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Grizzly Knocks Woman Down in Yellowstone; Will Not Be Destroyed

in Grizzly Bear Attacks/News/Yellowstone

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Missouri woman sustained a minor injury after encountering a bear in Yellowstone National Park on Monday.

According to a news release, the Columbia, Missouri woman, 37, encountered the female grizzly while hiking on the Fairy Falls Trail near Old Faithful.

The woman was hiking alone when she encountered two grizzlies at close range. The female bear knocked the woman down and she suffered a scratch on her thigh. The woman attempted to use her bear spray.

When the woman fell, she also received minor injuries to her face. She declined medical attention.

Following the incident, the Fairy Falls Trail was cleared of hikers. The trail and surrounding area have been temporarily closed.

“From the injured person’s statements, this appears to be a typical case of a mother grizzly bear protecting her offspring following a close-range encounter,” said Kerry Gunther, a park bear management biologist. “Because this bear was displaying natural protective behavior for its cub, no action will be taken against the bear. Several trails in the area will be closed to give the grizzly family group time to clear from the area.”  

This is the first incident of a bear injuring a visitor in Yellowstone this year. The last time a bear injured a visitor in the park was June 2019, when a black bear bit into an occupied tent and bruised a woman’s thigh.

This incident is under investigation.  

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Wyoming GOP Convention Gets Conservative Superstar Charlie Kirk to Keynote

in News/politics

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The Wyoming Republican Party is doing what most organizations can’t right now. Not only are they getting a high-profile figure to keynote their convention but that figure is actually appearing in-person.

Well-known conservative activist Charlie Kirk is heading to Gillette for the Wyoming Republican Convention this weekend and for conservatives, there couldn’t be a better time to host him.

In conservative circles, Kirk is on fire. On Tuesday night, in front of more than 3,000 people, President Trump praised the young activist.

“The radical left demands absolute conformity from every professor, researcher, reporter, journalist, corporation, entertainer, politician, campus speaker, and private citizen,” President Trump said.

“But we have Charlie Kirk and we have our people and our people are stronger.  You are the courageous warriors standing in the way of what they want to do and their goals,” he said.

Speaking on Fox News Wednesday morning, Kirk was enthusiastic about President Trump’s performance in Phoenix.

“Despite what a lot of people wondered, more than 3,000 young people in the middle of the Arizona heat waited up to nine hours to hear the president speak,” Kirk said.

He said the president’s message on “core American values” resonated with the crowd.

“He repeatedly mentioned ’In God We Trust’ and ‘One Nation Under God’”, Kirk said.  “He reenforced the cultural issues in America.”

“He reenforced a lot of the cultural issues in America. He talked about how we are not going to tolerate history being deleted or being torn down.”

According to a release from the Wyoming Republican Party, Kirk will deliver the keynote address on Saturday at the Cam-Plex in Gillette. The dinner is slated to begin at 6pm.

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18 New Wyoming Coronavirus Cases Reported On Tuesday

in Coronavirus/News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of coronavirus cases confirmed in Wyoming since the illness was first diagnosed in the state grew to 992 on Tuesday, an increase of 18 over Monday’s numbers.

The Wyoming Department of Health, in its daily coronavirus update, reported new cases in Campbell, Crook, Fremont, Laramie, Park, Sweetwater and Teton counties.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Fremont County had reported 300 cases since the pandemic began; Laramie County had 139 cases; Uinta County had 120; Natrona County had 83; Teton County had 82; Sweetwater had 50; Campbell had 37; Washakie had 34; Albany had 27; Converse, Johnson, Park and Sheridan had 15; Carbon had 13; Lincoln had 11; Big Horn and Hot Springs had nine; Crook had seven; Goshen had four; Sublette had three; Platte had two, and Niobrara and Weston had one each.

The number of patients hospitalized since the pandemic began totals 109, according to the Department of Health, with eight patients remaining in hospitals as of Tuesday.

The number of recoveries seen since the virus first reached Wyoming in mid-March also increased Tuesday, growing by 22 to total 953. The number included 747 recoveries among those with laboratory-confirmed cases and 206 among those with probable cases.

A probable case is defined as one where the patient has not been tested for coronavirus, but shows symptoms of the disease and has been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case of the illness. 

The Department of Health said 262 probable cases have been reported in Wyoming since mid-March.

The numbers show the state now has 283 active cases of coronavirus, 227 among patients with laboratory-confirmed cases and 56 among patients with probable cases.

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Enzi, Barrasso Call For Reform In Meat Processing Industry

in Agriculture/Business/Food/News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, both R-Wyoming, called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday to look into reforming the meat processing industry.

The two joined a bipartisan group of legislators in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking him to consider areas for regulatory and programmatic reform in the industry.

“When high-capacity processing facilities experienced (coronavirus) outbreaks amongst employees, operations were forced to shut-off or slow down production, leaving the rancher with livestock they could not move and the consumer with either empty grocery shelves or overpriced products,” the senators wrote. “These pitfalls can be avoided in the future if we take action today to promote a diversified food supply chain. Regulations must be streamlined to remove barriers impeding small and medium-sized meat processors.”

The legislators included Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

In April, Wyoming legislators Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, and Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, called for an investigation into meat processors, accusing them of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to make record profits.

They both criticized the four major meat packing companies, Tyson, Smithfield, JBS and Cargill for creating a monopoly that hurts ranches and small cattle producers.

Driskill recommended the public call for an investigation into these companies and enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, which regulates interstate and foreign commerce in livestock, dairy, poultry and related products.

Lindholm blamed the companies’ misuse of the Federal Meat Inspection Act as one of the problems behind rising beef prices for consumers, but not ranchers. 

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Six People Arrested After Attack In Rock Springs

in News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Six people have arrested in connection with the assault of a man at his Rock Springs home in April.

According to a release from the Rock Springs Police Department, on April 27, an officer from the department responded to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County regarding an assault.

According to police reports, six people forced their way into a home and assaulted the man who lived there. The victim was treated and released from the hospital.

Those arrested were identified as Levi Kerbs, Travis Kerbs, Edward Mireles, Donald Jacobson, Mason Martin and Shawnda Scott, all of Rock Springs. On June 19, arrest warrants were issued for all six.

Four of them were located on June 19, arrested and transported to the Sweetwater County Detention Center. On Monday, the final two were located and arrested.

The charges are:

  • Levi Kerbs, 24: two counts unlawful entry into an occupied structure and one count each of unlawful contact and simple battery. His bond is $75,000;
  • Travis Kerbs, 24: two counts unlawful entry into an occupied structure and one count of simple battery. His bond is $75,000;
  • Edward Mireles, 44: two counts unlawful entry into an occupied structure and one count of simple battery. His bond is $150,000;
  • Shawnda Scott, 35: two counts unlawful entry into an occupied structure and one count each of unlawful contact and simple battery. Her bond is $75,000;
  • Donald Jacobson, 47: One count of conspiracy to commit unlawful entry. His bond is pending;
  • Mason Martin, 24: two counts unlawful entry into an occupied structure and one count of simple battery. His bond is pending.

The case remains under investigation.

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Wyoming Unemployment Dips Slightly In Show Of Modest Economic Improvement

in Economy/News

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Wyoming’s unemployment rate fell slightly in May from April, indicating a modest improvement in the state’s economy, according to the state Department of Workforce Services.

The agency’s Research and Planning Section said Wyoming had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.8% in May, compared to a rate of 9.6% in April.

“It appears that the state’s economy improved modestly in May as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were loosened and some businesses reopened,” the DWS said in a news release.

The state’s unemployment rate was far below the national average of 13.3% and was among the lowest in the nation. Nebraska, at 5.2%, and Utah, at 8.5%, had lower rates.

However, the unemployment rate was the highest seen since March of 1987, when the rate reached 8.9%

The numbers mean that more than 25,900 people were without work in the state in May, an increase of more than 15,500 from May of 2019.

The DWS said unemployment rates fell in most counties in April, with the largest drop occurring in Teton County, where the rate fell from 18.2% to 14%, Sublette, from 22.4% to 9.8%, and Johnson County, from 9.7% to 8.1%.

The rate went up slightly in Converse County, from 6.4% to 7.3%, and Carbon County, from 6.8% to 7%.

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Wyoming Insurance Companies Provide Breaks To Address Pandemic

in Coronavirus/News

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

When the coronavirus pandemic hit this spring, one of the first effects was a dramatic decrease of traffic on the roads – and fewer people driving meant a slowdown for the insurance industry.

Jen Talich, a State Farm agent in Cody, said her office was surprised by the sudden decline.

“My peers that are insurance agents and people around the country start saying, like, ‘Are you closing your office? Are you shutting down? Everyone’s going remote,’” she said. “I mean, I didn’t see that coming.”

In Torrington, Lisa Richardson’s agency offers auto, home, life, and health insurance and she said their office started fielding phone calls shortly after the pandemic hit Wyoming.

“I just had a few phone calls, with people asking, ‘I’m not driving as much, you know, what are they going to do?’” Richardson recalled. “And I said ‘They are right now issuing rebates, you don’t have to do anything.’”

Both Talich and Richardson reported that the insurance companies – and their own offices –  stepped up to assist their policy holders.

“People were not driving as much,” Richardson said, “and so those insurance companies all stepped up right away and gave rebates, 15% to 20%, for the months of April and May.”

However, while some relief was offered, Talich pointed out that their insurance policies didn’t cover lost revenue for businesses that had to close their doors.

“On our insurance policies, we do have a ‘loss of use,’” she explained. “So if you had a flood in your business, or you had a fire, and you couldn’t be open for a period of time, the insurance policy will cover that loss of earnings.

“But a pandemic is… it’s in the small print, right?” she said. “It’s excluded.”

But Talich noted that her staff went out of their way to assist in ways they could.

“We did end up running for some prescriptions,” she said. “We stopped at the grocery store to deliver things for some people who really felt like they needed help.”

And according to Wendy Curran with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming, things are starting to return to normal after a decline in elective procedures. Most hospitals stopped handling such procedures for a period to preserve resources in case they were needed to deal with coronavirus.

“We have seen a decrease in claims for things that weren’t really essential,” she said, “and we’re seeing that people are now able to get back in and see their doctor safely and have some of those procedures done.”

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Jonah Energy VP: Despite Hurdles, Natural Gas Industry Can Stabilize and Grow

in Energy/News

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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

A cleaner energy product could provide the ladder needed by Wyoming’s natural gas industry to climb out of a hole dug by years of low prices, high regulatory fees, and finally, the pandemic, an industry leader said.

“The challenges for natural gas producers have been growing for a number of years,” said Paul Ulrich, vice president of government and regulatory affairs at Jonah Energy LLC. “And, what we are facing today is clearly a perfect storm.”

With only two natural gas rigs operating in the state, Ulrich said Wyoming hasn’t seen natural gas rig counts this low since the 1940s.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. natural gas market was flooded with cheap product. Oil producers in the Permian Basin, an oil field covering parts of Texas and New Mexico, drew up an abundance of natural gas as a byproduct of oil drilling.

“There was a glut of natural gas on the market,” Ulrich explained. “The price differential (to extract natural gas in Wyoming) puts us at a disadvantage in the marketplace.”

In Wyoming, natural gas producers drill for gas and pull up a small portion of oil as a byproduct, Ulrich explained.

Because Wyoming’s producers focus on natural gas production, their operating costs are higher, making it difficult to compete against oil producers, he said.

But when oil production slowed to a crawl in the U.S. as a result of a price war between Russia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) earlier this year, Ulrich said an opportunity opened for natural gas producers.

“I strongly believe that if we as a state collectively make smart and major decisions that remove financial and regulatory hurdles, we have the opportunity to not only stabilize, but grow the industry back to pre-2019 production rates,” he said.  

A key factor in regrowing Wyoming’s natural gas sector would be the willingness of producers to adapt to cleaner energy demands.

“The market is extremely interested in consuming more responsibly produced energy,” Ulrich said.

Taking part in a program designed to encourage the responsible production of natural gas, Ulrich said Jonah Energy qualified its product as low emissions and also reduced surface disturbances by working with state agencies and researchers on best practices.

The company earned a gold TrustWell rating, a score developed by the Independent Energy Standards Inc. to rank natural gas producers based on responsibility metrics across a range of risks and impacts. Jonah is also the first producer in the nation to receive TrustWell’s Verified Attribute for Low-Methane.

“From our standpoint, the whims of the market are one thing,” Ulrich said. “But if we can provide a cleaner source of natural gas, a more responsibly produced natural gas, we believe there’s a place in the market for it.” 

Jonah is exploring options for opening another rig in July, which could bring the state’s count up to three, he added.

As the Wyoming Energy Authority’s vice chairman, Ulrich said he was working with the state to help position Wyoming once again as a competitive market for natural gas producers.

“The authority is envisioned as a one-stop shop for developers, who want more information and help finding opportunities in Wyoming,” he explained. “Natural gas is a tremendous feed stock for a myriad of manufacturing processes, and could be a tremendous opportunity to diversify our economy.”

Both the Legislature and Governor Mark Gordon’s office have been supportive of the industry, he said, but the state has some work to do before natural gas can return to its former glory.

“Our best path forward — as a state and energy producers — is working together toward a shared goal,” Ulrich said. “The most important thing we can do as a state is remove any and all barriers to capital investment as well encourage and incentivize Wyoming operators, whether drilling for natural gas or oil.”

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Wyoming Ranked Second Most Patriotic State

in News/Wyoming
Wyoming Fireworks

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is considered the second most patriotic state in the country, just behind New Hampshire, according to personal finance site WalletHub.

WalletHub compared the states using 13 key indicators of patriotism, ranging from the state’s military enlistees and veterans and the share of adults who voted in the 2016 presidential election to AmeriCorps volunteers per capita.

New Hampshire, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska and Maryland rounded out the top five most patriotic states. Wyoming had the fifth most veterans per capita, according to Wallethub.

Red states were considered more patriotic than blue states, and the survey put Wyoming firmly in the red category.

University of Memphis Professor Aram Goudsouzian stated that a good patriot was someone ” who fights to make the United States a genuine democracy for all its people. A good patriot shows respect and empathy for all Americans.”

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Barrasso: Police Reform is Possible if Democrats Don’t Filibuster

in Crime/News

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U.S. Sen. John Barrasso on Monday expressed cautious optimism for passage of federal police reform legislation if politics don’t get in the way.

Appearing on CNN, Barrasso told John King that approval for bipartisan legislation to enact police reform looks promising because the House bill and the Senate bill agree on so much.

“There is about a 70% overlap and agreement on these bills,” Barrasso said. “This is a good place to start.”

“With body cameras on officers, with doing the sorts of things that eliminate bad police officers, and giving the good cops the resources that they need, the accountability, the training, all of sorts of things that you have better results on the streets,” he said.

One sticking point has been the issue of qualified immunity — a legal doctrine created through court rulings that shields police officers from civil lawsuits. 

When asked if that issue could be on the table, Barrasso punted while signaling his distaste for it.

“That’s a legal term and it has to do with how many police officers we can sue.  And I want to find out how many people we can save in terms of saving their lives,” he said.

Still, the senator said he was optimistic because of bipartisan efforts made recently with the CARES Act for the coronavirus epidemic and the Great American Outdoors Act to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands.

He also said there is a real spirit of bipartisanship in the weekly Senate prayer breakfast he attends. 

“We have a history of doing bipartisan legislation,” Barrasso said.  “We need to make sure the Democrats don’t filibuster and Chuck Schumer has been threatening that.”

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