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Man’s 2nd Appeal Of $50 Child Support Payment Rejected By Wyoming Supreme Court

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s Supreme Court has for the second time denied a man’s challenge of his $50 per month child support payment.

The court on Thursday upheld a decision by a state district court that left Michael Scott Carroll responsible for child support payment he was ordered to make in a 2012 divorce decree.

In an opinion written by Justice Lynne Boomgaarden, the court unanimously rejected Carroll’s argument that the Wyoming law setting out some child support levels was unconstitutional, so the court order that he pay $50 a month was void.

According to the ruling, a district court in Laramie County entered an order establishing custody and support for the children of Carroll and his ex-wife in 2012.

Because Carroll was incarcerated at the time, he had no income the court could use to determine a child support payment, so the judge set the payment at the lowest level allowed by law, $50 per month. An order was also entered to withhold the amount from Carroll’s income.

Carroll in 2018 challenged the withholding order, saying the law setting Wyoming’s minimum child support payment was contrary to federal law. The case made it to the Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal, saying Carroll should have challenged the child support order issued by the court, not the order to withhold money from his income.

In his second challenge, Carroll focused on the child support order itself, saying it was based on an unconstitutional Wyoming law that was contrary to federal child support payment laws, and as such should be void.

But the opinion said the law in question was never found unconstitutional, so Carroll’s support order should stand.

Justices also noted that Carroll could have challenged the law’s constitutionality during his divorce proceedings in 2012.

“Mr. Carroll could have challenged the statute’s constitutionality in the district court during his divorce proceedings — the cases from other jurisdictions he relies on to support his argument that the statute is unconstitutional were decided before the divorce decree was entered — and he could have appealed the divorce decree,” the ruling said. “He did neither and cannot now use (court procedure) for the relief he seeks.”

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Wyoming Fire Management Officer On 2021 Wildfire Risk: “It’s Not Looking Good”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s wildfire outlook for the 2021 season is not a good one, according to the Wyoming State Forestry Division’s fire management officer.

However, Anthony Schultz did offer the caveat that while the outlook may seem bad now, there is a possibility nature could change its course and provide a rainy summer.

“Around 2017 or 2018, we were looking to have a pretty active fire season, but we ended up getting a lot of rain into June and July, so the fire season was muted,” Schultz told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “It wasn’t something heavily predicted, so we weren’t really expecting it.”

So although nature is a fickle beast and nothing about the coming summer season is certain,, Schultz said Wyoming and numerous other western states are trending toward having a drier, warmer fire season than normal, meaning there could be wildfires spreading throughout the state this summer.

Schultz noted that South Dakota, in particular, has already been seeing wildfires this year, such as the Schroeder Fire that closed Mount Rushmore last month.

The fire season in Wyoming usually begins around June, but is at its most dangerous in July and August, Schultz said, with fire restrictions across the state usually being fully lifted by the fall.

He added that for Wyoming, the southwestern corner of the state and the northeastern portion (including Sundance and Newcastle) could very likely see wildfires this season.

“The northeastern portion of the state hasn’t had a major fire season since about 2016, so it’s due for one,” Schultz said.

He reminded visitors and residents of Wyoming to remember to practice certain fire safety rules, such as fully extinguishing campfires when leaving a site.

Additionally, keeping trees trimmed and firewood away from a home will help keep down fire risk at a person’s home, he said.

“Use common sense measures, keep your home in a general sense of order, observe good campfire practices, all of these things will reduce our wildfire risk,” he said.

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Wyoming Game and Fish Resuming Bear Capture, Collaring Operations

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has launched its annual grizzly bear capture operations in northwestern Wyoming.

Beginning this spring and continuing through early fall, department biologists will trap grizzly bears in both front and backcountry areas to collect data needed to assess the health of the area’s grizzly population.

All trap sites will be posted with area closure signs in the direct vicinity, the department said. Department officials added It is critical that all members of the public heed the signs.

When captured, the bears are collared, released on site and monitored in accordance with strict guidelines developed by the department and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team.

The annual monitoring of this population is vital to the ongoing management and conservation of grizzly bears in Wyoming. Information obtained through these efforts is used to assess the status and health of grizzly bears in the ecosystem and provides insight into population dynamics critical to demonstrate the continued recovery of the Greater Yellowstone population.

Last summer, the department managed to capture about 20 bears.

From July 27 to Aug. 21, six different grizzlies were captured southeast of Moran Junction, with five of them being collared. A sub-adult male bear was tagged and biological samples were taken, but he wasn’t radio-collared due to his small size.

Two black bears were captured in the Jackson region, but were released unhandled.

Information obtained through these efforts is used to assess the status and health of grizzly bears in the ecosystem and provides insight into population dynamics critical to demonstrate the continued recovery of the Greater Yellowstone population.

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Wyoming Will Use A $2.5 Million Federal Grant To Boost Tourism Marketing

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Elyse Kelly, The Center Square

Wyoming will put $2.5 million of a federal grant toward marketing the Cowboy State’s tourism opportunities this year.

As a separate part of the CARES Act, the grant is from the U.S. Department of Commerce and earmarked for tourism marketing to help states’ tourism economies recover. Last year, the bottom dropped out of the national tourism economy as stay-at-home orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19 diminished travel.

Wyoming’s tourism economy contracted by about 25% last year, less than the national average of about 45%, thanks to its voluminous outdoor attractions and open space.

“We didn’t have to reinvent ourselves, and that’s a fortunate thing for the state of Wyoming in terms of the visitor economy,” Diane Shober, executive director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT), told The Center Square. “What we’re doing is actually broadening our footprint. We’re casting a wider net with our messaging.”

Shober said the money will go toward a fully integrated, layered marketing approach that will use research to target demographics most likely to act upon a marketing message. Individuals who have already been identified as interested in the outdoors and cowboy culture will see ads promoting Wyoming as a destination show up when using social platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Print ads in magazines like Outside Magazine and TV spots are another facet to the approach, Shober said.

One of the most popular ways to visit the Cowboy State is via road trips, and last year was no exception, yet many of those visitors spent fewer dollars within the borders. WOT wants that to be different this year.

Shober said reasons for the reduced spending connect back to COVID-19. Many went camping, which is fairly self-contained and keeps visitors out of areas where they might spend money at a restaurant or on activities, she said.

“There were a lot of attractions and activities that did not operate or could not operate at full capacity last year,” Shober said. “So therefore, large events like a lot of our major rodeos and festivals across Wyoming didn’t operate last year. If you were running a sightseeing business, you were limited in the number of guests that you could take with you.”

There was also a large increase in day-trippers, who spend less as they don’t spend time in accommodations, Shober said.

Much of this will be self-correcting, Shober said. With restrictions being lifted or lightened and all of Wyoming’s rodeos and festivals on the calendar in 2021, in conjunction with the targeting marketing, Shober expects spending to increase.

Indicators that signal intent to travel are pointing toward a successful year of tourism, she said. Organic search on Wyoming Travel’s website, which Shober points out is a very strong indicator, is up anywhere from 27% to 70% ahead of last year.

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95 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming Wednesday; 517 Active

in News/Coronavirus

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s active coronavirus cases increased by 115 on Wednesday from Tuesday.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 11 new recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases.

At the same time, the state reported 95 new laboratory-confirmed and 21 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 517 active cases. This is the first time that cases have topped 500 since March 1. 

Laramie County had the highest number of active cases at 108; while Albany increased to 71 cases. Meanwhile, Sweetwater had 66; Natrona 51; Fremont 44; Park 32; Uinta 28; Teton 20; Sublette 17; Campbell and Sheridan 14; Carbon 12; Big Horn and Goshen nine; Lincoln and Washakie five; Platte four; Weston three; Hot Springs two, and Converse, Crook and Johnson had one,

Niobrara County had no active cases.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

The new confirmed and probable cases brought to 57,999 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020.

Of those, 56,775 have recovered.

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Wyoming Obituary: W.J. “Jack” Nicholas

in Wyoming Obituary/News

W.J. “Jack” Nicholas
January 8, 1927- April 16, 2021

LANDER – Jack Nicholas’ last request was for the list of phone numbers of his 5 children and 19 grandchildren.

He painstakingly set out to call each one.  He wanted to tell them one more time how much he loved them and how proud he was of them.  If his 24 young great grandchildren had their own phones, he would have called them too.  Although he fought leaving his family, neighbors, and the state he so dearly loved, Jack told Kim, a wonderful nurse at the Lander hospital, that he was ready to go with a smile on his face. 

Jack’s family deeply thanks Kim and all the healthcare workers at the Lander Clinic and the Lander Hospital for helping the family and Jack as he reached the end of his life.  It was a life well lived. 

Jack was born in Gillette in 1927 to Thomas Arthur and Mary Margaret Nicholas.  He spent much of his time on the family ranch north of Gillette until his family moved to Casper.  When he reached his teens, Jack yearned for adventure.  He ran away at 13.  When caught, he ran away again.  On one escapade, Jack endeavored to sneak out of Casper on an eastbound coal train.  Unbeknownst to him, the train headed north!  Jack’s father located him in Buffalo, covered in coal cinders, and dragged him home by the ear.  At 16, Jack clandestinely joined the Army.  His parents foiled his attempt by refusing to sign a waiver required for anyone under 17.   Undeterred, Jack graduated Natrona County High School and joined the Army on his 17th birthday.

Jack served his country proudly during World War II.  When the war ended, he was stationed in Kansas and studied pre-veterinary medicine at the University of Kansas.  After serving in the Army, his adventures continued.  He studied at Casper College and the University of Colorado in Boulder.  He also built houses in Casper with his brothers and cowboyed. 

The time he cherished the most was working for the O’Neil family on their ranch outside of Big Piney.  One of the Big Piney stories he often recounted was when a horse died in the winter.  Jack and another ranch hand dug a grave in the frozen ground.  The grave turned out to be a bit too shallow and the horse’s legs emerged from the snow.  Being ever resourceful, they just sawed off the legs!  Jack got his due while taming a bronc.  The bronc trampled him and broke his shoulder and ribs.  Beat up, Jack headed south to Albuquerque to recover in a warmer climate.  He decided to go to the University of New Mexico while he recuperated.  It was there his life changed forever.

In early 1949, Jack went on a blind date with a cute, spunky girl named Alice.  Alice Marion Howison from Lemon Cove, California became the love of Jack’s life.  He never took off again.  The summer after they met, Jack and Alice worked in a pack station in Mineral King, California.  Alice worked in the kitchen and Jack packed horses and mules in the Sierras out of Mineral King. They were married at Christmas in 1949 in Lindsay, California. 

Jack and Alice finished school at the University of Wyoming.  Alice studied English and Jack studied law.  Alice and Jack laughingly remembered living in the “Butler Huts” where they had to share a bathroom with their neighbors.  Jack worked part-time for New Method Laundry to make ends meet and served as a member of the Wyoming Law Review Editorial Board.  Following law school, Jack and Alice moved to Lander.

Jack’s legal career in Lander spanned over 40 years.  He loved the law and politics.  Jack and Alice were long time volunteers for the Fremont County Republican Party.  Jack was elected to the Wyoming House of Representatives in 1969.  After his term, he successfully ran for Fremont County District Court Judge.  Jack served as district judge for 12 years.  Following his second term, he decided to obtain his Masters of Laws degree from the University of San Diego School of Law.

For over 70 years, Alice and Jack have loved their Lander community, Fremont County, and the State of Wyoming.  Jack was a lifelong member of the Lander Rotary Club and was deeply grateful to the club for sending his 5 children on youth exchanges to countries all around the world.  Jack was also honored to serve as a founding director of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and to help establish the Lander Ski Area, the South Pass Historic Preserve, the Inter-Mountain Regional Medical Program (now WWAMI) and the Fremont County Pioneer Museum.  He and Alice were members of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. 

Jack is survived by his wife and soul mate, Alice, his children Patty and Garry Trautman of Lander, John and Tracy Nicholas of Carl Junction, Missouri, Phil and Karen Nicholas of Laramie, Bob Nicholas, and Lily and Steve Sharpe of Cheyenne, and his brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Manuela Nicholas of Beaverton, Oregon.  He is also survived by 19 of the best grandchildren a man could ever have and 24 wonderful great grandchildren.  He was preceded in death by his granddaughter Kaitlin Nicholas, his parents, his brothers Tom, Fred and Dave, and his sisters Ruth and Patty.

Besides his family, Jack’s passion was ranching and raising livestock.  From the 1960s until he could no more, Jack spent his free time on the ranch.  Forever a cowboy and a teacher, Jack taught his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren how to ride, work and live the Western way of life.  Dad and Grandpa – you will be sorely missed.  And no one will miss you more than Alice.  Happy trails.

Wyoming’s Hospitality Industry Can’t Find Workers; Especially Dire in Northwest Wyoming

in News/Tourism

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

While Wyoming’s hospitality industry is gearing up for what promises to be a busy summer tourism season, restaurants and hotels are finding themselves very short of workers to care for visitors to the state.

The problem is especially dire in northwestern Wyoming, where a lack of housing is leaving employers unable to recruit workers.

“What continues to be a huge, huge issue in Teton County is housing,” said Colleen Dubbe, manager of the state Workforce Centers in Jackson and Afton. “Whether it’s foreign workers or college students or young adults or even older workers, it’s across the board. Not only is it incredibly expensive, there’s none available and there’s none available in the region.”

The housing shortage in northwest Wyoming, along with federal unemployment policies, immigration rules and travel restrictions, have created a “perfect storm” for a challenging hiring environment for hospitality businesses, said Chris Brown, executive director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association.

“The hospitality industry is labor intensive to begin with,” said Brown. “This year has by far been the toughest year for staffing I’ve ever seen.”

Part of the problem stems from federal regulations and COVID-related travel bans that are sometimes slowing the arrival of foreign workers to staff hospitality businesses such as hotels and restaurants, said Brown, whose association represents more than 500 members of Wyoming’s hospitality industry.

Many employers apply for a special visa to bring employees from other countries to the United States, but the process can be very involved, he said.

“The process for businesses to apply for and get those employees is insanely arduous,” he said. “But the need for additional legal foreign workers is significant. There are not enough people here to step in and fill all those roles.”

Complicating the issue is the fact that the extension of federal unemployment benefits through September has allowed some people to collect an income without working, Brown said.

“Certainly the extension was warranted when businesses were closed last year and people were out of work,” he said. “But the extension of unemployment benefits through September is incentivizing some workers to simply stay home and not worry about going back to work.”

In Jackson, those problems are exacerbated by the lack of housing, Dubbe said.

Dubbe said many of Jackson’s workers actually live in surrounding communities in the Star Valley and Idaho, but housing is short throughout the region.

She added apartments in Jackson can often cost more than $2,000 per month.

“I know businesses are worried,” she said. “They are very concerned about what is going to happen this summer. Consistently the one thing they mention is housing.”

Some businesses have gone so far as to buy old hotels to use as employee housing. In past years, the town of Jackson has allowed people to sleep in their cars overnight to deal with the issue.

Northwest Wyoming is expecting a busy season as people get out following the coronavirus lockdowns of 2020, Dubbe said.

“The good news is the bookings for the summer are up, and we anticipate a good year as it relates to the tourist industry,” she said. “But with the housing market being so tight, it has limited their ability to recruit employees.”

The tourism industry is Wyoming’s second largest, behind energy production. Between hotels, food service, arts, entertainment and recreation, the industry accounted for 44,835 jobs in 2019, slightly more than 11% of the state’s total jobs.

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Cheney On Biden’s First 100 Days: “An Unfortunate Time For Wyoming”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney said Wednesday that President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office has been an unfortunate time for Wyoming.

During a call with Wyoming reporters on Wednesday afternoon, Cheney spoke about her expectations ahead of Biden’s first speech in front of both congressional houses.

“Even thought it’ll look different, the message we’ll be hearing from President Biden will be the same that we’ve been hearing since his first days in office,” she said. “It’s been a really unfortunate time, in terms of policy demand, particularly for Wyoming.”

She criticized Biden’s decision to stop construction on a border wall between the United States and Mexico first implemented by President Donald Trump.

“There are supplies that have already been purchased, we’ve already appropriated contractors that could easily be used to complete construction of the wall in places where we know people are coming across illegally,” she said.

However, since the Biden administration halted construction, taxpayers are footing the bill for both the materials and contractors, neither of which are being used.

Cheney has supported the border wall for some time, noting in the call that the U.S./Mexico border was being controlled by drug cartels who also are engaged in human trafficking.

“I would hope that we would begin to see a change in policy but I don’t believe we will,” she said, adding that she expected to see more policies enabling situations like the border crisis.

She reiterated sentiments expressed by her colleague, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, that the situation at the border is both a national security and humanitarian crisis.

This is not the first time the representative has addressed Biden’s “lax” policies regarding immigration, joining in with Barrasso last month to criticize the president regarding undocumented immigrants crossing the border.

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Shoshoni Schools Granted Mask Exception

in News/Coronavirus
Now entering Shoshoni

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Students in Shoshoni are now exempt from wearing masks while at school, Fremont County School District 24 announced Wednesday morning.

Beginning Wednesday, students were not required to wear a mask or face covering while in school, but were welcome continue wearing them if they wished to do so.

“Please respect those that continue to mask as they may have a family member they are trying to protect,” the district said in an announcement Wednesday.

There are three schools in Shoshoni: Shoshoni Elementary, Shoshoni Junior High and Shoshoni High School.

The Wyoming Department of Health granted the district an exception this week, but noted it could be revoked in the event that coronavirus infections trend upward.

Students will still be required to wear masks while on the school bus, though.

“Our buses must conform to national transportation standards and requirements. Transportation will still be required to conform to national requirements regarding COVID-19,” the district said.

The district added that if a student or teacher is diagnosed with the coronavirus, there could be extensive contact tracing.

“Do your due diligence, continue to stop the spread, stay home when you don’t feel well, allow our kids the opportunity to receive instruction in person, and take care of yourself,” the district said. “We have been granted an exception, please respect that it is an exception and can be revoked. We are still working through logistics.”

The district is following in the steps of many others across Wyoming that have received exemptions from mask usage, including Torrington, Cody and more.

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Wyoming Schools Plan In-Person Graduation As COVID Loosens Its Grip

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

There’s not been a lot that’s happened over the last 14 months in Wyoming that could be considered “normal.” But in the last few weeks, conditions have inched a little closer.

With declines in coronavirus cases and a growing percentage of Wyoming residents obtaining the COVID vaccine, institutions are opening back up and loosening the restrictions that were in place to slow the spread of the illness.

Nursing homes are being allowed to provide short visitation periods, students can enjoy school dances and in-person graduation ceremonies again, and more schools are winning approval to end requirements for mask use.

One of the biggest changes from last year is the planning for in-person graduation ceremonies across the state.

While last year saw students attend virtual events or sit in cars to watch commencement speakers, full, in-person ceremonies are being planned at various schools, including Central Wyoming College, Casper College and Laramie County Community College.

The University of Wyoming will hold in-person commencement ceremonies, but will also offer a “hybrid” option for graduates to be recognized virtually.

Also opening graduation ceremonies to the public is Northwest College, said public information officer Carey Miller.

“We heard from our 2020 graduates that they were sad about not getting to have the same experience,” she explained. “So we decided early on that we wanted to try and give them the best experience that we possibly could — and do in person graduation.”

Miller said state rules will allow up to 500 people in the Cabre Gym, where the ceremony will be held — although there will be some requirements for social distancing and mask use.

As Wyoming relies heavily on tourism, attractions that last year were shuttered or strictly limited are planning to welcome the public with outstretched arms. 

Officials with Cheyenne Frontier Days, which was canceled last year, announced the 10-day rodeo will go on as normal this year without social distancing or mask requirements for concerts, rodeos and other outdoor activities.

This is welcome news for an event that saw an over $3 million loss last year.

Vaccines have gone a long way towards returning the state to pre-pandemic status, according to Kathy Emmons, executive director for the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department

“We don’t want to have to go back to limiting businesses and things like that,” she told Cowboy State Daily earlier this month. “And one of the best ways to do that is to make sure everybody can go back to work and can go out and shop. And you can only do that if you’ve got that protection.”

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