23.

Froelicher said the Wyoming State Hospital staff failed to process the case quickly enough.

Underwood was charged with murder in the 2019 death of Angela Elizondo, 40. He was accused of strangling her to death in Cheyenne and then moving her body to an area south of Cody.

The Park County charges only address his alleged moving of Elizondo’s body to the Hoodoo Ranch area outside of Cody. 

The new charges filed earlier this month in Park County are identical to those filed by the county in November 2019 when Elizondo’s body was found. However, the charges carry a much lighter sentence than if Underwood had been found guilty of first-degree murder charges.

Park County was the first entity to file charges against Underwood in the case, however, it dismissed those charges to let Laramie County follow through with its prosecution of the first-degree murder case. 

The new charges against Underwood include concealing a felony by transporting a dead human body, unlawful possession of a firearm as a felon, interference with a peace officer and fleeing or attempting to elude police officers.

The maximum sentence Underwood could now receive is 14.5 years in prison and $16,750 in fines. If convicted of the first-degree murder charge he had been facing in Laramie County, he could have been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of the death penalty.

While charges were still in place in Laramie County, Underwood received a mental evaluation in May 2020 that found him unfit to proceed to trial. 

Forensic psychologist Dr. Max Wachtel said Underwood had received a head injury and expressed worry that his evaluation took place too quickly after that incident. 

At that time, Wachtel believed Underwood’s impairments could be reversed, so prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to send him to the Wyoming State Hospital in December 2020.

However, separate evaluations presented to the court in Laramie County during hearings June and August of 2021 concluded Underwood was not competent to proceed with the trial.

At the second hearing, the court determined “there was a substantial probability” Underwood could become fit to stand trial at some point in the future and directed the State Hospital to report to the court every 90 days on his mental progress. 

In June, Froelicher reversed course and said there was no viable reason to believe Underwood could be prepared to stand trial.

Froelicher also said in separate ruling that WSH failed to fully comply with the reporting requirements mandated for the case and as a result unnecessarily extended its duration. 

“There is no dispute that the length of the delay in bringing defendant to trial in this matter is presumptively prejudicial,” he wrote. 

A Violent Act

Underwood originally told agents he “blacked out” during Elizondo’s murder. Agents determined Elizondo was hit in the head and then strangled until she died.

After the alleged crime, Underwood made a trip to Walmart where he picked up rope and a red hand cart.

He then traveled to Cody in his white 2007 Chevrolet Silverado, where he placed Elizondo, still wrapped in a bed sheet and tied to the hand cart, in a creek bed at the base of a ravine.

Underwood was accused of returning to the scene of the crime and then fleeing from authorities, leading them on a short high speed chase.

After being pulled over, Underwood threatened to commit suicide and a struggle ensued to wrestle a firearm from him. 

Eventually, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger wrestled the gun away from Underwood and took him into custody.

Prior to this incident, Underwood had recently been released from prison, where he was sentenced to spend four to six years after being convicted on a charge of aggravated assault and battery in an incident involving his ex-wife and then-15-year-old son.

A former Cody resident, Underwood suffered a serious head injury from a motorcycle accident in the early 1990s and in 2014 attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. 

Reschedules And Rejections

Froelicher’s change of mind came after the delivery of a sixth neurological assessment conducted by the Wyoming State Hospital on Feb. 28. This report was filed on April 19.

The report filed by Dr. Dan Martell supported the argument of defense attorneys that Underwood could not be restored to a mental capacity where he would be fit to stand trial.

Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove objected to these findings and requested an evidentiary hearing. According to court documents, the state submitted reports from Martell and Dr. Alex Yufik that it planned to use as part of its argument as to why Underwood still could be brought to trial. The reports were to be submitted during the evidentiary hearing scheduled for June 22.

But Froelicher, in a June order denying a request a rescheduling of a hearing in the case, said the State Hospital concluded that Underwood would never be competent to face trial.

“In WSH’s restoration evaluation report concluded defendant had not been restored to competency and there was not a substantial probability that he could be restored to competency in the foreseeable future or ever,” Froelicher said in his ruling dismissing the charges against Underwood.

Prosecutors also planned to call Richard Kaumo, who was housed at the State Hospital with Underwood, to testify, a move objected to by Wyoming Public Defender Diane Lozano, Underwood’s attorney.

Lozano said among other things, prosecutors failed to submit additional information on Kaumo, including his background and planned testimony, by a court-set May 25 deadline.

“Mr. Kaumo’s testimony must be relevant to the issue of competency,” Lozano wrote. “Even if this court were to find that Mr. Kaumo’s testimony has some probative value, the probative value must substantially outweigh the prejudicial effect. Evidence is prejudicial if it distracts from the issue at hand. This hearing could devolve into a mini-trial on Mr. Kaumo’s testimony and his credibility.” 

Prosecutors submitted the information in a notice on June 1, which included details from the State Hospital the state planned to submit for its argument. Kaumo and Martell were subpoenaed to appear at the hearing by the state on June 13.

After his release from the State Hospital, Kaumo was sent to the Wyoming Medium Security Correctional Institution in Torrington, where he is serving a sentence of four to six years on felony forgery and other charges.

Kaumo requested a sentence reduction about one month after his sentencing and in his letter of request, he mentioned he had been approached by state Division of Criminal Investigation officers to talk about Underwood.

“With nothing being offered to me I made the right choice and gave them everything I knew, knowing it was the right thing to do,” he wrote.

On June 1, Manlove requested that the evidentiary hearing be rescheduled a second time so she could take a personal trip to Savannah, Georgia. 

Although Manlove’s office had earlier specifically suggested the June 22 date, she asked that the date be moved so she could run the case for the district attorney’s office.

“It would not be possible for another prosecutor, given the current workload and staffing constraints of the DA’s office, to sufficiently familiarize himself with the evidence and the legal issues (of the case) without compromising justice,” the request said. 

Froelicher rejected the rescheduling request and the argument, noting that at a November 2020 hearing for the case, the prosecution had been primarily represented by an assistant district attorney. He also noted that at least one deputy attorney general had been present for several hearings and had been monitoring the case since WSH became involved. 

“(Underwood) should not be required to wait for a hearing to determine whether he can be restored to competency for another two to three months so that the attorney for the state can take a personal trip out of state,” the judge wrote in his order rejecting the motion. 

On June 22, the day the state hoped to bring Kaumo before the court, Froelicher rejected Manlove’s request to have him testify. 

One day after that decision, Manlove requested the Underwood case be dismissed, a motion Froelicher approved that same day, dismissing the case with prejudice, which means the murder charge against Underwood cannot be refiled. 

“Based on the evaluation, Mr. Underwood cannot be brought to trial for the pending charges,” Manlove wrote.

Underwood has racked up nearly $27,000 in public defender fees since the case has started. He is still in custody at the Laramie County Detention Center with no bond. No date has been set for an initial hearing in Park County yet.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Casper Doctor Summits Denali; Has Summited Highest Peaks On Five Continents

in News/Good news
22091

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s not the highest peak, but it’s more difficult.

Casper Dr. Joe McGinley last month summited the highest mountaintop in North America and although Denali isn’t the highest peak in the world, it is one of the toughest to climb.

For McGinley, a sports medicine physician and founder of McGinley Orthopedics, summiting a peak is nothing new. 

His latest conquest, though, marks the fifth time he’s summited the highest peak on a new continent. Although he’s got two more to go, that’s not his focus for now. It’s on savoring the Denali quest and recovering.

Express Route

After all, McGinley took the express route up to Denali.  The normal trekking time to Denali’s top is between 17 and 23 days. McGinley did it in five and one-half . His schedule, and those of his two teammates, didn’t allow them to take a more “leisurely” trip. They needed to get it done and done fast.

And to make it even more difficult, there’s no help. Unlike a trek up Everest, there are no sherpas. It’s the team of climbers and that’s it. In McGinley’s case, it was just him and two friends.

“I can barely walk,” McGinley said from his home in Casper. “But the reward is the absolute beauty, the glaciers, the colors, being above the clouds and seeing mountain ranges as far as your eyes can see.

“The sensory overload of the natural beauty was just incredible,” McGinley continued, describing the sensation of feeling the ground rumble from avalanches and the collapse of seracs — blocks or columns of glacial ice — even though they were hundreds of miles away.



Preparation

McGinley said his latest conquest was the most difficult athletic feat he’s ever accomplished from both a technical and conditioning standpoint.

To prepare himself for the high altitudes he put a tent over his bed at home in February which lowered the oxygen level while he slept.

“It was the opposite of a Michael Jackson hyperbolic chamber,” he said, explaining that oxygen was being taken away rather than added.

By the time he was ready for the climb, he was already sleeping at a simulated altitude of 19,000 feet. 

“It takes a lot of commitment, a lot of sacrifice, and use of technology to acclimate so I would have no problems with the altitude at the summit,” he said.

“It worked,” he said nonchalantly.

No headaches, no altitude sickness. Fatigue, yes. But that was to be expected. He fared well because he planned well.



Adaptation

There are long-term adaptations a climber can prepare for and then there are the short-term. Like how quickly the climate changes 

At base camp, it’s 40 degrees and because of the reflection of the sun off of the snow, it’s hot.

“You actually feel like you’re cooking,” McGinley said. “You’re literally in shorts and a T-shirt on a glacier and you’re sweating.”

But that sensation didn’t last. He and his team waited until the temperatures were low enough that they could walk across the glaciers over the crevasses. That meant a 3 a.m. departure.

Using skis to minimize the chances of falling through the glacier, they trekked five miles across the glacier field. It was nerve-wracking because at times they could see how far the drop was.

“We couldn’t see the bottom and you’re just hoping that the six inch snow bridge holds up as you go across,” he said.

After a while though, he said he got used to it and the heights didn’t bother him, despite knowing that a fall would have ended his climbing career, not to mention his life.

Then came the wind, the falling rocks, and the ice wall. The 2,000 foot vertical ice wall was always looming. 

“You’re just watching the climbers each day knowing that it’s coming and you’re going to have to climb it with a 60-pound backpack attached,” he said.



“Always A Surprise”

It’s not like it’s a vacation after the ice wall is crested. 

“There’s always a surprise beyond Denali,” he said.

McGinley then described places like the autobahn, the football field, and Pig Hill, all unique areas where if a climber is not careful, it’s all over.

Take the autobahn.  If you slip there, take solace in that you’re not airborne, but you’re sliding down the mountain at “full speed” until something “stops you.”

At each level it gets more difficult, McGinley said. 

Ironically, he described the hardest part of the climb as “not the simplest thing” before calling it “brutal.”

That’s because the location tricks you.  You think you’ve summited once you go past the ice wall. But you still have farther to go.

“It’s literally a snow-packed ice ridge with wind all the way to the summit,” he said. “It is by far the most mentally intimidating thing that I’ve ever done.”

He didn’t want to leave once he summited. So he took photos and savored the experience for as long as he could.



“Seeing Stars”

“So you do all that and then you take it back down,” he said with a laugh.

McGinley groaned as he discussed carrying all the supplies back down to the bottom.

“I felt pain like I’ve never felt before,” he said. “I mean, I literally was seeing stars.”

He said he always thought that was just a saying, but his feet were “so destroyed” that every step he took, he said, he saw stars.

What’s Next

It’s understandable that he wasn’t interested in talking about what is next, but said McGinley has heard the question because he’s got two peaks to go to hit the highest peaks on every continent.

“Antarctica is next,” he said. “I take them one at a time and then we’ll see how it goes.”

Mount Vinson is the highest peak in Antarctica and while it isn’t a technically difficult climb, the cold weather makes it dangerous. Temperatures can dip to 40 degrees below zero on the summit on Mount Vinson.

McGinley says he is shooting for January or February of 2023 to make that trek. And to make it more interesting he said he would be skiing to the South Pole as well.

After then, Everest is a possibility.

“I don’t want to make assumptions or be arrogant about this. And I want to take them one at a time,” he said. “If I’m successful in Antarctica, we’ll talk about Everest.”

Whether he does it or not, McGinley said so far it’s all been worth it, despite the pain.

“These are once-in-a-lifetime adventures and the places are always stunning,” he said.



**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

International Hemingway Conference Comes To Sheridan And Yellowstone Area Next Week

in News/Tourism
22112

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

“In order to write about life, first you must live it.”

This quote from Ernest Hemingway, one of the most influential American authors of the 20th century, is especially timely as hundreds of Hemingway scholars will descend on northern Wyoming and southern Montana next week for the biannual “International Hemingway Conference.”

Hemingway, an American novelist, short-story writer and journalist, wrote seven novels, six short story collections, and two nonfiction works between 1926 and his death in 1961. In the early years of his writing career, Hemingway spent many months in the Beartooth Mountains near Cooke City, Montana.

Cooke City was actually the setting of Hemingway’s last short story, “A Man of the World,” according to Chris Warren, author of “Ernest Hemingway in the Yellowstone High Country.” 

Yellowstone Area

Warren was instrumental in bringing the conference to Silver Gate, only three-tenths of 1 mile from Cooke City.

“I submitted the initial proposal, traveled to the International Hemingway Conference in Paris in 2018 to support my proposal and presented a paper establishing Cooke City as the setting of Hemingway’s last short story,” Warren said. “My proposal won, and the Conference was set for 2020.”

However, Warren said that after planning and preparing for the conference for nearly three years, the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID.

“We then geared up for 2022,” he said, “and after all the work was done it (came) under threat from the flooding and subsequent Yellowstone closure.” 

Paris, Venice, Key West

The International Hemingway Conference is usually held in locations such as Paris, Venice, Chicago and Key West, Warren said, which is why bringing international attention to these small communities in Wyoming and Montana is such a big deal to the small businesses which have been so recently devastated economically by the June 13 flood.

“The last conference was in Paris at the Eiffel Tower, the Sorbonne and the American University of Paris,” Warren said. “This one is being thrown in Cooke City, which has a year round population of 80.” 

In preparation for the conference, Warren, who has lived in Cooke City and Silver Gate for 29 years, gathered materials showcasing the author’s adventures in the Beartooth Mountains.

“I traveled to the JFK Library in Boston and the Princeton library and gathered all these pictures of Hemingway in the 10 to 12 miles east of here,” Warren told Cowboy State Daily. “And so what we have here are pictures and the flies that Hemingway used. We have the old magazines that the original stories were printed in. And there’s really no other collection anywhere in the world like this.”

Papa Hemingway

Warren said he was never a writer by trade, but living in the Cooke City area for nearly 30 years and learning about “Papa Hemingway’s” history in the area turned him into an author.

“Over those years, I met a bunch of old timers whose fathers knew him, and knew him well,” Warren said. “And it kind of got me started on what I thought would be a magazine article or newspaper article, and it turned into a book, as I uncovered more and more information.”

Warren said he is thrilled about the interest the conference has generated.

“We have 150 papers being presented,” he said. “We have 12 authors coming, we have all these events planned.”

Two Venues

The conference will actually take place in two venues – from July 17 to 21, events will be held in Sheridan, which is where Hemingway first arrived in 1928, looking for a quiet place to finish writing his novel, “A Farewell to Arms.” 

He eventually found the right location, with few distractions, on the third floor of the Sheridan Inn, as well as in a cabin in the Big Horn mountains.

In 1930, Hemingway went west again, landing at the L-T Ranch just outside Cooke City, where he returned for three subsequent visits in the 1930s.

Warren explained that many of Hemingway’s manuscripts were mailed off from the Cooke City General Store, including  “To Have and Have Not,” and “Death in the Afternoon.” 

“The protagonist of ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ is from Red Lodge,” Warren pointed out. “The protagonist of ‘Islands in the Stream’ was a Montana rancher, the protagonist of ‘Across the River and Into the Trees’ is also from Montana. So we have this connection.” 

Short Stories

According to the International Hemingway Society’s website, Hemingway gathered material for his short stories “The Wine of Wyoming” in Sheridan, and for “The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio” while recovering from an auto accident in the Billings, Montana, hospital.  

Hemingway’s final story, “A Man of the World” is set in Cooke City, which is near where the international conference will stage its final few days of the 2022 gathering, at the Range Rider Lodge in Silver Gate, just down the road from Cooke City, where Warren is the manager and bartender.

From Warren’s perspective, the conference has brought a sense of purpose to the communities that have been hit so hard by the closure of the northeast gate to Yellowstone National Park.

“We’ve been able to come together as a community and still pull off,” he said. “This conference that’s usually in places like New York and Paris, and Madrid and Key West. And so not only is a town with a year-round population of 80 pulling it off, we’re pulling it off after this devastating catastrophe.”

Warren said that this area embodies the essence of Hemingway’s writing, and his life.

“Hemingway was about wild places, remote places, hunting, fishing, food, wine, and this place is full of it,” he said. “So if anybody wants to come up and see what we’ve got going on here, please do.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Supreme Court: It Was OK For Police Officer To Describe Gasoline As Accelerant In Arson Trial

in News/Wyoming Supreme Court
22104

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s Supreme Court has refused to overturn a Douglas man’s conviction on a charge of attempted first-degree arson because a police officer in his case testified that gasoline is an accelerant.

Justices unanimously upheld the conviction of Sebastian Michael Esquibel on the charge filed in connection with a February 2020 incident in which he was accused of trying to set fire to another man’s Douglas home.

The court rejected Esquibel’s argument that a police officer should not have been allowed to describe gasoline as an accelerant, a substance that will speed the spread of a fire, because he was not an expert on the subject.

“It is common knowledge that gasoline is an accelerant,” said the ruling, written by Justice Keith Kautz. “Because it is common knowledge that gasoline is an accelerant, (the officer) did not need to meet the expert foundation requirements … to testify that gasoline is an accelerant.”

According to the ruling, Esquibel was arrested in connection with an attempt to set fire to the home of Seth Velasquez, who had earlier had a relationship with Esquibel.

The ruling said Velasquez was asleep in the basement of his Douglas home when he was awakened by a noise which turned out to be someone using a brick to break one of his front windows.

When police responded to Velasquez’ report of the incident, a fire investigator with the Wyoming Fire Marshal’s Office determined that after breaking the window to Velasquez’ home, someone had poured an “ignitable liquid” onto the windowsill and lit it. The resulting fire damaged the home’s siding.

After investigators left, Velasquez went to a friend’s house. When he returned home, he found another window had been broken out of his home and he detected a “diesel-like smell” in the home.

The responding officer smelled what he described as “dirty gasoline” and said the accelerant had been poured down the home’s interior wall.

Esquibel was arrested and convicted of attempted first-degree arson in connection with the second incident, but he appealed the conviction.

Esquibel said the officer investigating the second incident should not have been allowed to describe gasoline as an accelerant because he as not a recognized expert in the field.

But justices said it is common knowledge that gasoline is an accelerant, so the officer did not have to be an expert on the issue.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Thursday July 14, 2022

in Gas Map/News
22109

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

The price of gasoline in Wyoming increased by 2 cents per gallon on Thursday over the previous 24 hours to average $4.79.

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is down 4 cents from a week ago and is up $1.38 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained above the national average of $4.59.

High and Low Prices:

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Wednesday was in Jackson at $5.59 per gallon. Once more, the lowest surveyed price in Wyoming was $4.24 per gallon at Laramie’s Tumbleweed Express at 4700 Bluebird Lane in Laramie.

The county with the highest average price is Teton at $5.25 per gallon. The county with the lowest average is Natrona, at $4.50. 

These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stationed surveyed.

*The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $4.52; Big Horn $4.92; Campbell $4.62; Carbon $4.76; Converse $4.67; Crook $4.78; Fremont $5.10; Goshen $4.67; Hot Springs $4.95; Johnson $4.90; Laramie $4.58; Lincoln $5.04; Natrona $4.50; Niobrara $4.78; Park $5.01; Platte $4.78; Sheridan $4.78; Sublette $4.95; Sweetwater $4.84; Teton $5.25; Uinta $5.20; Washakie $4.78; Weston: $4.71. 

*The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.77; Buffalo $4.73; Casper $4.36; Cheyenne $4.45; Cody $4.87; Douglas $4.65; Evanston $4.35; Gillette $4.51; Jackson $5.09; Kemmerer $4.87; Laramie $4.24; Lusk $4.59; Newcastle $4.51; Pinedale $4.89; Rawlins $4.69; Riverton $4.84; Rock Springs $4.49; Sheridan $4.82; Sundance $4.74; Thermopolis $4.92; Wheatland $4.85; Worland $4.81.   

Want to help us gather the most accurate gas prices for this report? Consider downloading the GasBuddy app and submit the gas prices in your area. 

*Note: Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered just prior to posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Senate District 1: Two Challengers To Incumbent Ogden Driskill Say He’s Not Conservative Enough

in News/politics
22064

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Leo Wolfson, political reporter
Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com

Senate District 1, encompassing the entire Northeast corner of the state, has one of the most competitive races in the Legislature this fall, with all three candidates possessing legitimate political experience.

The incumbent, Senate Majority Floor Leader Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, is running for a fourth term after first getting elected in 2010. Driskill said he still has unfinished business to accomplish.

“I have a proven track record, I’d like to continue that,” he said.

Driskill said he is proud of being able to keep the state’s budget in line thanks to efforts made to diversify Wyoming’s economy. He cited food freedom and blockchain technology bills he helped push through to create more jobs in the state.

“I’m a big believer that government doesn’t create jobs,” he said. “What it can create is a fertile freedom to make it easier to do business in.” 

Although he considers Wyoming one of the best states to own a small business in, he wants to see more legislation that incentivizes small business owners to move to the state.

In 2013, Driskill also helped pass a bill that allows hunters to use silencers, legislation he said partly inspired an ammunition manufacturer to move its headquarters to Sundance.

“All the while being a staunch conservative,” he said.

On the forefront of his mind is an opportunity to represent northeast Wyoming as the president of the Senate, an appointment Driskill said will likely occur if earns re-election. Only one Crook County senator has ever served as president of the Senate, Albert Harding, who served from 1951-1961.

“It’s a major motivator,” he said. “It’s an absolutely critical position.

“I’m happy to do whatever I can to make life better for northeast Wyoming and I intend to use the bully pulpit to make it as well as possible.”

“Let People Die”

That possibility of Driskill’s appointment as Senate president is one of the reasons Rep. Bill Fortner, R-Gillette, has decided to take a shot at moving to the Senate and run against Driskill.

“If he gets in as the president of the Senate he will have a lot more power,” Fortner said.

This past year Fortner sponsored a bill expanding visitation rights for those in health care facilities that did not pass. Fortner said it died because of Driskill’s lack of assistance.

“If he’s willing to let people die then he doesn’t need a lot more power,” Fortner said. “I think he needs to leave.”

Fortner also sponsored legislation that would have prevented government employees from running for elected public offices. The House did not consider the bill. 

“Remarkably Unsuccessful Career”

Driskill said Fortner has had a remarkably unsuccessful career getting bills passed and has voted “no” on nearly everything else.

“Fortner has a record and his record is ‘no,’” Driskill said. “Voting ‘no’ on every issue doesn’t make you a conservative, it makes you a contrarian.” 

Fortner, a fourth generation Campbell County resident, is one of the most conservative legislators in Cheyenne, signing a pledge prior to  being elected in 2020 not to vote for a tax increase and to vote for a voter ID law.

Name-Calling

He earned a 100% rating from Wyorino.com and has accused others in his party of being “RINOs,” a catchphrase for those determined not conservative enough for their party, Republicans in Name Only. Wyorino.com named Driskill its RINO of the month in June.

“I can darn sure tell you (Driskill) he’s a RINO,” Fortner said, claiming Driskill voted to increase taxes. “He represents himself more than constituents.”

Driskill said he finds this labeling “curious” as he has worked to cut the budget, supported a bill that would have banned crossover voting and supported the 2021 voter ID bill. 

“I check all the boxes yet I’m being called a liberal and a RINO,” Driskill said. “They like to call me a liberal a RINO because they can’t force their way.”

Fortner claims Driskill used taxpayer money to take a trip to China to study blockchain technology. Driskill runs a beef company that uses this technology. 

Driskill said the claim that the China trip was funded with taxpayer dollars is “absolutely false” and said the trip was approved by the Legislative Services Office.

Slash Everything

Fortner said he wants the Wyoming state government to slash half its budget. He said Wyoming has the second highest per capita state government budget with the highest per capita spending in the country. 

“My conservatism is unmatched,” he said.

Still, Fortner is taking a risk by running for a new seat, where he will have to win votes from a much wider population base. 

Having spent his life welding and working in coal and oil, Fortner said he has gained an intimate understanding for these industries and has no confidence oil will return to its prior glory days.

“For electric cars to succeed they need those gas price high,” he said.

He doesn’t expect a rebound for either coal or oil, but said there are ways the state can continue to harness both for economic gain, such as paving roads with coal, a material that has been used in various locations as an asphalt additive or replacement. He also has confidence hydrogen and thermal power can be helpful for Wyoming’s future.

Fortner is a member of the House Agriculture Committee, where he has made curtailing wild horses one his most strident issues.

He also believes the country has never recovered from the economic recession of 2008. In 2021, he sponsored a bill that would have recognized property depreciation in the tax structure 

Roger Connett

Also running is Roger Connett, a Sundance resident who has been chair of the Crook County GOP on and off since 2015. Connett said the representation he sees in Cheyenne no longer reflects the “very conservative” nature of the state.

“The Legislature has moved away from what people in Wyoming care about,” he said, adding the body has become distracted by national-level social justice issues.

If elected, Connett said he wants to pass legislation to address the rising cost of property taxes by taking original purchase price into account. He said the taxes on his home grew by 23% in the past year.

“There’s people who are on a fixed income saying, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this,’” he said.

Connett is as pessimistic as Fortner is about future revenue from oil and gas.

“If we hadn’t been flush with ‘Biden bucks’ this past year we would’ve been in a real crush,” he said.

No Taxes

Connett wants the state to focus more attention on its investment and trust funds as a source of revenue.

“We need to do that before we ever say the word ‘tax,’” he said, although he wouldn’t rule out tax increases as a last resort. 

Connett wouldn’t specify, but said there are a number of issues where he and Fortner differ. Although Connett said he was told by Fortner he didn’t plan to run against Driskill, Fortner told Cowboy State Daily he has been planning his campaign for about a year.

Driskill said Connett has good idea but most of his plans have already been addressed by laws Driskill helped pass.

Fortner has said in the past he would support the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, but Connett said he doesn’t support any legalization of the substance, although he would be open to considering decriminalization laws.

Too Much Money

Fortner and Connett also support school of choice rights. Fortner said private schools can teach children at one-third of the price of public schools, where the typical per-pupil funding in Wyoming is about $18,000, a number Connett thinks is too high. Fortner supports reducing the public schools budget if it means moving away from dependence on federal funding.

“We’re spending more money than the other states but we’re not doing any better,” Connett said.

He saw the federal vaccine mandates as another example of this issue and said the legislation Wyoming passed on the matter in its 2021 special session “meant nothing.”

“There’s too much money going around,” he said. “Everyone is having too good of a time and keeps spending.”

Driskill said the state has reduced employee numbers and its budget during his 11 years in the Legislature. Connett said the latter part of this claim doesn’t include $334 million federal American Rescue Plan Act funds that were used to supplement spending in this year’s budget.

“That does count to me,” Connett said.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming’s Dessie Bebout: Veteran, Caregiver And Almost Pilot Celebrates At 102

in News/Good news
22054

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

On a frigid winter evening in 1920s Hudson, about midway between Lander and Riverton, a Serbian mother bundled her daughters and sent them out to deliver Christmas food to their neighbors, especially the ones who didn’t have enough to eat.    

If the baskets full of homemade bread, chicken, grapes and wine didn’t buckle the girls’ knees, then the chill would, but they knew that when the task was done, their mother would unbind their scarved faces and hand them twin mugs of hot chocolate.    

That’s the small-town Wyoming that Dessie Bebout remembers as she approaches her 102nd birthday on Aug. 15..  

And she wouldn’t have it any other way.  

Town Holiday 

In honor of a life that saw her feed the hungry and care for the sick in Shoshoni, as well as serve in a special military program for women in World War II and almost become a licensed pilot, Hudson Mayor Mike Anderson on May 30 declared a new town holiday: Dessie Bebout Day. 

“Bebout represents the epitome of service to our community and nation, a debt of gratitude we can never repay,” reads the mayoral proclamation, which was presented in the Hudson Town Hall on a rainy Memorial Day.  

“It was such a total surprise,” said Bebout of the event. “I thought, ‘My gosh, am I dreaming? Am I hearing things? Is there something wrong with me?’ I was not expecting it.”  

Lights In Hudson 

It started with a tough couple and a midwife.  

Dessie Bebout, formerly Dessie Svilar, was born in a Hudson home to Bessie and Dan Svilar in 1920, with the help of an Italian midwife named Mrs. Delpiccolo.  

Because no birth certificate was issued, when Dessie Svilar tried nearly 23 years later to join the military, she asked Delpiccolo to verify the fact of her birth – and the midwife did, from her deathbed.  

Dessie was the fourth of eight children.  

Her father Dan Svilar came to America from Yugoslavia in 1904, bearing a tag that said he was heading to Hudson and not able to speak a single word of English.  

In the years to come, he made Wyoming history by bringing electricity to Hudson and running its first power company, where the average light bill was 60 cents a month in the early 1920s. 

But first, he had to make music.  

Fresh from Yugoslavia, Svilar was found his brother Eli in Hudson. While running errands, Eli made the mistake of leaving Dan to wait for him on the streets of Hudson for just a few minutes too long.  

A piano strain lured Svilar from the street — and into the town’s famed brothel.  

“He saw a piano in there and he heard music,” said Dessie, recounting family lore. “And I could not believe it – papa went in there! And somebody played a melody, then got up, and papa sat down there and played the same melody, just by ear.”  

Svilar filled his years with hard work and big risks. He worked his way into part ownership of the Buckhorn Bar (now Svilar’s Bar and Restaurant) and started a farm, a creamery, bakery, cigar manufacturing company, ice company, and of course the power company, which was established in 1920, the year of Dessie’s birth. 

The family controlled the power company until 1988, when they sold it to Pacific Power.  

All of Dan Svilar’s ventures succeeded because, Bebout’s daughter Ruby Calvert said, all the Svilar children shared in the hard work.  

Fate And Newspapers 

Bebout’s mother was a mail-order bride sent from Yugoslavia in 1909 at age 14 to marry a Nebraska railroader named Joe Mastalica. 

With nationalistic tensions in Europe foreshadowing what would become World War I, Mastalica sent a letter to the mayor of Bessie’s town in Yugoslavia asking for a young Serbian girl to come and marry him. The letter also contained a passage ticket to the United States.  

The girl crossed an ocean and a prairie to meet her husband. She spent three years and gave birth to two children in a “miserable” box car in Nebraska before losing Mastalica, who died of blood poisoning, Calvert said.  

Bessie, alone in a new country at 17 with two children, made a unique purchase: advertisements in a Serbian newspaper inquiring after her brother, who had come to the states as well.  

Bessie found her brother in Rock Springs and traveled to Wyoming.  

When spending time with mutual friends in Hudson, Bessie met Dan Svilar and married him in 1916.  

Boarders And Bums 

Bebout remembers her mother like the warm glow of Hudson’s first light bulb.  

“My mother was always so kind,” she said.  

Constantly working, butchering, cooking and baking on the farm, Bessie Svilar wouldn’t let anyone go hungry.  

“Mama” sent her daughters into the town, especially the impoverished Italian-Ville where two of their favorite teachers lived, to deliver Christmas food baskets.  

For tramps hobbling off the train, Mama Svilar’s generosity was legendary. She fed the many boarders who lived with the family and looked after her own children with an intense resourcefulness.  

“We never knew who was going to come to our house, but mama never, ever turned anybody away,” said Bebout, adding that kindness was widespread in those days, especially in small towns.  “People were always willing to help. That’s the thing that was so beautiful about Hudson.”  

Kitchen Explosion 

When she was still in the eighth grade, Bebout and her older sister Sophia had to fill their mother’s shoes.  

Bessie Svilar had been bustling in the kitchen when the gas stove blew up.  

“And I turned around, there my mother was – on fire,” Bebout remembered.  

The girl rushed to the kitchen sink, gathered water and threw it on her mother, who was screaming and wailing. She then ran to the pool hall where her father was, and he took his wife immediately to a doctor in a neighboring town.  

There were no doctors in Hudson.  

Bebout’s mama was sent to the Mayo Clinic for nearly a year and was unable to turn her head due to scarring on her neck. Eventually, doctors were able to graft skin onto her neck to restore some of her motion.  

She reveled in the smallest recoveries.  

“It was a new world for her again, and she joined back with us, and mama did so much in that town,” said Bebout. “There was never a hunger.”  

In Flight 

A witness to her mother’s courage, the young Dessie Svilar in her late teens scraped together money from her wages to take flying lessons.  

When she was ready to fly solo for the first time and win her license, the local newspaper, the Riverton Review, featured a story about Dessie and the upcoming solo flight.  

“Papa” Dan Svilar saw the newspaper.  

“He just became hysterical. He said ‘What are you doing? You’re not doing that,’” Bebout remembered. “And Papa stopped it.”  

Bebout’s father was a stickler for Eastern European traditions placing women in the home, in dresses, caring for children.  

She still regrets not earning her pilot’s license, but it was this conflict that gave her the determination about four years later to join the U.S. military during a war.  

WAVE For The Girls 

In July 1942, U.S. Congress passed a law establishing a women’s division of the U.S. Naval Reserve, called “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service,” or WAVES. The law was enacted to free up Navy officers and sailors for sea duty, replacing them with women in the “on-shore” positions.  

The first WAVES rolled out that August. In January 1943 Dessie Svilar, who had been working as a civilian at the Fort Warren base in Cheyenne, enlisted in the Navy.   



“My brothers… all had joined the service,” she said. “They weren’t drafted, they volunteered. And I thought, ‘My brothers are in there, I’m just working here at Fort Warren doing travel orders for different soldiers. And I can do that as a vet.’”  

Goaded by an over-eager military solicitor, she passed her entry exam and physical with ease and was told to report to Hunter College in New York to become an official WAVE.  

She knew her father wouldn’t like it.  

“But, you know, I’d pleased Papa all my life. And this was something I wanted to do, so I said ‘Sure, I’ll sign up,’” Bebout said.  

Beautiful Voice Ringing 

Bebout’s barracks mates at first resented her because she was one of only five women among hundreds of WAVES who could take shorthand notes, earning her a soft secretarial job that began at the luxurious hour of 8 a.m.  

“So I told them, ‘I’ll even the score out. I will be responsible for clearing our rooms and the toilet and I promise you, we will never be suspended for a weekend,’” she recalled. 

And she kept her word during the whirlwind two months of training in New York City, where the locals wanted to pay for all the WAVES’ dinners. 

It was also there that one of Bebout’s first friends in the military, Ira Jean, filled the barracks with her beautiful, operatic voice.  

Somewhere in a vivid reel of memories, Bebout can still hear her friend singing.   

Military Marriage 


All was not cozy when Dessie Svilar reported in Seattle for her first WAVES job ordering Merchant Marines to active duty, as some of the men in leadership disliked the new ranks of girls and doubted they could handle their duties.  

But it was also while she adjusted to military life in Seattle that Hugh Bebout, an acquaintance from Wyoming and a friend of her brother’s now serving in the Air Force, took her out to dinner on his way from his post in Alaska to his new station in Texas.  

The pair wrote letters for a few months until one day, Hugh called Dessie and proposed.  

“And I said ‘All right,’” she remembered with a smile.  

The couple married in El Paso in 1943, but they were never stationed in the same place. 

Dessie Bebout qualified to become a Naval officer in 1945 and was on her way to Florida to be promoted when her husband called and said “Pack your clothes and come home. You’re going to be discharged.” 

Hugh Bebout had become eligible for discharge that year and, under an order of the time, military wives were discharged with their husbands.  

Shoshoni Mom 

The pair had four children of their own: Eli, Ruby, Nick and David. They also raised their niece, Bessie, and nephew Michael, ages 8 and 3.  

Dessie and Hugh’s youngest son “Davy” died at 18 months after being run over by a car.  

The memory is still a horrific one for Bebout, who with her arms showed how she carried Davy to the family business, a bar in Shoshoni, and begged a complete stranger to drive them to Riverton.  

“I don’t even know who she was, but she did (drive us). But my boy was gone.”  

Bebout was devastated.  

But life kept calling, so she had no choice but to keep answering.  

“Life wasn’t easy then, but there were so many days that were beautiful, they’ve pushed the harsher memories into the background,” she said.  

Bebout threw herself into the community.  

“If something came along, and here was a need, I’d try to fill it,” she said.  

Bebout created the strep throat testing program in Shoshoni. She turned an empty room in the Shoshoni school into a proper sickroom with cots, so that feverish children wouldn’t have to hunker on the floor until their mothers came for them.   

And on those cots, made up tightly, were Bebout’s wool blankets from her Navy days.  

She cooked for her own children and welcomed any stragglers: neighbors, friends, kids who’d missed the bus home.  

Hugh and Dessie Bebout from 1952 to 1954 built the Boysen Marina, which remains an icon of summer recreation in the region. After eight bitter winters on the lake, the family sold the Marina in 1960 and returned to Shoshoni.

Bebout served as Fremont County Election Judge for 25 years, was Shoshoni Chamber of Commerce treasurer for 17, Shoshoni Post Master from 1967 to 1981, and gave her talents to numerous other organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars Women’s Auxiliary and the Riverton Chapter of Does, in both of which she’s still a member today.

Different Kind Of Army 

The ranchers’ and farmers’ wives of Shoshoni and the valley villages around it were their own kind of military. Everyone kept track of everyone’s kids, and everyone pitched in to host banquets, dances, and fiddle contests. People looked after one another.  

“It was just good, clean living,” Bebout said. “It was a wonderful life, it truly was, and I’m still here!” 

Onward 


Dessie’s children have all gone on to make names for themselves both inside and outside of Wyoming.

Bebout’s firstborn Eli is best known as a long-serving state senator and representative for Riverton’s urban district, now retired from the seat.  

As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Bebout oversaw funding of the new Shoshoni School, regarded as one of the finest school buildings in the state, as well as the Central Wyoming College McFarland Health And Science Center and numerous other projects throughout Wyoming.  

Eli Bebout and his brother Nick have successful oil drilling businesses together.  

Nick Bebout also played college football on a scholarship for the University of Wyoming and was drafted to play professional football. He logged three years for the Atlanta Falcons, four with the Seattle Seahawks and one for the Minnesota Vikings before retiring from the game to join Eli in business.  

Ruby Calvert, formerly Ruby Bebout, moved to Riverton after earning a bachelor’s in secondary education from UW. She went to work for Central Wyoming College’s public television station as programming and production director. After 25 years in the position she became interim general manager, then general manager a year later in 2007, and retired in 2015.  

After 102 years, Bebout has unlocked the secret to life — treasure all of its moments.

“Harbor every experience, because when you get to be 102, you know, (you’ll) sit and reminisce and think of the wonderful times,” she said. 

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Nine Collegiate Teams Competing In Coast-To-Coast American Solar Challenge Pit Stop In Lander

in News/Good news
22073

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

The old travel joke starts with a question: “Do you know what the snail yelled when riding on the back of a turtle?” The answer: “Wheeee!”

Such a yell might describe the less-than-speedy experience some drivers had cruising across the length of vast Wyoming in their solar-powered cars this week in an event called the American Solar Challenge.

The “race” is a multi-day, 1,500-2,000 mile cross-country endurance rally across North America. It typically happens every two years and is open to collegiate level solar car teams from countries all over the world.

The winner of ASC is determined by the total elapsed time to complete the race route.

Nine cars from across North America are competing in the event this year and the teams stopped in Lander for a night at the Pioneer Museum.



Solar Convoy

Shreya Agarwal drove the MIT-sponsored car during its last leg into the community. She said her single-passenger car averaged about 40 mph. It only weighs 445 pounds. 

Did she worry about deer or antelope on the road? 

“Actually not,” she said. “What was scary was when people wanted to pass us.” 

By “us,” she meant the convoy of solar cars and support vehicles making the long trip from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon. The 1,400 mile trip started July 8 and is scheduled to end on Friday.

Some of the smaller cars are tiny with claustrophobic cockpits for the lone driver. Agarwal said some of the scariest moments were when pickups pulling horse trailers passed them at high rates of speed on the two-lane roads.

The event is a contest of both brains and skill. The cars are extremely lightweight and are literally powered by the sun. 

“The sun hits our solar collectors on the cars and then charges our batteries, which then operate a motor which turns the wheels,” said Jacob Svatek, who was driving the University of Minnesota entry. 

It was a two-passenger design, which allowed it to go 65 mph, just under the 70 mph speed limit on Wyoming’s two-lane highways.



Costly Vehicles

All the vehicles were custom made and their teams are made up of engineers and brainy types. Some of the vehicles had estimated costs of nearly $500,000, one of the pit crew members said.

On this day, they journeyed from Gering, Nebraska, through Casper and on to Lander for the night. The biggest bottleneck was a construction stop 12 miles southeast of Lander which caused the cars to bunch together.

The group included three two-passenger cars and six single-passenger cars. The Lander stop was sponsored by the Pioneer Museum and the drivers, pit crews, and support staff were treated to a dinner of hamburgers topped off with cold watermelon and cookies. Two of the people working on the project were museum director Randy Wise and Maggie Appleby of the Pioneer Association.

The solar car folks dined in beautiful weather under blue skies. Although the temperatures were in the 90s during their journey that day from Gering, they were refreshed and ready to launch their vehicles on perhaps the toughest leg of the trip the next morning.

Oregon Trail

Their trip was to also celebrate the Oregon Trail and the steepest point in that historic trip by wagon train 170 years ago was hauling their wagons up South Pass, one of the longest passes in the country.

On Thursday, these nine competitors were scheduled to duplicate that feat by seeing if their solar-powered cars could reach the summit of South Pass, much like those intrepid emigrants over a century and a half ago.

Besides MIT and Minnesota, other entrants were from the University of Illinois, University of Kentucky, University of California-Berkeley, Principia College, Montreal Poly, ETS/Canada, and Appalachian State.

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Don’t Blame Climate Change For Yellowstone Flooding, Climatology Professor Says

in Yellowstone/News
22045

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

While some national media outlets in the past month implied that climate change was at the root of flooding in Yellowstone National Park, some weather experts are cautioning against drawing hasty conclusions.  

“This had very little to do with climate change,” said Cliff Mass, a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences. “In global warming, you would expect to see less snowpack. This year, we’ve had a cool, wet spring – that’s not warming conditions.” 

Cowboy State Daily Meteorologist Don Day Jr. agreed with Mass’ assessment, adding the verdict is still out and could be for some time to come. 

“Whether climate change had an impact on the Yellowstone flooding is something to be determined in post-analysis,” Day said. “Let’s apply some science to this before we make the statement, ‘Climate change played a role.’”

While Day might be a household name for many Wyoming residents, Mass has worked in weather science since 1981 and specializes in weather and climate prediction in the western U.S. In 2008, he started his weather blog and authored “Weather in the Pacific Northwest.” And for the past two years, he’s hosted the podcast, “Weather with Cliff Mass.” 

Rather than blame global warming, both attributed the flooding to a culmination of weather factors, which when combined created a perfect storm or, as some meteorologists have labeled it, a “thousand-year weather event.”

The West experienced a cool, wet spring, slowing snow melt throughout Yellowstone’s mountains, which also saw an above average accumulation of snowpack — in some cases more than 1,000% of average, Mass said. 

“The key thing was the snowpack,” he said. “A few days before the flooding, it got kind of warm and some of that snow started melting at mid-elevation. 

“Then, we had an atmospheric river come in, which brought a plume of moisture,” he continued 

A long, flowing region of the atmosphere that carries water vapor through the sky, the atmospheric river did two things: produced unusually heavy precipitation over the basin and warmed the area even more, Mass said. 

“We had a double whammy of rapid snow melt and heavy precipitation,” he said. “The two of them together threw tremendous amounts of water into the rivers around Yellowstone, causing the flooding.”

As a result of these factors, the Yellowstone River experienced peak levels of about 49,000 cubic feet on June 13, more than doubling the river’s level in a 24-hour period, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The thing to remember is that despite the catastrophe, no lives were lost, Day said. 

“I don’t think enough news outlets are emphasizing that fact,” he added. 

The West, and especially western mountain ranges, is no stranger to flash flooding. Day said examples predate the climate change conversation by decades, such as the Thompson Flood in the ’70s.

In 1976, the Big Thompson River flooded near Estes Park, Colorado, as a result of heavy precipitation brought by thunderstorms. Reported as one of Colorado’s deadliest natural disasters, the weather event claimed the lives of 144 people. 

In 2013, about a week of heavy precipitation on Colorado’s Front Range led to flooding in Estes Park, which claimed nine lives and damage estimates ranged up to $4 billion.

Flood waters in Lusk knocked out a highway bridge in 2015 and caused significant damages to homes and businesses throughout the town.  

In 2021, a “500-year rain event” in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, caused debris flows that closed Interstate 70 for weeks, however, no lives were lost. 

These are but a few of the numerous floods that have occurred throughout the region in recent memory. 

“Anything weather is news these days,” Day said. “The ability for us to hear about these events quickly and frequently does not necessarily mean they are happening more frequently.”

Mass said the flooding in Estes Park and Glenwood Canyon were caused by late-season thunderstorms and monsoonal rains, making them distinctly different from the Yellowstone flooding, in which snowpack played a major role. 

No matter the cause of each individual flood, Mass said he was not convinced climate change was anything more than a contributing factor, and a small one at that. 

“Let’s assume the planet has warmed up 1 degree Celsius and call it climate change,” he said, regarding the Yellowstone flooding. “And, let’s assume that increased the moisture in the air by 7%. That might have accounted for about a tenth of the precipitation that fell in some areas. It wouldn’t have made a difference.”

“We would have still received unbelievably large amounts of precipitation,” he added.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Biden Wrong: Wyoming Gas Station Owners Say They Don’t Have Control Over Prices Like President Said

in News/wyoming economy
22062

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Coy Knobel, Cowboy State Daily

Gasoline retailers don’t have the kind of authority over the price of their product that President Joe Biden recently implied, according to a Wyoming gas station owner and others in the business.

Biden, in what he called a “simple message” to companies selling gasoline to consumers, asked them in a recent Tweet to “Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product. And do it now.” 

But a Wyoming gas station owner and others in the industry contacted by Cowboy State Daily said lowering the price of gas is not as simple for retailers as the president seems to believe. 

Retailer profit on a gallon of gas is much closer to 10 cents than it is $2, as many mistakenly believe.

And everything from global supply and demand to local weather, taxes, credit card fees, regulations, road conditions and more go into setting the price of a gallon of gas, they said.

Many gas stations are independently owned by small business people. Some are owned by chains or groups of stores that have banded together. Very few are operated by oil companies or refiners, so before they can sell fuel to consumers, the gas station first must buy the fuel themselves.

The wholesale price they pay is one factor in the price they ultimately set for people at the pump, according to Mike Bailey, a Riverton City Councilman who owns and operates eight Pit Stop Travel Center gas station and convenience stores.

Bailey, who also owns a bulk fuel distribution company and is chair of the Wyoming Petroleum Marketers board of trustees, said fuel prices are mainly affected by market conditions of crude oil and supply and demand at the wholesale level.

 “The gas stations that you see that are Major Branded with Conoco, Sinclair, Shell, Phillips, Exxon or others, are most likely to be contract dealers and they have to purchase the fuel that they sell from that major brand supplier,” he wrote in an email. “This limits their ability to ‘shop around.” 

“The independent gas stations have the ability to purchase fuel on the ‘open market’ from any available supply,” he continued. “This can be a positive or negative thing, depending on market conditions. A multitude of factors contribute to these price changes.”

Those factors include issues such as the working order of pipelines and refineries, a gas station’s individual location and other factors.

“If an area has weather that makes getting fuel to that area restricted, it causes a shortage which will cause the price to rise,” Bailey said. “If there is too much fuel in an area, the price will decline to attract purchasers to come from farther distances to get that cheaper fuel.  If a refinery or pipeline has a breakdown or incident that causes it not have fuel, the market will respond by prices going up.

“Some areas also have different regulations on fuels that can cause supply issues,” he continued. “Some areas are required by the U.S. (Environmental Protection Agency) or state regulators to only use certain special fuels that require a different refining process which can cause other market disruptions. Most of the gas price changes you see at the retail level are caused by this change in the station’s cost of fuel.”

Taxes are also a big part of what consumers pay for fuel, he said.

“The Federal Government has a tax of (18.4 cents) on Gas & (24.4 cents) on Diesel. Each state also has their own taxes that are on the fuel (Wyoming for example has 24 cents per gallon on Gas & Diesel, as opposed to California that has 56.6 cents per gallon on Gas & 65.9 on Diesel),” Bailey wrote.

There is no “average” fuel retailer so all the costs that go into a gallon of gas vary from station to station, said Jeff Lenard, vice president of Strategic Industry Initiatives for the National Association of Convenience Stores, a global trade association for convenience stores and fuel retailers. 

He said contrary to the public’s perception — and perhaps the president’s — gas station owners’ price setting flexibility and profit margins are limited.

“A stunning 45% of drivers think that retailers make at least $2 a gallon in profit per gallon, according to a NACS consumer survey,” Lenard wrote in material he sent to Cowboy State Daily. “The average markup on a gallon of gas is about 35 cents. After expenses, a retailer makes about a third of that in profits—before taxes… Retail is part of ‘distribution and marketing’ and is 5% of the price.”

He said distribution costs, credit card fees, store operating expenses, inventory fluctuation and other expenses whittle down retailer profit.

“These retail-based expenses…will be higher for some and lower for others… And, of course, net margins still need to be taxed before they become profits,” Lenard wrote.  “Ten to 15 cents per gallon is not quite $2 a gallon and a pathway to millions of dollars per year in profits.”

Besides the tweet suggesting American gasoline retailers could bring gas prices down, President Biden has repeatedly called the price of gasoline and inflation in general, “the Putin price hike” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.  

Biden also recently sent oil company executives a letter saying their companies share in the blame for high prices and they could do more to bring them down.

Critics say it’s Biden Administration policies that are putting a crimp on domestic oil supply and causing prices to go up. 

One notable critic of the president’s tweet to gas station owners is billionaire Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and owner of the Washington Post. 

“Ouch. Inflation is far too important a problem for the White House to keep making statements like this,” Bezos tweeted in response to Biden’s message. “It’s either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics.”

The average price of unleaded gasoline in Wyoming on Wednesday was $4.77, down 10 cents from one week ago and up $1.38 from one year ago. 

“The costs of operating a gas station are continuing to climb,” Bailey wrote.  “Labor, utilities, freight and almost every other cost involved in operating a store has gone up dramatically also. We all are feeling the pinch of the pandemic, inflation and very poor energy policies.” 

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Northern Gates Open For Cyclists: “Riding A Bike On A Closed Road In Yellowstone Is Magical”

in Yellowstone/News
22043

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

“Riding a bicycle on a closed road in Yellowstone is magical.”

That’s what an avid bicycle enthusiast, former bike shop owner and backcountry guide told Cowboy State Daily after he and his bicycle were finally allowed in the northeast gate to Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday.

After receiving conflicting information from authorities in the park about whether bikes would be allowed in the entrance, Rick Roach and his wife Denise rode 12 miles round-trip from the northeast entrance at Cooke City, Montana, to where the road is damaged so severely, it will be months before the highway can handle vehicle travel again.

“We saw one bear in Yellowstone,” Roach said of their adventure Tuesday. “We saw bison and a coyote.”

Conflicting Messages

Tuesday’s ride occurred after several attempts to get clear information about whether or not bicycles would be allowed in from the northeast entrance. 

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly had told reporters at a news conference last Friday that although the northeast gate was closed to vehicles, foot and bicycle traffic were allowed.

“We’ve opened our side of the Beartooth Highway for visitor access for Cooke City,” Sholly said Friday. “We’re allowing visitors to come into the park, although they can’t drive, but they can bike, they can hike, they can fish, both from Gardiner (Montana) and from Cooke City.”

Silver Gate and Cooke City businesses had been given the same information more than a week prior.

“Yellowstone is open to foot traffic on Saturday (July 2),” Chris Warren said Cooke City and Silver Gate residents had been told at the end of June. “I did just find out a few minutes ago (on June 30), that you are going to be able to walk into the park and fish in the park and things like that, but there will be no traffic access.”

But that information apparently didn’t get relayed to officials in charge of the northeast gate.

“(The road) was still closed, according to the Yellowstone information,” said Roach, who decided to drive to Cooke City on Monday morning, after reading Sholly’s statements in a Cowboy State Daily article. “And we were trying to confirm that as we were driving up. And we finally got a live person on the phone, and they said, No, it’s officially closed. You can’t go bicycling in Yellowstone.”

Roach said that despite sharing Cam Sholly’s statements from the Friday press conference with the ranger he spoke to, his request to bike from the northeast entrance was denied.

“Information is only official when it comes from the park via a News Release and/or updated on our Official website,” was the email reply from the park ranger. 

But even within National Park Service personnel at the northeast entrance, information wasn’t consistent, according to Roach.  

“So I got a correspondence on social media (Monday) evening when we returned home that some friends of mine had the time of their lives on an open road from the Northeast entrance to the damaged area,” Roach said.

Which is why he said he and his wife packed their bikes again on Tuesday morning and headed for Cooke City, where they were easily allowed access and had a “magical” ride.

A Boost for Cooke City Businesses

As a former business owner (he owned Absaroka Bicycles in Cody for 17 years before retiring in 2018), Roach advocated for the businesses devastated by the park’s shutdown in several email exchanges with a park ranger at the northeast gate.

“It is my thought that the Park Service could do a great service to the Silver Gate/Cooke City communities by that road being opened to bicycles, sooner rather than later,” Roach wrote to the NPS employee. “These communities can use any help they can get to help salvage their summer.”

Finally, Tuesday evening, Yellowstone’s Public Affairs Office sent out an official press release notifying the public that the northeast entrance was, indeed, open for bike and foot traffic.

“Bicycles allowed on limited portions of the North (Gardiner) and Northeast (Cooke City/Silver Gate) Entrance roads in addition to hiking and fishing access,” was a sub-heading of the press release sent out Tuesday evening, which also announced the reopening of the Slough Creek backcountry area.

“My goal in all of this was to help these gateway communities fill restaurants and put heads to beds,” Roach told Cowboy State Daily. “They need all the help they can get. Maybe a few cyclists riding a magical closed road in Yellowstone could help a little bit!”

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Teton County Judges, Sheriff Worried About Courthouse Collapsing & Killing People In Earthquake

in News
22042

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

If a major earthquake were to hit Teton County, the local courthouse would likely not survive the impact, county judges and the sheriff recently told the county’s board of commissioners.

A letter signed by all of the officials housed the Teton County Courthouse, including two judges, court clerks and the county sheriff, called on the Teton County Board of Commissioners to act “immediately” to ensure the safety of the courthouse’s occupants, the sheriff’s office and the public.

“The seismic study performed on the courthouse concludes that the building was not originally designed, detailed or constructed to account for seismic effects,” said the letter delivered to commissioners on June 27. “This is of great concern. It not only poses a potentially catastrophic health and safety risk to the building’s occupants, it presents a serious risk to the continuity of our county’s essential governmental services.”

Seth Wittke, a seismologist with the Wyoming State Geological Survey, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that anecdotally, he could not recall an earthquake that caused damage in Wyoming in the nearly 25 years he has lived in the state.

“You can expect to see some damage to buildings when an earthquake is about a 5.5 magnitude, and that will likely be minor damage,” Wittke said. “People can feel an earthquake on the surface when the magnitude is around 2.5.”

Wittke said that for the month of May, the WSGS recorded around 20 earthquakes in Teton County, although most were not felt by humans.

The courthouse was built between 1966 and 1968 and last received major renovations in the mid-1990s

“The bottom line is if we have a considerable seismic event, the Teton County Courthouse is at risk of collapse and could significantly injure or kill its occupants,” the letter said.

The courthouse officials also pointed out that plans were underway at some point to construct security upgrades at the courthouse, but it was found the building could not support the added weight of the improvements, so the idea was scrapped.

The judges, clerks and officers recommended that the courthouse be torn down and a new one erected. In the interim, a temporary structure could be built to house the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and court offices, along with a small courtroom for most proceedings.

The Teton County Board of Commissioners did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment, nor did the officials who signed the letter to the board.

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Alleged Cheyenne Predator Jailed Again; Court Records Sealed

in News/Crime
22023

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The court records of a Cheyenne resident accused of soliciting sex from what he thought was an 11-year-old girl have been sealed, blocking the media or public from seeing the details of the allegations against him.

Meanwhile, Clayton Tanner has been returned to the Laramie County Detention Center following his arrest for a probation violation. A spokesman for the center did not specify when Tanner was arrested

A Laramie County Circuit Court clerk on Wednesday denied a request from a Cowboy State Daily for records related to Tanner, who was arrested July 4 for alleged possession of child pornography and solicitation of a minor.

The clerk said the case had been sealed, so it was not clear when or whether Tanner was charged or what he was charged with.

Case records can be sealed for a number of reasons, but information about sexual assaults are automatically withheld from the public, although some details are released as criminal proceedings unfold. Further, to protect the identity of sexual assault victims, state law prohibits the release of the identity of alleged perpetrators until the case is moved to state district court.

No information was available as to why Tanner was on probation.

Tanner was arrested in the early morning hours of July 4 after a confrontation with a group known as “Predator Poachers,” which had created a fictional character identified as an 11-year-old girl with whom Tanner had allegedly been chatting online. The group runs a YouTube channel exposing alleged online predators.

Tanner was released from jail on July 7 because no charges were filed against him within the 72-hour period authorities are allowed to hold a person without charges. In Wyoming, prosecutors can file criminal charges at any time after a crime.

One of the men involved in the group “Predator Poachers” who declined to comment on the record provided Cowboy State Daily with more than 50 screenshots of the alleged conversation between Tanner and the “girl.”

The screenshots of the conversation identified one of the people in the conversation as Tanner.

The group later released a 52-minute video which documented group leader Alex Rosen confronting Tanner, going through the graphic text messages, and later showing Tanner getting arrested.

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Florida Man Who Walked On Hot Thermals In Yellowstone Must Appear In Court In Late July

in Yellowstone/News
22026

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Florida man who filmed himself walking on hot thermals in Yellowstone National Park earlier this month has been officially cited for a violation of federal law and ordered to appear in-person at the U.S. District Court in Yellowstone on July 27.

Matt Manzari, who told Cowboy State Daily that he created the video as a joke, broke the law by leaving the park’s boardwalk and walking on the thermal features near Old Faithful on July 1.

As has been customary in these cases, the defendant must appear in court in-person.

The motivational speaker from Clermont, Florida, previously told Cowboy State Daily, that he would not fight the charge.

“My statement is absolute remorse and apologies for everything,” Manzari said on July 3. “Regardless of the backlash, like if I knew that it could be damaging to the ecosystem and if I knew it could be damaging to the park, I wouldn’t have done it. I was 100% not trying to be disrespectful.”

Sentencing

Jail time is frequently applied to cases like this. Last year, a Connecticut woman was sentenced to seven days in jail, fined $2,000, and banned from Yellowstone for two years after tourists captured video of her walking on thermal features in the Norris Geyser Basin.

In 2020, two men served time in jail, were fined hundreds of dollars and were also banned from the park after leaving the boardwalk and attempted to cook a chicken in Shoshone Geyser Basin.

Others paid a more severe penalty after leaving the path and falling through the fragile ground. One man’s body dissolved in the hot springs in 2016 and an Idaho woman suffered burns on 91 percent of her body after trying to rescue her dog last year.

Lighthearted

Manzari said he was just trying to make a video making fun of himself and the burns he suffered in an accidental electrocution eight years ago.

In his professional life, Manzari speaks to burn victims — mostly children — and tells them not to be ashamed of their bodies. The video was a light-hearted attempt, he said, to demonstrate it’s OK to be yourself, injured or not.

“The point of the video was clearly to point out my scars and to clearly raise burn awareness, to clearly poke fun,” he said. “It’s okay to have a sense of humor about yourself and it’s okay to be open about what you’re going through.”

The Video

The 8–second video, which went viral on the popular Facebook page “Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots” begins with Manzari, standing on the hot thermals and holding his shirt in his hands, while a narrator says “Taking a dip in Yellowstone’s boiling springs.”

While Manzari walks up to the camera, text on the screen appears and says, “Oh man, they said it was hot, but…”

Manzari then says, “Geewiz, do I have a rash?” At that point, the scars on his torso are evident and laughing is heard as he walks off camera.

He said the whole thing was supposed to be “lighthearted” and not a blatant display of breaking park rules.

“I stepped off the boardwalk thinking it was more of like, you know you could slip and fall,” he said, not knowing that at least 22 people have died from thermal-related deaths. “Obviously the rocks look wet. You know? I didn’t know what the implications were but I never thought it was damaging to the ecosystem.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Idaho Man Gets 90 Days In Jail For Driving 132 MPH While Drunk In Grand Tetons

in News/Crime
22050

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

An Idaho man who was charged with driving 132 mph while drunk in Grand Teton National Park was sentenced to 90 days in jail on Tuesday by a U.S. District Court judge.

Jessie Perry, who was originally charged with 10 different violations, pleaded guilty during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Michael Shickich to driving under the influence of intoxicants and was found guilty of fleeing and attempting to elude the police.

As eight of the charges were dropped and Perry pleading guilty to the DUI charge under a prior agreement, the only issue at the trial on Tuesday was the fleeing or attempting-to-elude police officers charge.

The prosecuting attorney recommended Perry receive a 45-day jail sentence, but the judge doubled it and sternly chastised the defendant for his actions.

“The defendant failed to take meaningful responsibility for his behavior,” Shickich said, according to the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “This person started drinking early in the morning, made the affirmative decision to drive on public highways and drive at an incredible speed. It’s beyond belief he didn’t see officers and an incredibly inappropriate form of driving.”

Former Wyoming Attorney General Gay Woodhouse told Cowboy State Daily that although a 90-day jail sentence may appear light, it is “still a significant length of time.”

“He could lose his job and he might be unable to care for his family,” Woodhouse said on Wednesday afternoon.  “Hopefully this is a wake-up call for him and hopefully he will get alcohol treatment to change his life.”

Perry reportedly had a blood-alcohol level of 0.209% when arrested. He was driving a 2015 Dodge pickup truck.

Both Shickich and Woodhouse said that the outcome of Perry’s behavior could have been much worse.

“When you’re in jail think about what a gift is is that no one died,” the judge said during sentencing.

Woodhouse concurred.

“He’s lucky he’s alive and he’s lucky he didn’t kill anyone else,” she said.  “Within 1/100th of a second, he could have changed other peoples’ lives, not to mention his own, forever.”

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Kidnapped 150-Pound Sinclair Dinosaur Returned; Cheyenne Family Thanks Community For Support

in News/Good news
22024

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Stuart Flynn and his wife, Buffy, have only had Dino the Sinclair dinosaur in their yard for about 18 months.

But in that time, he’s become an icon in their north Cheyenne neighborhood, regularly a subject of photographs and selfies. Dino (like the name of the Flintstones’ pet dinosaur) is a green aluminum statue apatosaurus weighing about 150 pounds.

“I’ve always had a dream of owning a Sinclair dinosaur and it was going to happen someday,” Flynn told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “So last year, we were traveling through Minnesota and I saw a Bob’s Big Boy for sale at this statue place. When we got there, I saw they had a Sinclair dinosaur.”

But Dino’s popularity has a downside, as evidenced when he “dino-napped” from the Flynns’ front yard over the weekend.

Flynn said he believes Dino was kidnapped sometime in the middle of the night on July 9, but in any case, by the time he and his wife returned home from a Minnesota visit on July 10, the dinosaur was gone.

“We pulled into the driveway and saw Dino was gone,” Flynn said. “So at first, I checked with my neighbors and some friends, making sure no one was jerking my chain, because who steals a dinosaur? I was just flabbergasted.”

Unfortunately, it was not a joke. Dino was gone.

So, Flynn does what most people do when things go missing these days: he posted about the dinosaur caper on Facebook.

The story, from there, took off. Flynn could not believe it, but the Cheyenne community was invested in the kidnapping of Dino the dinosaur. One woman even asked if she could start a GoFundMe campaign to help replace Dino, if he was not found.

“It brought joy to my heart knowing I had brought joy to them with these statues,” Flynn said. “I couldn’t believe we were all rallying around a dinosaur. But it was just kind of symbolic, this thing that could bring us all together.”



Monday went by with no word of Dino’s whereabouts. But Tuesday morning, as Buffy left to go to work, she saw something that made her run back to the bedroom.

“She said, ‘Dino’s back, Dino’s back!'” Flynn said.

The dinosaur had been left by some community mailboxes near the Flynn home. Other than some scratches that indicated he’d been bounced around in a pickup truck, the dinosaur was unharmed.

Flynn quickly took to Facebook to let everyone know Dino had been returned.

He said he believes the perpetrators of the heinous abduction were some drunk people who came around in the middle of the night on Saturday and stole Dino. He also thinks the community uproar in support of the missing dinosaur led to its more prompt return.

“I think he ended up in a garage for a couple days and they realized, ‘We have got to get this thing out of here,’ so they brought him back,” Flynn said. “I was thinking he’d show up in a park somewhere, but instead, they brought him back to the house and pushed him out. I was just so excited that morning.”

Flynn said he expects to fix Dino up with some “John Deere green paint” and have him back out in the front yard by this weekend. Dino will also soon be wearing a saddle and cowboy hat to celebrate Cheyenne Frontier Days.



Flynn also said he plans to take Dino down to Freedom’s Edge Brewing Company in Cheyenne to celebrate his return.

“It’s so funny people rallied behind this green dinosaur, but I’m grateful that they did,” Flynn said. “So many people bash Cheyenne, but I think this is a great town and great community and lots of good people here. This just showed there was more good here than evil.”

According to the Sinclair Oil Company, fiberglass versions of Dino the dinosaur have been stationed at Sinclair gas stations for photo opportunities since the 1960s.

Sinclair’s advertising writers began using dinosaurs in their marketing materials since 1930, as they were promoting lubricants refined from crude oil believed to have been created by the decomposing bodies of dinosaurs.

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Daily Wyoming Gas Map: Wednesday July 13, 2022

in Gas Map/News
22048

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

The price of gasoline in Wyoming fell by 4 cents per gallon on Wednesday over the previous 24 hours to average $4.77.

The website GasBuddy.com, which tracks national gas prices, reported Wyoming’s average gas price is down 10 cents from a week ago and is up $1.38 per gallon from one year ago.

Wyoming’s average price for gasoline remained above the national average of $4.63.

High and Low Prices:

The highest reported gasoline price in Wyoming on Wednesday was in Moose, near Jackson, at $5.79 per gallon. Laramie’s Tumbleweed Express at 4700 Bluebird Lane continued to have the lowest price at $4.24 per gallon.

The county with the highest average gasoline price on Wednesday was Teton, with an average of $5.18 per gallon. Natrona County had the lowest average price at $4.54.

These are the highest and lowest reported prices among those stationed surveyed.

*The average price per gallon of regular in each Wyoming county: 

Albany $4.55; Big Horn $4.89; Campbell $4.62; Carbon $4.80; Converse $4.72; Crook $4.93; Fremont $4.96; Goshen $4.67; Hot Springs $4.91; Johnson $4.90; Laramie $4.60; Lincoln $5.10; Natrona $4.54; Niobrara $4.80; Park $5.01; Platte $4.80; Sheridan $4.86; Sublette $4.80; Sweetwater $4.85; Teton $5.18; Uinta $4.80; Washakie $4.85; Weston: $4.71. 

*The lowest price per gallon, reported in major Wyoming cities:

Basin $4.77; Buffalo $4.73; Casper $4.36; Cheyenne $4.45; Cody $4.87; Douglas $4.65; Evanston $4.35; Gillette $4.51; Jackson $5.10; Kemmerer $4.87; Laramie $4.24; Lusk $4.69; Newcastle $4.51; Pinedale $4.89; Rawlins $4.69; Riverton $4.84; Rock Springs $4.74; Sheridan $4.82; Sundance $4.84; Thermopolis $4.85; Wheatland $4.87; Worland $4.81.   

Want to help us gather the most accurate gas prices for this report? Consider downloading the GasBuddy app and submit the gas prices in your area. 

*Note: Prices in this report are for reference only. They are gathered just prior to posting, and may not reflect prices that have changed since last posted.

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming Wildlife Task Force Enters Final Stretch After Controversial Hunting Recommendations

in News/wildlife
22047

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

After making recommendations on controversial topics such as hunting permit ratios for residents and non-residents and the lottery system for drawing game licenses, the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force is entering the final stretch of its existence.

The Task Force was created as a temporary body by Gov. Mark Gordon in 2021 to study Wyoming wildlife management issues on a much deeper level than Legislature and state Game and Fish Department have an opportunity for. The panel will expire with the completion of Gordon’s first term in office at the end of the year.

“I think they’ve done exactly what we’ve asked them to do — handle complex issues,” said Brian Nesvik, director of the Game and Fish Department and a Task Force member.

Since being created in 2021, the Task Force has received nearly 3,000 public comments, said Co-Chair Josh Coursey.

Coursey said one thing he has been reminded of during his time on the Task Force is that making change or taking an action doesn’t always have to be the end result of effectively studying a problem or issue.

When it comes to wildlife management in Wyoming, he said certain topics come with so much nuance and so many layers that keeping the status quo is sometimes the best route, even if certain problems persist into the future.

“Sometimes doing nothing isn’t a failure,” he said. “You don’t have to do something just to do something. Wyoming, while certainly not perfect, has got it pretty darn good.”

The Task Force has studied protocols implemented by many other state wildlife agencies throughout the country and West to help develop recommendations the board makes to the Legislature and the Game and Fish Commission, as the Task Force itself has no regulatory power. 

The Task Force started with 26 topics of priority, studying measures at its 1- to 2-day meetings that usually run for around 10 hours each day.

“We have done the deep dive to flesh out these topics,” Coursey said.

One recommendation the Task Force made that passed into law last spring was to reserve 90% of the once-in-a-lifetime ram bighorn sheep, wild bull bison, bull moose, mountain goat and grizzly bear “big five” licenses for Wyoming hunters, with the remaining 10% set aside for non-residents. 

Bighorn sheep and moose tags had not previously been a once-in-a-lifetime draw.

Grizzly bears are federally prohibited from being hunted and are still listed on the Endangered Species Act. Wyoming will take over management of the species if it is removed from the ESA.

The Task Force also unanimously recommended $75 million in funding for the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust be included in the budget that was passed in this year’s legislative session and approved by Gordon.

“That’s very valuable to have in the conservation world,” said Coursey, who is executive director of Muley Fanatics Foundation.

The Task Force recently recommended initiating a weighted bonus point system for drawing moose and bighorn sheep licenses. 

The system would increase the odds for a person who has been applying unsuccessfully for a tag for a long time to receive one, with the greatest increase in odds beginning after the 30th year of applications. This measure is still being considered in the Legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee. 

The Task Force also unanimously recommended the Game and Fish Department treat whitetail deer and mule deer as a separate biological species, a move that could lead to separate tag draws down the road for each. Coursey said the need for this delineation has occurred because of great growth in the whitetail population, an issue Coursey said has been prevalent throughout the West.

“We have the tools in the tool box to manage this accordingly,” he said. “They (whitetail) are just as different to mule deer as elk is to mule deer.”

This change would require a statutory change by the Legislature. A statutory change would then require the Game and Fish Department, through a public process, to adopt a new management plan for the two species and a possible separate hunting draw for each.

Right now, deer tags allow for hunting of both species. Coursey said detractors of the change have said it will impact their odds of drawing a license, a viewpoint he considers “very self-serving.”

The Task Force has also recommended removing the 33-year-old limit of 7,250 on the number of non-resident elk licenses available to reflect strong growth in that species, particularly in the eastern part of the state where many private landowners have reported property and habitat damage because of the elk. 

The elk population has grown to 132,000 in Wyoming.

“This would allow for Game and Fish to effectively target those large populations,” Coursey said.

That decision will go solely before the Game and Fish Commission. No more than 16% of all available elk licenses can be distributed to non-residents. 

On Aug. 8, the Task Force will vote on whether to establish a special license draw reserved only for outfitters. Its members will also consider setting a ratio of resident to non-resident tags of 90% to 10% for elk, deer and antelope. The ratio is now now 84% to 16% for elk and 80% to 20% for deer and antelope.

The Task Force will also discuss landowner license allocations and a mandatory three-year break for those who draw tags on deer, elk and antelope in high demand areas. High demand areas will be determined as regions with less than 30% draw odds. 

“The other option (to all of these considerations) is to maintain status quo,” Coursey said.

Coursey said the 18-member board, representing many different backgrounds in the wildlife community, has not been free of bias. 

He noted the special draw for outfitters, not surprisingly, would be advantageous to outfitters. Conversely, the proposed change in resident to non-resident tag ratios are not popular with many in the tourism industry, which provides lodging and meals for many of the non-resident hunters who would see their chances of drawing a tag decrease.

“If a party disagrees with something, it’s clear which side of the fence they’re on,” he said.

Coursey said there is a defining line on many issues that depends on whether a representative is from the eastern or western part of the state.

But Nesvik said he’s been pleased with the quantity of compromises reached by the group that includes state legislators, outfitters and sportsmen.

“There has been some compromise I’ve seen from members who move and support different ideas that aren’t hardline or extreme,” he said, citing the 90% to 10% “Big Five” ratio recommendation passed last summer. “I thought the outfitter members were really looking out for the greater population outlook of Wyoming.”

Nesvik said there are no considerations being made to continue the Task Force after Gordon’s term expires, adding the board has brought up issues G&F can spend years studying. 

There is still plenty of time left for the public to provide input on Task Force topics. To do so visit docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1kjGJBrxwiB43V0hvDGUEsZUys8iin20v/edit#gid=1970363000.

**For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***