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Growing Up in Jeffrey City, Wyoming

in Column/Jerry Kendall
2716

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By Jerry Kendall, Cowboy State Daily

Whenever I mention that I grew up in Jeffrey City, I almost always get the same response: “Really? Jeffrey City? I’m sorry.”

Then I spend the next 15 minutes trying to convince the person that it wasn’t a bad place to grow up. My explanation generally starts with, “the wind blows a lot but after a while, you hardly notice.”

Well, anyone who has ever lived there knows that you never get used to it. Ever! You just sort of live with it and adapt.  

Ain’t no one better at adapting than kids.

Now you’ve got to realize these were the days before video games, computers, cell phones, and if you even had a TV, you only got one channel.

We spent all our free time outside and it seemed there was always plenty to do. After all, we did have the whole Red Desert for our backyard.

Our family actually lived on the back trailer row of the town and as the wind ripped through the gap between Green Mountain and Crooks Mountain, we were pretty much the first thing in its path other than the sagebrush.

I can remember watching the walls of our trailer moving in and out, like some great aluminum salamander breathing. Sometimes the windows would bow in until I thought they would shatter, sending shards of glass into anything in their path. Folks would put old tires on their roofs to keep them from rumbling as the wind swept over them. As I mentioned, the wind blew some in Jeffrey.

During the winter there were huge snowdrifts, which set up to the point where you could carve out caves or build forts made from blocks carved with shovels. We used these fortresses for huge snowball fights amongst warring enemies. We played king of the mountain on a mound of snow that would have been considered a real mountain in some states.

When it got cold enough, the miners would go out into a nearby field and push up snow walls with plows or backhoes into a large square and then fill the center with water for a skating rink. Almost every kid in town would show up with their battered old hockey skates. If you tried to skate against the wind you would end up going backwards until you ran into the snowbank on the downwind side of the rink.

What most of us would like to do was walk in the snow up the side until we got to the upper end. Then holding you coat open so the wind filled it like a sail, we would fairly fly across the rink, smashing into the bank at the other end and rolling through the snow out into the field. Hey, when you get lemons, make lemonade!

I remember one hot summer day, my buddy Dean Axtell and I were wandering around town, slingshots hanging from our back pockets, wondering what to shoot next when we spied a large refrigerator box behind the mercantile. We decided to make a fort out of it.

The wind was howling as usual. This box was a place to get away from being sandblasted for a while. Fighting the wind, we dragged it out to one of the few grassy areas in town, which ran along the highway and we crawled inside.

Much to our delight, we started rolling alongside the highway, tumbling all over each other and laughing uncontrollably. As we gained momentum, I ended up rolling out the end of the box, landing in a heap on the grass.

“Hang on Dean!” I shouted as I ran to catch up. But I couldn’t catch up. Dean was a little feller back then and he and that box were headed east at a high rate of speed. Just when I thought I would never see my little buddy again, the box spit him out as well. He was so dizzy he couldn’t stand up, so as any good friend would do, I ran up and dog-piled him.

We sat in a heap, laughing until our sides hurt and watched in amazement as the box began taking huge leaps into the air. The last time we saw it we figured it was headed for Casper. “Well, now what do you wanna do?”

 Everything considered, Jeffrey City was a great place to grow up in. We had movies in the old Quonset hut on Friday nights. We had a small outdoor swimming pool. We even had a bowling alley, which had been moved from Lander. Add that to the Sweetwater River within walking distance to swim and fish in and of course the Red Desert in our backyard to explore.

One thing though  .  . . the wind does blow there a bit.

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Wyoming Economic Indicators Up from May, Still Down From 2019

in News/Economy
Wyoming Economy Chart
6196

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The indicators that point to Wyoming’s economic health improved slightly in June from May, but the state’s economic health remains worse than it was one year ago, according to a state report.

The state’s Economic Analysis Division, in its regular report on “Wyoming Economic Indicators” said unemployment rates, tax income in the mineral and hospitality sectors and total employment were all below where they stood in June of 2019.

“The Wyoming Economic Health Index reported an index value of 97.3 in June 2020,” the report said. “This value was higher than the May 2020 value of 95.5, but significantly lower than the June 2019 value of 108.”

However, the report also said declines in the state’s unemployment rate in recent months are a good sign for the economy.

“These improved unemployment rates over the last couple of months are a bright sign that the recovery from the Covid-19 business shutdowns has begun,” it said.

Each of the four indicators fell during the year, the report said, with sales and use tax revenue from mining dropping by more than 66% to total $3.8 million in June, compared to about $11.8 million in June of 2019.

In addition to economic difficulties created by the coronavirus pandemic, the state has been hit with a collapse in coal prices that has led to declines in its coal industry.

Lodging tax income also fell from 2019, dropping by 46.2% to total $1.7 million in June. Although the income was higher than it was in May, it also marked the fourth consecutive month that lodging tax revenues dipped below the previous year’s levels by 35% or more, the report said, due largely to the coronavirus.

“These large decreases in collections from lodging tax are not surprising because of the stay-at-home orders and lack of travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.

The state’s unemployment rate of 7.6% in June was a drop from the rate of 8.8% seen in May, but it remained considerably higher than the rate of 3.6% seen in June 2019.

In addition, the number of people with jobs in June totaled 266,300, an increase of 2,500 from May, the report said, but a decline of 24,100 from June 2019.

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Firefighters Predict Containment Of Shoshone Fire In Two Weeks

in News/wildfire
4894

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Firefighters in the Shoshone National Forest are now predicting containment of a wildfire burning west of Cody within two weeks.

More than 110 firefighters are battling the 591-acre Lost Creek Fire about halfway between Cody and Yellowstone National Park.

The fire was first reported on Saturday and officials say growth in the blaze has been slow since Sunday. 

On “InciWeb,” a website that features up-to-date information about wildfires on public land, officials estimated the fire would be contained by June 27.

Marvin Mathison, the operations section chief for the Lost Creek Fire, said crews are feeling positive about firefighting efforts despite the rugged terrain that resulted in the injury of one firefighter.

“One of the Craig Hotshots had a rock come down and it hit him in the leg,” he explained. “It took his legs out from underneath him, he fell backwards and hit his head on a rock. We did get him out, we took a ground ambulance and transported him to Cody.”

The Craig Interagency Hotshot Crew is a 20-22 person team based in Craig, Colorado, that battles wildfires on federal land around the region.

The fire spurred the temporary evacuation of two dude ranches, including the Bill Cody Ranch, where observers first spotted the fire.

Park County Emergency Management Director Jack Tatum praised local residents, many of whom offered help to anyone who needed to remove livestock from the fire area.

“I’ve seen on Facebook just the tremendous outpouring of support from local citizens,” he said. “They’re saying, ‘Hey, if you’ve got horses, hey, if you’ve got whatever, I’ve got room for ‘em.’”

One of the biggest complications in battling the Lost Creek Fire is the measures that have to be taken to keep people safe during the coronavirus pandemic, Sue Eichoff, a district ranger for the Shoshone National Forest, said at Sunday’s meeting.

“Smaller groups are spread out, we’re using the ‘module of one’ concept for housing,” she explained. “We’re doing social distancing if we have meetings, and doing our sanitizing, we’ve got a lot of personal protective equipment that the crews and the people that are working here have.” 

Eichoff expressed her appreciation for the effort to keep the public safe, as well as employees and firefighters. 

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Wyoming Baking Disasters (Or Learning a New Skill While Self-Isolating)

in Food
3679

Our friend Wendy Madsen, a Cheyenne resident who hails from Basin, Wyoming, was excited to make a multi-layered cake for her niece’s birthday.

Like most of us, she was self-distancing (or whatever it’s called) and decided to try something new…


Wendy documented her entire baking experience on Facebook and graciously agreed to let us show it here. We have to admit: this looks great!


Wendy started off with a lot of optimism…


Although that optimism seemed to fade, almost immediately.


But anyone who knows Wendy, knows she isn’t a quitter. She keeps on fighting through all adversity. And there was some adversity to come…


Even when her team abandons her, she keeps on going!


Oh no. We have a metric-system issue going on…


Thankfully, for our pal Wendy, she has good friends who wanted to help…


Again, the optimism faded. And this time it got serious. Bring on the booze…


But even booze didn’t seem to fix this…


Now we’re starting to sense desperation….


And now the audience was starting to chime in…



Where was Wendy’s husband, Mark, during all of this? He became useful at this point, actually…


Are you ready for the grand finale (of the evening)? Wendy was ready to put this project to bed…


We were wondering if the ‘cake’ would make it overnight. We were relieved to see it survived and to see it in natural light…


But it wasn’t long until booze came back into the picture…


But, don’t worry everyone, Wendy’s friend came to the rescue…


And look who made another appearance? Wendy’s husband Mark…


Optimism filled the room again….


We’re not certain what this next slide means. But, at this point, we don’t need to understand it…


And thank God, booze was back in the picture. Yikes!


And now more audience involvement!


This thing is truly a yo-yo of emotions…


Holy cow. It’s starting to look ok….


We’re not sure how this is possible. But it looks great!


All we can say is, it’s a divine miracle…

The most important part of all of this are Wendy’s words at the very end.

“I get to stay at home and make a cake, while others are going to work to keep us safe and others have lost their livelihoods during these difficult times.

Mostly, as I have plenty of food in my pantry, I think of those who are not sure where their next meal will come from.

What to do?  I am impressed with the organizations we can all support through First Lady Jennie Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative at:

https://www.nohungerwyo.org.  So, maybe this is a small start. Much love, all!”

Wyoming Unemployment Remains Steady At 3.7 Percent

in News/Economy
3301

Wyoming’s unemployment rate remained steady in January at 3.7 percent, the same rate seen in December, according to the state Department of Workforce Services.

The department’s Research and Planning Section, in its regular report on unemployment, reported that the rate was slightly higher than the January 2019 rate of 3.5 percent, but almost equal to the national average of 3.6 percent.

The state’s highest January unemployment rate of 5.9 percent was found in Sublette County, followed by Fremont County at 5.6 percent and Big Horn and Sweetwater counties at 5.4 percent. Teton County’s unemployment rate fell from 2.9 percent to 2.7 percent.

The biggest increases in unemployment from December to January were seen in Big Horn County, which grew from 3.7 percent to 5.4 percent, Washakie County, from 3.6 percent to 4.6 percent, and Sheridan County, which grew from 3.4 percent to 4.3 percent.

“Colder weather and the end of the holiday shopping season often bring seasonal job losses in January in many sectors, including construction, retail trade, government and professional and business services,” the report said.

In December, Wyoming’s unemployment rate was higher than in most of the surrounding states, said David Bullard, the section’s senior economist. He added Wyoming has had a higher unemployment rate than surrounding states since about 2018.

“Some neighboring states have been growing more quickly than we have,” he said.

Jim Hicks: Explaining Bicycle Tracks In The Snow . . .

in Column
3265

By Sagebrush Sven
(Translated by Jim Hicks, Buffalo Bulletin)

BUFFALO – A few weeks ago, you will recall, we woke up one morning to more than six inches of fresh snow and knew winter had really arrived.

One of the Bench Sitters was diving on DeSmet early that morning and noticed a “weaving” bicycle track on the road.

“You could tell whoever was riding a bicycle that morning was having a hard time trying to stay in a single tire track,” he said.

But those tracks were connected to an interesting story about a local guy on his way to work.
To understand how he came to be riding a bicycle to work in a snowstorm it helps to know how he thinks.

When he was just in grade school, one of his brothers recalls, this guy was working on his bicycle and needed a washer.

“He walked down to the hardware store and found the size washer he needed. Taking it to the counter, he learned the price was five cents,” says the brother. “So he went home and drilled a hole in a penny . . . saving four cents on the deal.”

Smart, but maybe not all that practical.

But to get back to the weaving bicycle tracks in the snow . . . this guy drives an old, smaller pickup with a few imperfections. One of which is that both door handles on the inside are broken off. So he often leaves the window down because he needs to reach outside to open the door to exit the vehicle.

He parks the $1,500 pickup without door handles in the garage and leaves a $50,000 pickup outside rather than bother winding up the window. A while back he backed into the newer pickup and broke a $25 tail light on the older vehicle and did $4,100 damage to the other . . . but we digress.

Late in the afternoon before the big storm he called his wife to say he was going to Sheridan with a rancher friend to “pick up a few parts.”
Apparently the part store occasionally doesn’t close until 2 a.m. And that can make wives a little angry.

As a result, the morning of the storm he realized his old pickup was still parked downtown and asking his wife for a ride might be out of the question. He could get the bicycle down from the hooks in the garage ceiling and pump up the tires in no time at all.

So, as you can clearly see, weaving bicycle tracks on DeSmet Street during a morning snow storm really can make a lot of sense if you know a few details.

Arriving at work, several employees asked why he was covered with snow and his shoes and pants were so wet.

“No big deal,” mumbled Rick as he headed for his office.


And this week Sven had a nice note from Lorilee Peterson who lives in LaCrosse, WI. It often takes a week for her copies of the Buffalo Bulletin to arrive by mail, but Lorilee took the time to write that she enjoys reading the “Sven” column each week.

Under the heading of “we doubt its true—“

When the District Court Judge hearing a divorce case told the husband . . . “I have considered this case carefully, including the cost of living in Johnson County and decided to give your wife $2,000 per month.”

“That sounds fair enough to me,” the soon-to-be-former-husband said. “And every now and then I’ll try to kick in a little extra myself.”

We are told the problems between this couple started after he took his wife to the emergency room last September and the doctor came out and told him . . . “I don’t like the looks of your wife at all.”

His reaction to that was – “Me neither Doc. But she’s a great cook and has been really good with the kids.

Well, that should be enough hot air for one week. The Bench Sitters will try to be serious next week . . . but don’t count on it.

Million Acre Land Deal: Randall Luthi vs Rod Miller

in News
3207

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

Approval of measures designed to let the state buy a 1 million-acre strip of land in southern Wyoming would not mean the state would jump into the deal immediately, according to a state official.

Randall Luthi, a former legislator who is now the chief energy advisor to Gov. Mark Gordon, said the state would carefully study the proposed purchase from Occidental Petroleum and report back to the Legislature before proceeding with the sale authorized by House Bill 249 and Senate File 138.

But a former candidate for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat said not enough is known about any proposed deal to give the state the authority to make the purchase.

“It could be great for the state … or it could be another Teapot Dome,” said Rod Miller, who ran for the House in 2018. “We just don’t know yet what the nature of this transaction is. And yet it’s being fast-tracked through the Legislature with very little transparency. It’s about as transparent as a lump of Powder River coal.”

Legislative leaders joined Gordon in the second week of the Legislature’s budget session in supporting the two bills, which would both authorize the state to begin an examination of the deal and, if favorable, enter into negotiations for the purchase.

Luthi agreed that little information is available yet on the deal, but said more information would be available as the process goes on.

“Those early conversations were like two teenagers at the prom: Is there interest? Do I approach this?” Luthi said. “Occidental wasn’t ready to put forward the value, the asking price. All that has yet to be determined. All that we know right now is the extent of the asset. Now comes the due diligence.”

Items to be studied would include the price, the value of minerals beneath the ground and how the state would manage the lands, Luthi said, adding that the bills actually just give the SLIB the authority to look into the deal.

But Miller, who served on the staff of former Gov. Ed Herschler, said the Legislature should first require the completion of those studies before looking at authorizing the purchase of the land.

“If you look at both the … bills, those bills are not directed toward investigating this deal, doing our due diligence, finding answers to some answers to these questions,” he said. “Those bills authorize the raiding of the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund and our ‘rainy day’ savings account to actually purchase this property.”

The bills pending before the Legislature take differing approaches to financing the purchase. The House bill, which was approved in its third and final reading on the House floor Friday, would call for the state to use money from various savings accounts, including the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund. The Senate bill, which won final Senate approval Thursday, would allow the state to issue revenue bonds to finance the purchase.

“You’ve got a philosophical difference: Do you take it out of savings or do you go into debt?” Luthi said. “That’s something we’re watching.”

But Miller argued the questions about the purchase should be answered even before identifying funding sources and then the answers should be shared with state residents.

“Let’s go ahead and authorize and appropriate an amount of money to do our due diligence to find out answers to some of those questions,” he said. “Then take those answers out on the street, have public hearings around Wyoming … to inform the voters of the potential upside and downside of this deal.”

Wyo Moose Population Drops Amid ‘Perfect Storm’ Of Issues

in News/wildlife
Wyoming Moose
3152

By Nicole Blanchard, Cowboy State Daily

Hundreds of people on Facebook were alarmed recently when a graphic shared widely on social media showed Wyoming’s moose population has been decimated in recent years, dropping from more than 10,000 animals in the mid-1990s to 1,500 by 2017. 

Between 2011 and 2012 alone, the graph showed the population plummeting by more than 4,000 animals. Wyoming Sen. Ogden Driskill shared the image on his Facebook page, pointing toward the rising wolf population as the culprit for the decline, like many others did.

“At what point do the moose become endangered and we start killing wolves to save an endangered species????” Driskill wrote in January.

The graph is not entirely accurate, according to Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials.

“That graph had quite a few errors in it,” said Doug Brimeyer, the department’s deputy chief of wildlife, including the fact it showed a steep 2012 population drop that was actually the result of a change in the way the agency estimated moose numbers.

But the state’s moose population has declined significantly in recent years because of a mix of factors, Brimeyer said.

“I think it’s unfair to put it off on one single cause, because I think moose have faced the perfect storm of issues,” he said.

Currently, the statewide moose population is Wyoming is just under 3,500 animals, Brimeyer said. And the graph shared on social media isn’t all wrong — the population has been trending downward since hitting 10,000 in the mid-1990s.

“Overall, we’ve seen some significant declines over the last 25 years,” Brimeyer said. “Historically, it’s obviously a declining trend.”

Moose challenges

The “perfect storm of issues” that moose are facing is widespread. Officials in Idaho, Utah and Montana have reported similar population declines, a trend that’s raised concern since the early 2000s.

“They’re influenced by a whole variety of issues,” Brimeyer said.

Predation from wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions plays a role.

“Wolves start showing up in the late ‘90s,” Brimeyer said. “Around the same time, grizzly bears start expanding their range. They’re all a piece of the puzzle. I don’t want to diminish the role that predation played, because it’s pretty significant.”

Brimeyer said wolf hunting seasons are successfully keeping the predators in check in Wyoming, which could prove beneficial to moose.

In addition to predation, moose are threatened by other environmental factors, from massive wildfires that destroy habitat to tiny parasites that can bring mighty moose down from the inside.

Brimeyer said warmer, drier weather in Wyoming in recent years has made it easier for parasites like winter ticks, which attach themselves to moose in the fall, to stay alive and feed on the moose.

“In dry falls, those animals tend to pick up a lot of (winter ticks), which can affect their ability to maintain their nutritional status,” Brimeyer said. “Some of these animals can carry a very high tick load.”

A 2018 study on New Hampshire moose found that animals with high ticks loads died of emaciation and malnutrition linked to the arachnids.

Wyoming moose have also been affected by a carotid artery worm, a parasite transmitted by horseflies that constricts blood flow and can lead to death. The parasite’s target host, deer, are often asymptomatic.

“The moose is the wrong host for this parasite, so they have symptoms where they start walking in circles and eventually die,” Brimeyer said.

Humans aren’t blameless in the decline, either. Brimeyer said the department has seen an uptick in vehicle collisions resulting in moose fatalities.

Saving the moose

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has long been looking for ways to boost struggling moose numbers. Over the last 15 years, Brimeyer said, the agency has consistently decreased moose tag numbers and changed the structure of its hunting season to give the animals a better chance at recovery.

In the 1990s, Game and Fish changed regulations to ban hunters from harvesting cow moose with calves at their side. Around 2000, the agency eliminated cow moose hunts in some units. 

“In the ‘90s, we were harvesting over 1,000 moose,” Brimeyer said. “In 2019, we harvested about 300 moose.”

The efforts could be paying off — although it is difficult to determine because moose are notoriously difficult to count. Despite their huge size, moose are elusive and largely solitary.

“Right now, there’s no feasible census techniques out there,” Brimeyer said, adding that Game and Fish Department is working on trail camera counts, as well as DNA sampling of hair and fecal pellets to try to identify animals.

Still, department counts show some potentially good news for moose. Calf ratios are improving in Western Wyoming, where officials counted more than 2,000 specimens in 2018.

“We’re optimistic that Wyoming’s moose populations are beginning to change a bit,” Brimeyer said.

Natural Gas Faces Difficulties as Market is Flooded with Cheap Product

in Energy/News
Jonah Field
3147

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

A victim of its own success, Wyoming’s natural gas industry has faced plummeting prices in recent years, leaving only one operator with active rigs in the state, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) reported.

“There are 23 active rigs in the state, and of those only two are natural gas,” said PAW Communications Director Ryan McConnaughey. “There are a lot factors impacting natural gas, but a big one is sustained low prices.”

More than a decade ago, natural gas experienced a surge in popularity with the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that boosted production, but a University of Wyoming researcher said the mining process was almost too successful.

“In the last decade, we’ve become so good at getting oil and gas out of the ground through unconventional methods — fracking and horizontal drilling,” said Rob Godby, the director for UW’s Energy Economics and Public Policies Center and an associate professor for the College of Business. “Prices have fallen through the floor. There’s just too much natural gas on the market.”

In 2008, national natural gas prices were around $7 per 1,000 cubic feet (MCF), Godby said. The price as of Wednesday was $1.77 per MCF.

“It’s only gone one direction, which is down,” he said. “The other thing that’s scary about that price is we’re in the middle of winter, and if you’re going to have a coldest month, it’s February.” 

As energy companies switch over to renewable power sources for electricity generation, natural gas and coal have stepped into backup roles to ensure the lights stay on during major winter storms. Previously, natural gas prices spiked to around $150 per MCF during these events, but Godby said those instances are becoming less frequent.

“In real terms, taking inflation into account, we’re essentially at the lowest point in gas sales history,” he said. “Operators are having a very hard time making money with natural gas.”

Permian Basin 

The hydraulic fracturing process is not selective, so when oil operators frack, they often capture natural gas as a free and marketable byproduct, Godby explained.

“People often think of oil and gas drilling as a jelly donut, and operators are trying to get that jelly out,” he said, crediting the analogy to Mark Watson, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission director. “But, it’s really like Tiramisu.”

Operators horizontally drill through layers of rock containing oil and gas, then pressurize the hole with water and other additives, which fractures the rock and releases both oil and gas.

“In the last year or so, the U.S. just became the largest producer of oil, and all that oil growth brings with it a lot of natural gas,” Godby said. “And the most prolific field where this is happening is in the Permian Basin on the eastern half of New Mexico and Western side of Texas.”

Natural gas producers in Wyoming are typically producing only natural gas while competing with oil producers, whose get their natural gas essentially free.

Further complicating the situation, McConnaughey said Wyoming’s tax on natural gas is higher than New Mexico’s.

“Wyoming’s tax rate on energy production is not competitive with our peers,” he said. “It’s typically about 4 percent more than other states, and New Mexico takes 4.5 percent less than Wyoming does.”

Coronavirus

With less extraction comes less revenue for the state, a major challenge when considering mineral revenues paid for more than 50 percent of the state’s budget in 2017, the Wyoming Taxpayer’s Association reported.

Coal’s decline is well documented in Wyoming, but Godby said natural gas is not far behind.

Since 2015, Wyoming’s projected natural gas production declined by 18 percent, and natural gas severance tax payments have dropped 19 percent, UW documents state.

“Our economy has gone from riding a tricycle with coal, natural gas and oil to a bicycle with natural gas and oil, and now,” Godby said, “we’re down to riding a unicycle with oil, which is the most volatile of the three.”

Oil production is projected to increase 14 percent from levels in 2015, bringing the state a 9 percent increase in oil severance tax, but that income might not be reliable, he said.

“Oil production could rise and offset some of the declines,” Godby said. “The problem is oil is still the most difficult commodity to forecast for, and as the transportation industry moves away from fossil fuels in the future, it will become even more volatile.”

China is one of the two largest oil consumers in the world, and the coronavirus epidemic has “slowed their economy to a crawl,” decreasing their energy demand, Godby said.

“This is why gas prices at the pump are so low,” he explained. “Oil prices right now are really low, because demand has dropped.”

Bill Sniffin: Wyoming Senate Race: Lummis, Friess in the News

in Column/Bill Sniffin
Wyoming sign
3132

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily Publisher

Former Wyoming U. S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis got some big endorsements this week in her race for the U. S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mike Enzi.

And Jackson GOP Megadonor Foster Friess launched his statewide listening tour Thursday morning, concerning the same U. S. Senate race.

Lummis was endorsed by both current sitting senators, Enzi and Sen. John Barrasso.

“I served in the Wyoming House of Representatives with Cynthia Lummis,” Enzi said in the news release. “She was effective. I served in the Wyoming Senate with her. She was a leader and a successful legislator. When I came to the U.S. Senate, she became a world renowned State Treasurer, another area of expertise. Then she successfully ran for our lone seat in Congress.

“She was a formidable campaigner. She did a spectacular job for eight years and founded the Western Caucus that gave us the clout to preserve Wyoming’s Abandoned Mine Land (AML) money and much more. She is a uniter we need. Cynthia will put Wyoming first and be a force to be reckoned with in Washington.”

Meanwhile, Friess (who finished second in the GOP Gubernatorial primary in 2018) and is deciding whether to run or not in 2020, will be in four Wyoming cities Thursday, Feb. 20 and Friday, Feb. 21.

Friess said: “I believe that on many challenges we can find common-sense solutions behind which Democrats, Republicans, and Independents can unite. I’ve been asking Wyoming voters what they are looking for in their next Senator? Do they want a businessman who can’t be bought by special interests and will join President Trump in disrupting the status quo in Washington?”

Friess will be at Cody’s Irma Hotel at noon Thursday and the Wyoming Rib Shop in Gillette at 4:45 p.m. On Friday, he will host a town hall breakfast at 8 a. m. at Eggington’s in Casper and at the GOP Salute to Womens’ Suffrage Dinner that evening in Cheyenne.

As for Lummis, Sen. Barrasso said: “Now, more than ever, Wyoming needs a gritty champion for our conservative values, Filling Mike’s shoes is no small task, and taking on Washington’s big spenders and bigger government will require someone that has proven they can do it and win. Bobbi and I support Cynthia because she is all these things.

“I know Cynthia will stand side by side with me in support of President Trump and for policies that are right for Wyoming. I will work for her, vote for her, and fight alongside her.”

Lummis thanked Enzi and Barrasso. “Wyoming’s congressional delegation is truly the gold standard,” Lummis said. “Sen. Enzi and Sen. Barrasso are giants in the U.S. Senate and I am beyond honored to have their support. Should I be elected as Wyoming’s next Senator, I look forward to working side-by-side with Sen. Barrasso and Congressman Cheney on behalf of our great state.

Cat Urbigkit: Quickly and in Darkness, Wyo Gov’t Works to Buy 1 Million Acres

in Government spending/Cat Urbigkit/News/Column/politics
Wyoming
3103

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

I listened attentively to Governor Mark Gordon’s live-streamed State of the State address on Monday, Feb. 10. There was no mention of a proposal for our state government to purchase 1 million acres of private land in southern Wyoming in that address.

Two days later, on Feb. 12, two polished bills were filed in the Wyoming Legislature that would allow our state’s top officials to negotiate an undisclosed land deal, for an unknown price. 

Governor Gordon and our legislative leaders held a press conference on Monday, Feb. 17 in Cheyenne to announce the proposal – a full week after that live-streamed State of the State address.

Fortunately Casper Star-Tribune reporter Nick Reynolds was able to attend the press conference, because his breaking news article announcing the proposal is all we have to go on.

According to the article, the deal involves 1 million acres of private land and 4 million acres of mineral rights along the I-80 corridor that is held by Occidental Petroleum in an area of checkerboard land ownership.

This deal “would be part of an effort to improve public land access and generate revenues from its sale.”

Our state leaders called this a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity “to improve the state’s ability to raise revenues” according to the article.

For some, the thought of 1 million acres of private land being gobbled up by government – in a state that is already majority-owned by government – is a hard pill to swallow. Perhaps that’s why the legislation proposes to establish “payment in lieu of taxes” to local governments for loss of private lands from the tax rolls.

The proposed legislation also says “all state laws governing the management of state lands shall be applicable to assets purchased” so at least we know that the land could be subject to multiple uses. 

Another bill, House Bill 37, would expedite the process for the exchange of state lands for the purpose of public access to state lands, and this is also part of the legislative bundle to enable this land deal.

Reynold’s article also tells us that yet another bill, House Bill 222 would exempt members of the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) from provisions of the state’s public meetings law “which could be used to investigate details of the purchase prior to pursuing it.”

I’m glad Reynolds noted that because I had no idea that was the purpose when I read the bill itself. All the proposed bill says is that the SLIB board is exempt from the public meetings law “when meeting solely for the purpose of receiving education or training provided that the board shall take no action regarding public business during the meeting.”

Although this proposal has been worked on for months, according to Reynold’s article, the public became aware of it only yesterday.

The proposal, and the legislation enabling it, are being fast-tracked during this 20-day legislative session so that the deal can be negotiated this summer and perhaps completed by the end of the year. The Governor’s office has promised to issue a press release about the proposal later today.

I looked at the records on land parcels in Carbon and Sweetwater counties and when I searched for Occidental, got no results. Then I remembered that Occidental now owns Anadarko and that’s how the county GIS data lists the parcels.

Since we know very little about this whole deal, we can only assume it’s some of the parcels we’ve included in the screen captures accompanying this column. If you want a closer look, go to the GIS systems of Sweetwater County, and Carbon County and type “Anadarko” into the search engine.

It appears that some of the land in the deal is located in Colorado and Utah, and legislation allows for the sale of those parcels.

House Bill 249 would allow investment of unknown but substantial amounts of state funds for the deal, and Senate File 138 does the same. The fiscal notes for both bills are identical:

“The fiscal or personnel impact is not determinable due to insufficient time to complete the fiscal note process.

“This bill authorizes real property purchases from the following sources:

 The Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA)

The Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund

The Common School Permanent Land Fund and 

Other unobligated unencumbered funds to the State Loan and Investment Board or to the Board of Land Commissioners.

There is appropriated funds necessary from the State Building Commission Contingency Account.

There is appropriated funds necessary from the LSRA.”

I know that there needs to be some level of confidentiality in land purchases. But the State of Wyoming’s cavalier attitude that we the public should just trust our state leaders isn’t enough when it comes to this big of a deal. 

Let’s shine some light on our government. If the State wants us to go along on this land deal, then sell it to us.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Sugar Beet Producers Feel Strain Of Bad Weather, Costs

in News/Agriculture
Sugar beets
3112

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

They create the stuff of magic, equated with deliciousness. And they could make or break a family business.

Sugar beets are a mainstay crop in Wyoming. But in northern Wyoming, where the growing conditions are optimal, farmers who grow sugar beets are facing a hardship like they’ve not seen in generations.

Between a hard frost last fall that left sugar beets frozen in the ground and mounting costs for renovations in other factories in the Western Sugar cooperative, sugar beet growers in the Bighorn Basin are facing a grim financial future. 

That’s according to Kurt Dobbs, the agronomist and field representative for the Bighorn Co-op in the northern half of the Bighorn Basin.

“The farmers around this area, they grow really good beets and are very good at yield,” he pointed out. “But it’s been three years in a row that they haven’t received the money that they need to receive for their crop.”

The growers in the Bighorn Basin are part of the Western Sugar Cooperative, which has factories in Lovell, Billings, Montana, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Fort Morgan, Colorado. 

The Lovell producers farm over 16,000 acres of beets collectively, according to Casey Crosby, a fourth-generation sugar beet grower in Cowley. 

Crosby, who also has a masters degree in business, said the economic hit of crop losses to the local communities could exceed $14 million. 

“It’s a challenging time in agriculture in general, but right now, with the issues we’ve had with our co-op, and then the weather on top of that, it’s crippled a lot of farmers,” he said.

Those issues include bad weather in two of the last three years. In between, when the harvest should have yielded a payment, Crosby said the profit went to offset costs in other areas of the Western Sugar Cooperative.

Rodney Perry, the Denver-based CEO of Western Sugar, said that the organization is working with the USDA on a disaster relief program that may provide area farmers with some much-needed assistance. 

Perry noted the program is similar to the federal government’s WHIP assistance fund (Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus), which provides disaster payments to offset losses from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms and wildfire. 

Crosby said the assistance could mean the difference in whether or not many growers will be able to farm next year.

Crosby is one of the lucky ones – of the 4,000 acres that he farms with another local grower, only 700 of those acres are planted in sugar beets. But as Dobbs pointed out, there are many other farmers whose livelihoods depend on the sugar beet crop.

“The farmers have to get paid for their sugar beets and they haven’t been,” Dobbs said. “So if that continues, you will see farmers going bankrupt.”

Mills, Wyoming Wants to be Recognized as a City

in News
Mills Wyoming
3095

By Tim Monroe, Cowboy State Daily

There are 99 incorporated cities and towns in Wyoming. One of those towns is Mills, on Casper’s western flank. The town may soon become a city according to Mayor Seth Coleman.

Coleman, a high-energy businessman elected to a 4 -year term in 2018, said Mills may not have a choice in becoming a city.

“We have 2,053 residential water connections due largely to new construction,” Coleman said. “It is estimated that there’s 2.21 people per household so that puts us over the 4,000 people needed to become a city.”

He said there’s also at 66-unit apartment complex in the works that will add considerably more people to the town’s population.

“There’s a difference in many rules between cities and towns,” he said. “Towns deal with their finances with everything in a general fund while first class cities operate with their money in separate, specific accounts.”

The town recently hired a Community Development Director to promote Mills and help guide future growth and community enhancements. Sabrina Foreman has been on the job since early February.

“We want to improve Mills’ sense of community,” Ms. Foreman said. “We’ve hired a consultant to help plan some changes that will chart our future.”

The eagle is about to go up in Mills! 🦅

Posted by Town of Mills on Tuesday, October 16, 2018
The installation of the giant steel eagle in Mills, Wyoming

Since Mills enjoys the North Platte River, Foreman said one element of future planning is development of the riverfront to make it an attractive place to view and visit. She also said that part of her job will be to seek grants-in-aid from various sources that will help the town make the consultant’s and town’s plans become reality.

The town acquired the former Mills Elementary School a few years back. It sits idle while officials seek ideas on what the building could be used for.

The mayor said the building needs new wiring and asbestos ceiling and floor tile abatement. The town may issue a request for proposals in the future to seek occupants of the building.

Another ambitious project involves annexation of about 1,000 acres of raw land and developed areas. A local realtor plans a housing development on part of the acreage.

“We already provide water and sewer utilities to that land so it makes sense to bring it into the town,” Coleman said.

Foreman said the town hopes to upgrade all town parks, including Eagle Park and First Street Park. And, they hope to tie in trails from Robertson Road to the North Platte River.

The mayor and Foreman also said they hope the town can build a pair of splash pads for use by residents and visitors. “The David Street Station splash pad is very popular,” he said. “We can also draw lots of people with a couple of those.”

The mayor and town council are also looking at ways to cut red tape out of dealing with the town.

“We can’t make changes through code enforcement actions; we need to make it easier to secure permits and approvals,” he said.

The town has four council members and the mayor who govern the community. A town administrator handles many of the details of running the town but he also serves as public works director; both are full-time jobs, the mayor said. The town has 50-55 employees, depending on seasonal needs.

Foreman previously served as Vice President of Business Development at Advance Casper, the organization that came out of the Casper Area Economic Development Authority.

Mills was once a subdivision of the City of Casper. It became independent in 1921. The community of Mountain View lies next to Mills and was annexed in the 1990’s

Celebrating Wyoming Centenarians: At 105, Woman Advises Eat Chocolate & Drink Wine

in News
Inger Koedt
3086

By Mari Heithoff, Cowboy State Daily

After a lifetime filled with adventures, from run-ins with Nazis to climbing the Grand Teton at 76, Wyoming’s oldest resident is sharing her secret to longevity.

“Eat dark chocolate and drink red wine,” said Inger Koedt, who turned 105 on Jan. 15.

Koedt, who has lived in Wyoming for 66 years, has certainly made the most of her long life thus far. 

During a phone interview with Koedt and her friend and caretaker Sylvia Vroman, Koedt shared some unique memories of the past and of her experiences. 

Inger Koedt

Born in Denmark in 1915, Koedt lived through both world wars in Europe. 

During the occupation of Denmark during World War II, she and her husband sheltered Jewish refugees in their home and helped smuggle them to safety in Sweden. 

“It was a hard time,” she said, “but everyone was doing it, so you didn’t worry you would get turned in.”

Koedt and Vroman reminisced about an experience which sounds as though it comes straight from a book about the war. “Tell her about the time the Nazis ate dinner with you and your kids,” Vroman suggested. 

Koedt chuckled and explained that some Nazis invited themselves to dinner while some the family was sheltering some Jewish refugees in their house. At the time, her children were very young, and she and her husband had to be careful that they knew what to say. 

“It all depended on the children telling the right lies to the Nazis,” Koedt explained. “It was a scary time.” 

Fortunately, the soldiers did not discover the identities of the Koedt family’s guests.

After the war was over, the Koedts began to look to America for a new home. 

Although they initially moved to California, where her husband Bob was born and had family and job opportunities, Wyoming has been Koedt’s home for over half a century. The couple and their three children settled in Jackson Hole in 1956, where Koedt promptly fell in love with the mountains. 

An avid adventurer, Koedt was an active skier, mountaineer, and climber for decades. For years, she climbed the Grand Teton annually, most recently when she was 76. 

“People used to come and watch me and cheer,” Koedt chuckles, “But I climbed just to have fun.” 

She said that after a while the mountain got a little “boring,” but added she has also climbed many other mountains besides the Grand. 

She reminisced fondly about her outdoor adventures, including rock climbing and hiking. Many of her activities involved family and friends, and she got into rock climbing in her 60s or 70s because, as she explained, “I liked to climb with my son.” Although her son Peter passed away years ago, she has remained active.

Skiing was a favorite sport, and Koedt still got out in the snow until she broke her hip last year. While she can still walk, she also attends physical therapy, and amazingly, her health continues to improve.

One skiing adventure was a winter camping trip with her son and other friends when she was about 70. The group skied to Lake Solitude, where Koedt’s son built an igloo for them to sleep in. Koedt affirmed the solidity of its construction: “It was very warm.” 

Koedt attributed her fondness for Wyoming winters to her experiences of Danish winters. 

“I love the snow,” Koedt explained. “I love winter, but Denmark was dark. I love the sun here.” 

She also enjoys the simple pleasures of life, and is a well-known Jackson Hole cook. 

In 1967, after Koedt and her family had lived in Jackson for over a decade, she and her husband opened a restaurant known as the Mangy Moose Spaghetti Emporium. The cafe was one of the few restaurants located near the ski slopes to provide sustenance to both skiers and locals, and Koedt herself worked as a cook. 

The cafe developed a unique menu which combined Danish dishes and American cuisine, serving Danish sandwiches known as smorrebrod alongside spaghetti and hearty soups and stews. 

The Mangy Moose has since grown to become one of the most popular hangouts near the slopes, and Koedt, of course has long since retired. 

Fortunately, this talented cook’s recipes are still available in print form. Koedt and several friends collaborated to publish a cookbook entitled “From Smorrebrod to Subs,” which features Koedt’s signature recipes and many original Mangy Moose classics. 

Koedt’s favorite recipe is for pate, a sandwich spread popular in Denmark which can be made from various types of meat. Other favorite foods include salmon and any variety of potatoes, as well as dark chocolate and red wine. Koedt jokingly attributes her long life to the last two.

She had some additional tips for longevity.

“Eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, always be happy,” she said. “Don’t hold grudges.” 

Relationships with family and friends also form an integral part of Koedt’s life. Though her husband has passed away and her children do not live nearby, Koedt says that “having someone to love, having your children,” is the most important part of life. 

Despite her years, Koedt still maintains an incredible level of activity and vibrant energy, as well as a good sense of humor. She loves to be outside, regardless of the weather, simply being present in nature, and has a fondness for tulips and wildflowers. Koedt remains active in her community and enjoys forming friendships with people of all ages. She often spends time with friends, sharing drinks and memories, and enjoys going for walks and watching local wildlife in and around Jackson Hole. 

Wyoming House Kills Child-Marriage Bill

in News/politics
Wyoming Legislature
3082

A proposal to raise the legal age for marriage in Wyoming to 18 died Friday in the state House.

Representatives voted not to introduce HB 67, sponsored by Rep. Charles Pelkey. D-Laramie.

Pelkey, who unsuccessfully offered a similar bill during the Legislature’s general session last year, said people who marry under the age of 18 face legal limits on what they can do. He also noted domestic violence and divorce rates are often higher among those who marry before the age of 18.

The bill was part of a wider effort seen around the world, Pelkey said.

“What I’m trying to do in Wyoming is to be part of a global effort to put a cap on the age of marriage at at least age 18,” he said. “Even Saudi Arabia right now is trying to take steps to eliminate child marriage.”

But Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, said there are often many factors involved when people marry young that the proposal did not take into account.

“I think that reality and life get in the way of what would otherwise, one would hope, be a straightforward, direct situation,” he said. “It’s a more complex set of circumstances, often.”

People in Wyoming can now get married at the age of 16 or younger with court permission.

Bill Sniffin: Old Pilot, New Jet Planes Meet-Up at Quiet Airfield

in Column/Bill Sniffin
3078

By Bill Sniffin

There are old pilots. There are bold pilots. There are NO old bold pilots. – old flyer saying

One of the curses of being a private pilot for 30 years is a bad habit called “airport bumming.” This is where, even when you are not flying anymore, you tend to like to hang around airports.

Wyoming is full of wonderful airports for us older flyboys.  I tend to like the smaller ones like Evanston, Rawlins, Worland, Sheridan, Hulett, Lander and the old one at Thermopolis.  Bigger ones with scheduled airline service are fun, too, but have much higher security in place.

Not long ago, we found ourselves in Washington State visiting our son Michael, his wife Lisa, and their four children.

They live in a little town called Warden just south of Moses Lake where we stayed at a motel. Inevitably I started gravitating toward the local airport, which has the distinction of being perhaps the biggest airport in the country without regular airline service.

But, wow, did I get an eyeful as we drove out to Grant County International Airport.  Almost as far as the eye could see were 221 Boeing 737 Max airliners, lined up, and stacked almost on top of each other.

It appears that since Boeing (which originally started as a Cheyenne company) kept making the ill-fated 737 Max models in Seattle, even though they were grounded, needed some place to store them.

Moses Lake was famous during World War II for storing bombers and training bomber pilots. It has the second longest runway west of the Mississippi River. Vandenberg AFB in southern California is the only one longer. Both were certified as landing sites for the NASA shuttle program.

The planes stacked up in Moses Lake were valued at $6 billion.  The tails and paint schemes were impressive.  I was able to get pretty close and snap some videos and photos. These airliners are scheduled for delivery to just every continent.  Many were headed to India and China and a bunch were colorfully painted with African paint schemes.  One was reportedly earmarked for an Arab sheikh.

Later on I chatted with some weekend staff hanging around in the main terminal. They said the first 737 Max flew in and damaged its engines because of the volcanic residue left over on the pavement from the 1980 eruption of nearby Mount St. Helens.

Boeing immediately instituted a vacuuming plan where every inch of the vast aprons were scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed again. One janitor in the terminal laughed that you could eat off those pavements.  The subsequent jets were flown in and then the engines were shut off immediately. Then the planes were towed into place. The engines all had elaborate covers on them.

The airport was famous during World War II for the way they stored bombers.  They were put in a “Christmas tree” formation, which maximized how many planes could be stored there.

The reason the 737 Max was grounded was because two planes crashed, one in Ethiopia and one in Indonesia. In both cases the pilots had little experience with 737s and the new computer system caused them to make the wrong decisions killing everyone aboard on both planes. It is assumed that American pilots, who have lots more experience with the regular 737, did not have similar problems.

Originally, the “fix” planned for the planes called for each plan to be jacked up off the ground and the engines fired up.  Then the techs will “fool” the plane’s computer into thinking it is flying and then tweak its program to eliminate the glitch.  Once was done, the plane would have been given a test flight and then flown off to its original customer

The whole 737 Max fiasco cost the Boeing Company its CEO and probably billions of dollars.  But the  $80 million (each) planes are hoped to be flying again by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, I had wandered over to a different part of the Moses Lake airport where a giant bright red 747 was parked. It was being retrofitted with some different kinds of engines. Not sure what its ultimately use was going to be. 

So far, there is just one 747 being used as a fire retardant bomber. Maybe that one was going to be the second one?

Our Washington stay was brief and soon we were back in Wyoming. If you see some guy wandering around your local Cowboy State airport, it probably is some old pilot.  It could be me.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Bob Geha: Wyoming Bill Would Boost Minimum Wage to $7.25

in News/politics
Bob Geha
3066

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

A proposed increase in the state’s minimum wage is awaiting action in the state House of Representatives.

HB 144 would require all businesses in the state to pay their employees at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Wyoming’s minimum wage is now set at $5.15 an hour, but the bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, would see the state’s minimum wage replaced by the federal wage.

The bill would also allow county commissioners to establish minimum wages within their counties that are higher than the federal minimum wages.

Yin said many employers in Wyoming already pay more than the minimum wage because the cost of living in Wyoming is rising.

The bill must receive the support of 40 representatives to be introduced.

Industry Leader: Wyoming Uranium Industry on ‘Its Death Bed’

in Energy/News
Uranium
3061

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

A potential addition to President Donald Trump’s budget for the purchase of domestic uranium might not be enough to save Wyoming’s uranium mining operations, an industry leader said.

“The uranium market has been extremely depressed for a number of years,” said John Cash, Ur-Energy’s vice president of regulatory affairs. “So much so that is not profitable to sell into that market at this point.”

After speaking with White House adviser Larry Kudlow, Gov. Mark Gordon recently announced the president is slated to add $150 million to his budget for replenishing the nation’s military supply of uranium.

But Cash said even if the funds were approved, new uranium enrichment facilities would need to be built, which could take up to 10 years — precious time the industry might not have.

“The uranium industry is on its death bed,” said Cash, whose company operates a uranium mine in south-central Wyoming. “We’re already shutting down most everything. We can’t wait any longer.”

Domestic market

Wyoming leads the nation in uranium production with about 665,000 pounds produced in 2018, which was about 78 percent of America’s production, the Wyoming Mining Association (WMA) reported.

Unfortunately, Cash said that production was down to about 200,000 pounds in 2019.

“At one time, the U.S. produced 30 million pounds of uranium a year,” he said.

RELATED: Wyoming radio personality Glenn Woods explores former uranium town Jeffrey City

Humans have used uranium for centuries in products such as paint pigments, but today, most uranium is used to generate electricity at nuclear power plants. 

Militaries use uranium to create high-density, armor-piercing projectiles, armor plating for tanks and to power naval vessels. 

On the civilian side, uranium radioisotopes are used in smoke detectors and ballasts for yachts and airplanes, according to the WMA. 

The U.S. is home to 98 nuclear power reactors and houses the world’s largest fleet of nuclear-powered naval vessels, but Cash said the nation doesn’t produce enough uranium to power even one nuclear reactor for more than a few months.

“America’s nuclear reactors consume about 50 million pounds of uranium each year,” he said. “Each one of those requires about 500,000 pounds of uranium a year to operate.”

Flooding the market

Uranium is most commonly sold as the compound U3O8 and fetches about $25 a pound on the global market, WMA Executive Director Travis Deti said. 

“The problem is a pound costs about $35 to $45 to produce here in Wyoming,” Deti explained. “Countries like Russia, China and Kazakhstan have basically flooded the market with cheap uranium, because they don’t have the same regulations American companies do, and their operations are heavily subsidized by their governments. They’ve effectively driven the U.S. out of the domestic market.”

Further complicating the issue is the fact the uranium potentially purchased for military use by the U.S. if Trump’s budget addition is funded would need to be converted and enriched. 

“It all starts off the same when we mine it and process it into yellowcake, or U3O8,” Cash said. “From there it has to be converted into UF6 uranium hexaflouride. The U.S. has only one conversion facility in Metropolis, Illinois. And that facility shut down in 2017.”

After conversion, the uranium is enriched to increase its concentration of the isotope uranium-235, needed to sustain a chain reaction. 

The natural concentration of uranium-235 in ore is usually less than 1 percent.

For commercial nuclear reactors, the uranium-235 content needs to be about 4.5 percent, for military applications, it needs to be above 90 percent.

“We have no domestic enrichment facilities anymore,” Cash said. “At this point, we have no physical structure (in the U.S.) to enrich uranium for our military.”

One uranium enrichment facility does exist in New Mexico, but it is owned by foreign governments, which are legally prohibited from enriching uranium for U.S. military uses, Cash explained.

“The story is there is effectively no uranium mining in the U.S. — the numbers in 2020 will be near zero — our one conversion plant is shut down and we have no enrichment facilities at all,” he said. “Our ability to supply our military or nuclear power plant fleet domestically is gone.” 

Congressional efforts

In 2018, Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels, another uranium producer, asked the U.S. Commerce Department to investigate the effects of foreign-owned firms’ uranium imports on America’s national security.

In support of the request, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso led congressional efforts to press for the investigation, a spokesman for a Senate committee said in an email.

When the Commerce Department determined the imports did pose a threat to national security, President Trump created the Nuclear Fuel Working Group to look into uranium producers and the nuclear energy industry.

Serving as chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Barrasso was among several Republican senators who sent a letter to Kudlow calling for the Nuclear Fuel Working Group to help America’s uranium producers, EPW Communications Director Mike Danylak wrote.

“Barrasso has been personally engaged with the White House throughout the Nuclear Fuel Working Group’s process to highlight the important role uranium mining plays in Wyoming,” Danylak said. “Maintaining a vibrant American uranium industry is a critical economic issue in Wyoming and a vital national and energy security issue for our entire country.”

With help from Barrasso and the Trump administration, uranium could make a comeback, but Cash said the industry will need time.

“At $150 million a year, that could support about 2.5 million pounds of uranium production annually,” he said. “It’s likely Wyoming mines would get a pretty good percentage of that.”

But with no conversion or enrichment facilities available, the U.S. would need to purchase and store the uranium.

“I think what would happen is the conversion facility would be incentivized to open back up and convert the uranium, so it could be stored,” Cash speculated. “And it would need to be stored until an enrichment facility could be built.”

Without the revenue from annual purchases, Cash said the U.S. uranium industry would collapse before an enrichment facility could be built. 

Deti said the president’s budget addition could revive Wyoming’s uranium operations, but nothing is set in stone.

“We haven’t passed a budget in this country for years,” he explained. “Where the rubber hits the road is whether Congress authorizes and appropriates the money. It’s a good step in the right direction, but we’ll have to see if Congress follows up.”

Bob Geha: Taxpayer Bill of Rights Legislation Introduced

in News/Taxes/politics
Bob Geha
3059

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

The state’s voters would have to approve tax increases and higher debt levels under a measure introduced in Wyoming’s House.

House Joint Resolution 2 proposes an amendment to the state’s Constitution that would require voters to approve tax increases by any governmental entity in the state.

The measure, referred to as the “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights,” was proposed by state Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper.

“This tax increase narrative keeps coming back, it’s the wrong move for our state,” he said. “The other thing this bill does is to put a cap on state expenditures … so that we stop these boom and bust cycles in terms of expenditures. We save more during the boom so we have more in savings during the bust and that means we don’t need the tax increases.”

Gray said if the amendment had been in place years ago, Wyoming would have more than twice in savings what it does now.

To be considered during the budget session, the bill must win the support of 40 representatives. If the bill is approved, a constitutional amendment would be submitted to voters during the general election in November.

Bob Geha: Wyoming State Income Tax Proposed

in Government spending/News/politics
Bob Geha
3050

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would impose Wyoming’s first income tax has been proposed for consideration by the Legislature.

Sponsored by House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly, House Bill 147 would impose a four percent tax on gross income of more than $200,000 a year.

The measure is necessary to continue paying for public services in the state, said Connolly, D-Laramie.

“We have to think about what we need in order to get the revenue we need for the state,” she said. “And it’s not extra money. It’s services that all of us use and at this point, they’ve been paid for by the extractive industries. We need to come up with different revenue streams and this is one of them.”

Connolly said the tax would raise about $115 million a year to be used for funding public education.

The tax would affect only two percent to three percent of Wyoming’s taxpayers, she added.

The bill is awaiting introduction in the House. As a non-budget bill, the measure will need the support of at least 40 representatives to be introduced for consideration.

Barrasso on a Bernie – Trump Election: People Will Reject Socialism

in News/politics
3047

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso said President Trump would beat Democratic candidate for president Sen. Bernie Sanders in a hypothetical matchup.

Appearing on FOX Business News with Stuart Varney on Wednesday, Barrasso said one reason the public won’t vote for Sanders is his embrace of socialism.

“Economic freedom and free markets are the engine of our economy whereas socialism is the enemy of our economy,” Barrasso said. “If you had to choose, I think the American people will stay with economic freedom over socialism any day.”

Varney also asked Barrasso about Sander’s Medicare-For-All plan and how that would affect the health care system in the U.S.

“As a doctor, most doctors are concerned — as they should be — with their patients,” Barrasso said. “And the impact on patients would be terrible. People would end up paying more to wait longer for worse care.”

“Bernie is talking about taking 180 million people — who right now get their health care insurance through work and take a sledgehammer to it. They would lose all of their health care,” he said.

“Yet at the same time, he wants these people to pay for health insurance for illegal immigrants,” he said.

Barrasso said once people understand the specifics of Sanders’ controversial proposal they won’t back it.

Change Orders Boost Capitol Building Construction Cost, but Added Expense Balanced Out

in Government spending/News
State Capitol
3045

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

The cost of construction work on the Capitol Square Project in Cheyenne is expected to run about $30 million over original estimates, due largely to changes in the project, according to state figures.

However, those extra costs were offset by reductions in other areas, keeping the project within budget, said Suzanne Norton, a Wyoming Construction Department project manager.

“We did not increase the budget,” Norton explained. “We just reallocated from within different sections of the budget.” 

The Capitol Square Project involves the restoration and rehabilitation of the Wyoming Capitol and adjacent Herschler Building, as well as the addition of a central utility plant for the two. The state started setting aside funds as early as 2003 for the project, when the cost was estimated to cost about $305 million. 

As of December, the value of contracts for work on the project was set at about $308 million, though that figure did not include requests for proposals currently under review which could increase the overall cost by millions of dollars.

Change orders

The cost of actual construction work on the project — referred to as construction services — was estimated at $223 million in 2015. In 2016, the Capitol Rehabilitation and Restoration Oversight Group first approved construction services contracts with a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) of about $219 million, Construction Department spokesman Travis Hoff said.

Mel Muldrow, a Construction Department administrator, said as of January, the project’s construction services contract were valued at about $248 million.

Increasing construction services costs didn’t happen overnight, but rather took place in increments throughout the course of the project, Muldrow said.

“Any building project — whether you’re remodeling your bathroom or the Capitol building — is going to have unexpected costs,” he said. “That’s why we have the contingency fund built into the overall budget.”

Muldrow said the GMP was slowly increased by a series of 53 change orders submitted between 2017 and 2020.

Change orders are primarily submitted by the contractor as the scope of work changes due to various unknown factors being revealed, such as increased abatement requirements or extended periods of bad weather.

“The way change orders work is you have a standard contract that says here’s what the contractor is going to do,” Muldrow explained. “But that contract is based off an estimate of work needed. If the contract was for the demolition of a single wall, but the contractor opened it up and realized two more walls need to be removed to complete the job as described, that may require a change order.” 

Once submitted, the change order is reviewed by the architect, the program manager, the construction department and if the change order request was more than $100,000, it required approval from the oversight committee, Muldrow said.

‘Shifting money’

Once approved, change orders can range in cost from a couple of thousand dollars to millions. 

Whatever the cost, Muldrow said after each change order, the construction department rebalanced the budget and reviewed new options for the project. 

“It’s a matter of shifting money as we move along,” he explained. “We’re constantly balancing the money.”

Change orders are commonplace on a large project, so options are built into an estimate to give contractors flexibility.

“This project had a number of alternates, and if we needed the money elsewhere, maybe we wouldn’t do some of those alternates,” Muldrow said. “We’d do what we call value engineer the project. We’re not downgrading, but we’re approaching it from an angle we may be able to save money on.”

The paper trail of 53 change orders is thousands of pages long, but Muldrow talked through the process of some of the project’s most and least expensive changes.

Change order No. 1: $3.5 million

Executed Jan. 27, 2017, the project’s first change order was one of its biggest.

“It included 220 tons of structural steel — additional steel needed for the project — which is pretty costly,” Muldrow said. 

Structural steel accounted for $1.6 million of the order and additional concrete added $1.2 million to the total. 

“When they got into the Herschler building demolition, they realized there was a lot more work to be done than originally anticipated,” Muldrow said, explaining the building was torn down to its structural bones. “Of the nine line items in this change order, six are demolition related.” 

In an email, Hoff explained not all change orders had a specific theme.

Change order No. 6: $2.9 million

Whereas most change orders have several line items, No. 6 was executed July 10, 2017, with a single line: structured and audio-visual cabling.

“In this change order, the architect and design group picked what pieces they wanted to install,” Muldrow said. “And when they did that, they issued a change order for a structured cabling package.”

Contractors give vendors a list of work, which vendors use to create a list of materials potentially needed for the job, he explained. Once given contract approval, Muldrow said the contractor returns to the vendor and modifies the parts order to fit his needs.

“The work was scheduled to be done,” Muldrow said, “but a cabling package had not been selected yet.”

Change order No. 11: $6,630

Some change orders remove projects while adding others.

In No. 11, executed Sept. 9, 2017, the allowance for elevator cab finishes for both the Herschler and Capitol buildings was reconciled by an additional $57,278 and more platforms and stairs were added for about $8,000. 

But the change order also removed an approximately $59,000 arched ceiling for the House Chamber. 

“They decided not to do it, creating a credit,” Muldrow said. “At the end of the day, the change order only turned out to be about $6,000.”

Paying the tab

The total for 53 change orders to date is about $29 million, but the budget only set aside $20 million in contingency funds. 

Because project allowances are constantly being reconciled throughout construction, Norton said it’s difficult to determine what projects were abandoned and what options were changed to make up the $9 million needed beyond the contingency funds.

“Those funds are all within the project,” she said. “It’s just a matter of reallocating from line item to line item.” 

Interstate 80 Toll Road Bill Dies Quick Death

in News/Transportation
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If you were worried about Interstate 80 turning into a toll road, put those worries to bed.

A bill that could have eventually turned the oftentimes treacherous 403 mile stretch into a toll road was killed on Tuesday — failing to receive enough votes in the Senate for introduction.

Sen. Michael Von Flatern (R-Gillette) was the primary sponsor of the bill. Von Flatern told Cowboy State Daily in September that without tolling, the State of Wyoming won’t have adequate funds to keep roads maintained.

“We’re losing ground on our roads,” he said in September. “We’re not improving them at all. Right now, we are missing $40 million just to keep the I-80 corridor in its present condition.”

“We’ve skinnied down this budget to a point where our state is not going to be able to manage cuts anymore without cutting services completely and turning many of our roads into dirt roads,” he said.

Interview with Sen. Michael Von Flatern

FCC Chairman Visits Wind River Reservation for Gigabit-Speed Broadband Deployment

in News/Technology
Wyoming broadband
3029

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai visited the Wind River Reservation on Tuesday to tour areas that are receiving funding from the FCC to deploy gigabit-speed broadband.

Wind River Internet is receiving over $4 million from the Connect America Fund Phase II auction to deploy gigabit speed service to 849 rural homes and businesses on the reservation.

“Bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tribal lands can be a game-changer,” said Chairman Pai.

“That’s why bridging the digital divide is my top priority,” Pai said. “I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit the Wind River Indian Reservation today to see firsthand the gigabit-speed broadband deployment. This will be critical to providing those living there with access to digital opportunity.”

The Connect America Fund Phase II auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in the United States.

In addition to the funding that is being made available through this auction, the FCC recently voted to launch the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which will further advance broadband deployment throughout rural America, including on Tribal lands. 

Dave Simpson: I’ve Got Just the Solution for UW President

in Dave Simpson/Column
University of Wyoming
3027

By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight.

About a year ago, trustees from the University of Wyoming got on a plane and flew down to Arizona to interrupt the university president’s vacation with the news that they wouldn’t be renewing her contract.

Surprise! Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

A lot of us were surprised. I think most of us figured Laurie Nichols had been doing OK under some pretty tough conditions, cutting approximately $42 million out of  the university budget in the three years she had been on the job.

We figured Nichols was likely to continue at UW, and maybe things were finally settling down over in Laramie.

When the news hit the papers that Nichols would not be offered a new contract, the reasoning was treated with Manhattan Project-type secrecy. The stories about her ouster made it clear that whatever happened regarding Nichols was one of those personnel matters that qualify for Area 51-type confidentiality.

Some news organizations took UW to court to release details, and that dragged on for almost a year. While that was going on, it was reported that UW had hired a company from Colorado to investigate Nichols, and what they found led to the trustees’ decision.

A judge in Laramie ruled that UW couldn’t keep everything secret. And while UW officials thought about appealing that decision, they ultimately released some details.

They claim there were numerous complaints about Nichols’ management style. She made people feel bad when she chewed them out. One staffer said she threw up all weekend after Nichols criticized her. Nichols allegedly was upset by an international student who helped cater an event at Nichols’ home, and didn’t like Nichols’ dog. We’re left with the image of a short-fused diva who made people throw up.

Nichols, who is now president of Black Hills State University in South Dakota, says that when you cut $42 million out of a university budget, there will be some unhappy campers. And, she says, the UW trustees never let her know about the complaints against her, which violates their own personnel policies. She never got a chance to improve her performance.

Meanwhile, the obligatory “nationwide search” is going on to find the next president of UW, with the help, of course, of consultants. But you have to wonder about anyone who would want the job. The guy two presidents before Nichols lasted six months. The trustees had Nichols investigated without telling her. And they canned her while she was on vacation. Doesn’t sound like the best university president gig out there, if you ask me.

Who do we believe? Nichols? The trustees? The faculty? The food service employee who doesn’t like dogs? The person who threw up all weekend?

I write this as a guy who spent two years at the University of Wyoming (eighth floor of Orr Hall one year, fourth floor the second), but went on to graduate from a small college in Wisconsin. My wife has an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree from UW. My daughter and her husband have degrees from UW. My first newspaper job was at the Laramie Boomerang. We all love Laramie, root for the Cowboys, and have fond memories of UW and the Buckhorn Bar.

That said, I have a suggestion. I think one of our former governors should be asked to take one for the home team, become university president for a few years, and get things settled down over there.

I’ve never met Dave Freudenthal, but he’s got the kind of common sense that would give us confidence that a steady hand was at the tiller, and we could trust whatever he had to say. He’s a Democrat that even Republicans (like me) kind of like. And he looks like he might have some good years left in him.

I met Mike Sullivan once, years before he became governor, and I think he’d make a good choice for this special assignment as well. Again, a common sense, even keel, honest guy.

As a retired guy myself, I’d hate to ask anyone to give up the absolute wonderfulness of retirement. But it seems to me they could do a lot to get the university we all love through these rocky times.

Sundance Winter Festival This Weekend: Racing on Skis, Barstools, Inner Tubes

in Travel
3021

The residents of Sundance have figured out what to do when Mother Nature gives them an abundance of snow.

They use it to race on skis, inner tubes, and even barstools.

The Sundance Winter Festival on Saturday is a mix of activities aimed at creating a little fun in the middle of Wyoming’s long winters, said Reggie Gaylord, who created the event with some of his friends.

“It’s kind of a mixture of what others do out there,” he said. “You know how winters are in Wyoming, they’re cold and boring. We were trying to come up with a fun idea to bring life to Sundance.”

The best known event of the festival, now in its sixth year, is skijoring, where a skier is pulled by a horse and rider along a snow-covered track featuring jumps, slalom gates and rings to be captured by the skier.

In Sundance, after the opening rounds are of competition are completed, the track is changed to make things more challenging, Gaylord said.

“We’ll start building that track on Thursday and by Saturday afternoon, we’ll wipe the track clear and build it again,” he said.

In barstool racing, competitors ride on a downhill track while seated on a barstool with skis attached. Each barstool racing team consists of two members — a rider and a person to push him or her at the top of the track. Competitors are encouraged to make unique sleds and wear costumes for the event.

“That’s all about the costumes and the entertainment,” Gaylord said. “We had some young guys from Laramie build a whole tugboat kind of thing with all-UW colors. We’ve even had saddles put on barstools.”

And what’s the use of having a skijoring course that’s used only for skijoring? The Sundance Winter Festival sees that course used as well for “wild horse and tube races.” 

Two people on inner tubes are pulled down the skijoring course — jumps and all — while carrying a cup of their favorite beverage. The winner is determined by the amount of liquid left in the cup at the end of the race.

All of the festival’s events are free to watch, Gaylord said. Food trucks and vendors will also be present.

Activities begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with skijoring and continue through the day. People wishing to register to compete in events can do so from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Sundance’s Longhorn Saloon and Grill. Registration will continue at 7 a.m. Saturday.

For more information on the Sundance Winter Festival, visit the event’s website or its Facebook page.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon Delivers 2020 State of the State Address

in News/politics
Mark Gordon file photo
3010

By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s economy and its people are strong. That is the central message of Gov Mark Gordon’s second State of the State address.

The governor delivered his speech to a joint session of the Wyoming Legislature Monday morning kicking off the 2020 Budget Session.

“We are strong because of our people,” Gov. Gordon said. “We are strong because we have planned well for challenging times. We are strong because of industries: energy, tourism, agriculture, and the emerging sectors of knowledge-based business and manufacturing.”

The governor said the time has come to have a serious conversation about the budget and the future of state revenues.

“We have savings,” he said. “This means we have time. Not a lot of time. But time to make thoughtful decisions about our future and our budget.”

“The budget I presented you which the Joint Appropriations Committee passed was intended to trigger a serious conversation about future. Ways to diversity our economy and ways to strengthen our state.”

Meanwhile, the governor is pushing for bonuses for state employees. He is proposing one time funding of $20 million and speaks to the value of the state’s workforce.

“We continually need to train new employees who then become better candidates for positions in other states with better pay scales,” he said. “This is unacceptably expensive and it is very costly.  We should be thinking about keeping the people who know what to do and how to do it.”

Gov Gordon was very vocal about the global pushback on fossil fuels which have driven Wyoming’s economy for so many years.

“We produce better energy more safely and more attention to the environment than anywhere else on the planet. And yet our industries are still discriminated against, maligned, and decried as dead,” he said. “Well, not on my watch.”

And the couple hundred million will have to come out of savings to make up the shortfall in education funding.

At the same time, the state will look at readjusting the K-12 funding model.

The governor is also asking the legislature to cut back on capital construction.

Robert Geha, Cowboy State Daily

Cat Urbigkit’s Legislative Preview: State Land Transfers, Wolves, Brucellosis

in Cat Urbigkit/Column
3007

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

The Wyoming Legislature is slated to begin its 2020 session on February 10. It’s a budget session, with a 24-day schedule and adjournment slated for March 12. With about 250 bills prefiled, readers are encouraged to browse the bills on the legislative website and contact their legislators to discuss their views.

Here’s a sample of what is being proposed.

House Bill 5 would give drivers the option of paying an additional $20 for a digital driver’s license and identification card. The applicant would be able to provide this digital license upon being stopped by an officer.

House Bill 13 would establish a sage grouse mitigation credit program to be administered by the state board of land commissioners.

House Bill 22 would prohibit counties, towns and cities from requiring allocations of affordable or workforce housing as a condition of development.

House Bill 28 would prohibit governmental entities from operating or participating in firearm buyback programs.

House Bill 33 would increase production requirements to $3,000 for land to be qualified as agricultural land for taxation purposes.

House Bill 35 would provide $90,000 for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to develop a compensation program for wolf depredation on livestock in the area of the state where wolves as classified as a predatory animal.

House Bill 37 would allow the Wyoming State Land Board to develop an expedited process for the exchange of state lands (initiated by the lessee of the state lands) for private lands on a value-for-value basis, for the purpose of facilitating legal access to state or federal land.

House Bill 99 would allow livestock producers whose animals were quarantined for brucellosis containment efforts to submit a claim to the Wyoming Livestock Board for actual expenses related to the quarantine.

This bill is especially timely in that federal animal health officials switched their brucellosis testing protocols last fall, and the result was that producers in Montana and Wyoming experienced an elevated number of brucellosis reactor-level test results.

Of the 80,000 head of cattle tested for brucellosis in Wyoming’s fall run, there were 25 cattle in 16 total herds that were found to be “non-negative” for brucellosis. Those herds were then quarantined, but follow-up testing allowed quarantines to be lifted on 11 of the 16 herds.

According to Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan, in late January there were still three Sublette County cattle herds, and two Park County cattle herds, remaining under quarantine.

A Senate bill (Senate File 6) proposes to allow state transportation officials to establish a tolling authority for Interstate 80 has been filed.

The Joint Judiciary Interim Committee has proposed putting some teeth into the state Ethics and Disclosure Act. Senate File 9 would expand the scope of the existing ethics law to cover local governmental entities and state employees, and substantially increase penalties for violation of this law.

Those convicted of using public office for private benefit, or of misusing the office, would be subject to penalties of up to fines of up to six months imprisonment and $750 for misdemeanor violations (where the total value of the benefit was less than $1,000), or imprisonment of up to 10 years and $10,000 for felony violations (wherein the total value of the benefit was $1,000 or more).

The Joint Education Interim Committee has proposed changes to the state law regarding student absenteeism and truancy. According to the revisions proposed under SF15, any parent, guardian, or custodian of a child violating compulsory attendance rules could be fined up to $150, and a child subjected to willful absenteeism is defined as a “neglected child” pursuant to the Child Protection Act.

Senate File 31 would require the University of Wyoming to prepare a yearly report on the land grant mission of the university, reviewing its ag department budget, accomplishments, and staffing and the benefits of the college to Wyoming’s agricultural economy.

Senate File 75, sponsored by the Select Water Committee, would change the process for applications for instream flows. Under the proposal, upon receiving an instream flow recommendation from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, the Wyoming Water Development Commission (WWDC) would file for a permit for instream flow, to be followed by a public meeting in the local area. The WWDC could then select the instream flow segment for further study, or may disqualify that segment and withdraw the application. Interestingly, the bill notes that any selection or disqualification “shall be specifically exempt from all provisions of the Wyoming Administrative Procedures Act” so that the final WWDC is final and not subject to appeal.

Senate File 81 would allow for livestock brand renewal up to a period of 50 years (up from the current 10-year maximum).

Senate File 83 would amend existing law regarding budget and financial data reporting to require financial transaction information to be published on the internet – not just for state, county, and municipal governments, but for all special districts, airport boards, and any other political subdivisions.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Don Day: Weekend Weather Forecast for Wyoming

in weather
2982

By Don Day

Wyoming’s weatherman Don Day looks ahead to the weekend with his weather forecast.

Don’t have time to watch the video? Here’s a rough transcript:

It’s Friday, February 7 you are watching to the Day Weather podcast.

The strong and moist jet stream winds coming in from the Northwest continue to slide through Wyoming and Colorado.

One and two feet of snow were reported in the mountains of southern Wyoming and northern Colorado last night.

Two feet of snow was reported at Jackson Hole Ski Area. In fact, Teton Pass is closed for avalanche control.

Some avalanche conditions around Alpine Junction, Wyoming. And we have avalanche warnings in affect for the mountains of central and northern Colorado.

The mountains will see probably see another foot of snow today, tonight, and early tomorrow.

For the lower elevations, a little bit of good news for some areas if you don’t like the snow. It does not look like the heavy snow will get into Cheyenne — probably about 1 -3 inches.

You can see the northwest to southeast trend of where the snow is falling. And notice the snow wants to fall in the mountains and close to the mountains. but we also have this wedge of snow extending into the I-25 corridor of Colorado and the I-70 corridor of Colorado, so you Front Range podcast listeners it looks like you might be receiving a bit more snow than expected. As the heavier snow has shifted more south than west.

This pattern will continue to produce snow and snow showers over the near mountains today and tonight but only light amounts once you get east of the Divide.

As we look forward, we see another system. This is the next system that comes late Saturday night and Sunday.

We have another chance for a little bit of light snow in the central and northern Rockies. But the amount isn’t very heavy.

There’s another little wave diving in with the jet stream from the northwest that will bring a shot of colder air to Colorado and Wyoming Saturday night and Sunday. And maybe a little more in the way of light snow.

This is the current jet stream pattern that we’re in right now.  This is going to continue to keep systems coming in from the Pacific Northwest and western Canada and riding thru the western United States.

Our pattern is going to remain active. And the door is open to Canada to keep us cold.

We will see the general trend of plain old-fashioned winter weather. Nothing brutally cold but just chilly and more episodes of snow chances will roll through the Rockies and High Plains off and on throughout next week.

There is nothing that we see that would bring a major snow event our way — just remaining wintry pattern.

Temperatures over the next 10 days. Huge contrast between the central and eastern United States and the colder wet conditions across the western United States.

That’s how things are trending.

Thanks for watching!

Wyoming Coal Bankruptcies: Who is Responsible for Reclamation?

in Mining/News
2979

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Since 2015, six coal companies operating in Wyoming have filed for bankruptcy, causing some to question who will be responsible for reclaiming the defunct operations’ mines. 

However, Wyoming coal mining rules that recently underwent a significant update will protect the state against having to foot the bill for any reclamation left uncompleted should a mine simply walk away from its obligations, state officials said.

Shannon Anderson, a staff attorney with the Powder River Basin Resource Council, said her organization has concerns about future reclamation, given declines in the coal industry.

“With potential coal mine closures, we’re concerned a lot of that reclamation yet to occur won’t have funding,” she said. “Coal mine economics continue to deteriorate. Coal generation is at its lowest level since 1975, and these are trends that are probably not going to reverse.”

The resource council was founded in 1973 to advocate for responsible energy development, and Anderson said tracking reclamation efforts was a top priority for the organization in 2020.

“We’re three to four decades into coal mining now,” Anderson said. “And, there’s still a lot of land that hasn’t been reclaimed yet.”

According to a report released by the Western Organization of Resource Councils, more than 234 square miles of coal-disturbed land is unreclaimed across the West with Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota accounting for the vast majority of the unreclaimed lands.

“Luckily, Wyoming has been revising its bonding rules,” Anderson said. “But, we still have a lot of work to do.” 

Contemporaneous reclamation

Coal reclamation is the recovery of mined land for use by other industries and the public, said Kyle Wendtland, a Department of Environmental Quality Land Quality Division administrator. 

As companies move their mining operations forward, they reclaim previously mined areas, which lowers the cost of reclamation, Wendtland explained.

“For surface coal mines, reclamation is concurrent with the mining, or contemporaneous,” he said. “As you expose the coal through creation of a pit and extraction of the resource, that pit advances, and then, the prior pit is backfilled.” 

After backfilling and contouring a previously mined tract of land, mining companies add top soil and seed it as the first phase of the reclamation process. By phase two, the land is often already back in use, Wendtland said.

“Typically, most of this land will go back to agricultural production of some sort,” he said. “In phase two, you’re usually seeing it used for some sort of livestock or wildlife grazing or hay production.” 

The land must be in phase two for at least 10 years before it is eligible for release in phase three, DEQ spokesperson Keith Guille said. 

“Ensuring the companies follow the reclamation procedure is our responsibility,” Guille said. “We have inspectors go out to these mines once a month to ensure they’re meeting requirements.” 

All Wyoming mines are currently in compliance with the DEQ’s reclamation standards, he added.

Bonding process

To receive a mining permit from the DEQ, a company must post a reclamation bond, a performance obligation guaranteeing the permittee will return the land to a natural state. 

“The idea is the bond itself is a financial number of what it would cost for a third party to reclaim the mine,” Guille explained. “It’s like insurance.”

The most common form of bonding is a surety bond.

“Many companies pay premiums to a surety company, which in turn says they will cover them for this much of the bond if by chance they were to walk away,” Guille said. 

In 2019, Wyoming tracked more than $2.4 billion in surety bonds for coal and non-coal reclamation, according to DEQ documents. 

Self-bonding is the second most popular bonding method in Wyoming and concerns organizations like the resource council most. 

“Self-bonding is when you have a company that has a really high credit solvency,” Wendtland said. “And, they’re saying they have sufficient assets in the company that even if they fail, they’ll pay for the reclamation.”

Wyoming tracked more than $400 million in self bonds for coal and non-coal reclamation in 2019 of which $297 million was designated specifically for coal, DEQ documents state. 

Prior to 2015, the state held more than $2 billion in self bonds for coal.

Following guidance provided by the governor’s office, Wendtland said the DEQ reviewed its bonding policies when coal mines started filing for bankruptcy.

“We took the ‘hard look’ at our rules and did a rewrite,” he said. “Gov. Mark Gordon signed that new rules package in May 2019. Right now, Wyoming is the only state that’s undergone the rigorous process of doing that.”  

Under the new rules, self bonds can be used for up to 75 percent of a company’s bond amount and are accepted based on a credit rating rather than the previous system, which used on-balance sheet ratios. 

The changes are working well, Guille said, and the DEQ is confident the state will not have to cover bankrupt companies’ reclamation costs in the future. 

“We strengthened the rules to protect the taxpayers, the state and the companies,” he explained, adding no further changes are in the works. “We believe we’re at a point that we don’t need to be changing things around anymore.”

By the numbers:

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality reported about 184,000 acres of land in Wyoming are listed as disturbed by coal operations. 

Fixed facilities — shops, haul roads and rail spurs — account for approximately 38,000 of the overall acreage.

Active mining pits account for about 40,000 acres. 

Leaving approximately 107,000 acres in various phases of reclamation.

The DEQ reported all coal mines are in compliance with Wyoming’s reclamation requirements.

Bill Sniffin: Terror Tales of Winter Driving on Wyoming’s Snow-Packed Roads

in Column/Bill Sniffin
2980

By Bill Sniffin

The Summit, Elk Mountain, and The Sisters on Interstate 80. Laramie Peak on Interstate 25. Separation Flats north of Rawlins. South Pass southwest of Lander. Antelope Flats north of Jackson. The list goes on and on.

These are just a few of the places where anxious people drive during Wyoming’s often-horrible winter weather.

In the wake of what has been called The Super Storm (since it started in parts of Wyoming on the night of the Super Bowl) blanketed most of Wyoming and closed half of its roads, traveling has been treacherous.

Scary moment of pileup in Wyoming caught on live feed

No details sent with, just that it was team drivers in a Wyoming pileup..no word on how the driver is doing yet..anyone know them? Turn Volume up

Posted by Twisted Truckers on Monday, February 3, 2020

Following are some winter driving stories that I wanted to share:

Once we were driving on black ice on Interstate 25 south of Wheatland when we were passed by a one-ton pickup pulling a big horse trailer.  In all my travels, the fastest drivers in the country (maybe in the world) are Wyoming folks driving pickups pulling horse trailers. Man, they really skedaddle down the road.  Do not worry about passing one – it is impossible to keep up with them.

On this day, though, we went over a hill and there was that same pickup and its trailer jack-knifed in the center median. The people were okay and someone had already stopped. My assumption was the driver might have needed to change his pants after that hair-raising experience.

As a father of three daughters, I really enjoyed the following story by Julia Stuble of Lander, who shared with me a winter driving trip she experienced some years ago:

“I was a brand-spanking new journalist at the Pinedale Roundup and was sent to a scintillating meeting in Marbleton. A storm was brewing.

“I was in my trusty pickup with my border collie. By the time the meeting had ended, the roads were blanketed with feet of new snow and visibility was zero.

“I tried to get through to Pinedale the north way, but couldn’t even see the mile markers on the side of the road and had no clue if I was on a road. Same for the southern route across to Sand Draw.

“I turned around back to Marbleton / Big Piney. It was a boom year, so there were no motel rooms available. None of the motels even had staff around. Envelopes with room keys were taped to the doors with the names of the future—all male— occupants. I considered taking one of these keys and stealing a room, but that seemed cruel to the rig workers and maybe a little risky. I knew no one.

“So I zipped the dog into my down vest, bought candy at a gas station (fatty foods would keep us warm, I figured) and crawled into the sleeping bag my Dad insisted be kept in the truck. We spent a cramped night, occasionally clearing away the exhaust pipe to run the heater. Early in the morning, with the rig workers headed out to Jonah, there would finally be tracks to follow down the highway, so we crept home to Pinedale.

“It took hours, but remains one of those hallmark moments of my early 20s, when I figured out I could survive most anything as long as I had the dog, a truck, a sleeping bag, and gas station junk food.”

Julia suggests we all remember that great advice from her dear old dad, which is good for all of us driving these Wyoming roads in winter.

Long-time Wyoming journalist and broadcaster, Bob Bonnar of Newcastle, writes:

“I once slid slowly off the highway in the middle of a snowstorm on the Big Horn Mountains above the Medicine Wheel on my way home from the final regular season football game in Lovell. I was by myself, but fortunately the rest of the Newcastle coaching staff came along. They had a couple of hefty linemen with them. The boys pushed me out and I made it down the mountain.

“I never ended up spending the night in the car- which is lucky for the guy who wears shorts 365 days out of the year- but that was a time I sure thought I would get a chance to enjoy the igloo experience!

“Now that I’m older and wiser – and still wearing short pants – if I sniff a bad one coming, I pull over and get a room.”

Cheyenne Attorney Darin Smith recalls a harrowing experience on Interstate 80: “One January night I left my parents house in Rock Springs headed back to UW. As I was turning onto the Interstate I saw this hitchhiker freezing and clearly hoping for a ride.

“I felt compassion for him and picked him up. He had been laid off and was going to Denver to find work. He had two little kids and a wife back home in Rock Springs. They had run nearly out of food and rent money.

The weather was horrid just east of Arlington and we got in a bad accident with a flatbed semi. My truck was totaled. I walked away unscathed. The hitchhiker was hospitalized and laid up for a month.

“The silver lining was that my wonderful mother, Margie Smith, was able to reach out to this man’s family and meet their needs for food and rent until they got back on their feet. She was like the Mother Theresa of Rock Springs!”  

It will be interesting to hear the amazing and horrible stories of folks driving around Wyoming in February 2020 on these snow-covered roads.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Sleeping Giant Ski Area to Close After Season Ends

in News/Recreation/Tourism
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The mountains of western Wyoming and eastern Idaho, along with southern Montana and central Colorado, are meccas for people of all ages who love the thrill of sliding down the hillsides at high speeds.

Skiing can be expensive, however, and one non-profit organization is struggling with providing affordable access for families while keeping the books in the black.

Otto Goldbach is a member of the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, the board responsible for the Sleeping Giant ski area near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. 

The board announced recently that Sleeping Giant would close for good after this spring’s ski season, but Goldbach and other board members are hoping that they can find a way to extend the hill’s life by a few years through more volunteer hours and fundraising.

Goldbach pointed out that the ski hill is more than just a winter recreation area.

“It’s a community center that happens to have some ski lifts on it,” he said.

The hill, which was first opened in 1930 as the Red Star Ski Area, had closed in 2004, but a community effort brought it to life again in 2009. 

“Some really generous donors came in and put in the new infrastructure, remodeled the lodge, put in a new lift,” Goldbach said.

Sleeping Giant is a relatively small ski hill – with just 900 vertical feet and 184 skiable acres, it lacks the “excitement” that draws more experienced skiers to Montana’s nearby Red Lodge, just an hour north of Cody, or just a bit farther away to Jackson or Big Sky, also in Montana. 

But the family-friendly lift ticket prices ($16 for children 6 to 12 and $42 for adults) and programs such as free skiing for fifth graders make it a draw for local residents.

While the foundation has a broad base of support in nearby Cody, it hasn’t been able to raise enough funds to balance the budget and the facility is running at a $200,000-per-year deficit. 

Goldbach said the board has tried to think out of the box for ways to keep Sleeping Giant open, including constructing a zip line that has low overhead with a higher rate of return.

However, that tactic hasn’t been enough.

“They tried to get the revenue off of the zip line to pay for the ski area,” Goldbach said, “but it hasn’t been performing like it was hoped.”

Sleeping Giant isn’t the only ski area that’s facing hard times. The snow sports industry nationwide is facing downturns tied to changes in the weather patterns. 

According to a report released in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, there’s been a 41 percent drop in snowfall amounts across the American West since the early 1980s. 

But Goldbach said the hurdles they face at Sleeping Giant are more than just fewer snow days.

“It’s a tough industry,” he lamented. “You’ve got bad years, you’ve got competition from other ski areas and other sports that are going on.”

Wyoming Weather: Don Day Forecast for Wednesday

in weather
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This is a rough transcript of Don Day’s video podcast for Wednesday, February 5, 2020.

There’s a lot going on weather-wise.

Today, the wind is going to be picking up across the region. It will cause a concern for travelers as blowing and drifting snow is already a problem along I-80 and I-25, especially I-80.

We are in between weather systems today so it’s going to be fairly quiet. We’ll still have to deal with the gusty winds across the state again.

We go into Thursday and Friday, we’ve got another winter storm to talk about.

We have a unique combination of very strong jet stream winds bringing in Pacific winds and moisture and cold air on the ground working together to bring snow to most of the state and region.

The jet stream’s trajectory is coming off of the Pacific off of southern British Columbia and is diving south right across Wyoming and Colorado going right over the Continental Divide.

This is bringing in copious amounts of Pacific moisture right into the heart of the Divide and what’s also impacting things is that we’ve gotten colder. We’ve got cold air packed up along the Divide.

The strong jet stream winds cause the atmosphere to lift. The atmosphere is lifted even more over the mountains that squeezes out the moisture. The cold air provides a little bit of upslope along the Divide.

The pattern of northwest to southeast flowing jet stream winds produces a band of snow that goes right under it — it shadows it.

The snowfall forecast through Saturday morning — the snow is trending northwest to southeast across the area. That’s how the bands are setting up.

The pink and purple you see on the map over the mountain areas — this is going to produce a tremendous amount of snow in the Snowy Range and the Sierra Madres of Wyoming. 

Also the Big Horns, the Wind Rivers, the Yellowstone Plateau, and the Jackson area.

The purple area here from Casper to Laramie to Cheyenne to Saratoga and Rawlins and all the way to Denver.

This is a bit of different animal compared to what we’ve had lately. This snow will fall late Thursday, Thursday night, and into Friday and Friday night.

But across the northern half of Wyoming — the Big Horn Basin along the I-90 corridor. It will start as early as tonight.

While the snow in this area will go into full force on Thursday afternoon and overnight Thursday into Friday morning.

There will be tons of headaches for travelers, livestock interests — be prepared for cold, wintry weather conditions again.

These snowbands will migrate east and west. They will wiggle a little bit. This is what the model thinks the heavier snow will be. But the band could end up further east or west.

Right now, this is a good representation of where we think the heavier snow will fall.

The snow will move out by Saturday morning. But another small system could produce snow again on some areas on Sunday and Sunday night.

The hits keep on coming folks. The 10 day forecast. We are highlighting temperatures relative to average.

It will be very warm in the eastern and southeastern United States. You’ll hear on the news how there’s no winter going on. 

But look out west from the Dakotas to the Rockies even out to California. By next Friday, notice the severe cold that will continue. This not a little blip, this is a pattern that will be persistent that will go for the next week to 10 days.

We’ve got a lot of tough sledding to get through. If you are a snow lover, you’ll love this forecast for the next week to 10 days.

C.J. Box’s “The Highway” to Become Television Series

in News
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By Mike McCrimmon, Cowboy State Daily

A book by Wyoming author C.J. Box will be turned into a television series by ABC, Box has announced.

In an exclusive interview with Cowboy State Daily, C. J. Box said his book “The Highway” will be turned into a series called “The Big Sky.”

Box called “The Highway,” about a long-haul trucker who is a serial killer, the “creepiest thing I ever wrote.”

“(The television series will) be dark and scary,” he said. “A lot of people who have read it say it is one of the creepiest things they’ve ever read. The pilot I read scared me, even though I knew what was going to happen.”

Filming for the series is to begin in March and resume in the summer.

Box is known for his “Joe Pickett” novels about a game warden in Wyoming, but “The Highway” focuses on a private investigator from Montana.

The rights to a number of Box’s books have been purchased for production, he said, but none have resulted in a movie or television series until “The Highway.”

“Actually, (it’s) kind of gotten comfortable, into a groove, where these people in Hollywood give me money and don’t make anything,” he said. “And it’s not so bad.”

Box said he hopes the series leads to increased book sales.

“If there’s a series, it’s great advertising for the book,” he said. “It’s not as lucrative as it used to be in entertainment, because there’s a million TV channels and streaming services. But with this network show, that will get a lot of eyeballs and hopefully some of those people will be interested in reading the book.”

Executive Producer of the upcoming series, David E. Kelley told Variety that “…the series is described as a procedural thriller about private detective Cassie Dewell, who partners with ex-cop Jenny Hoyt on a search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana. But when they discover that these are not the only girls who have disappeared in the area, they must race against the clock to stop the killer before another woman is taken.”

C.J. Box has been outspoken about luring production companies into Wyoming. Last year, he was disappointed with the Wyoming State Legislature for its failure to pass a bill which would provide incentives for companies to shoot films in Wyoming.

WYDOT Spends 30% of Budget to Keep Wyoming Roads Clear During Winter

in News/Transportation
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Maintaining Wyoming’s roads through the winter is costly and complicated by high elevations, but innovation and preparation help the state keep ahead of the weather, a Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesperson said.

“As soon as you enter Wyoming, you start to climb in altitude,” WYDOT Public Affairs Manager Doug McGee said. “Especially with Interstate 80, it’s essentially a 400-mile-long winter pass. The entire stretch is above 6,000 feet in elevation.”

WYDOT expects to spend about $28 million on winter road maintenance — about 30 percent of its annual budget — in fiscal year 2020, which began in July 2019, said WYDOT Chief Engineer Shelby Carlson. 

In 2015, WYDOT’s winter maintenance costs were about $21 million, but between 2016 and 2020, the costs have fluctuated between $26 million and 32 million annually.

“We’ve had some pretty major storms in these last years,” Carlson said. “It all just depends on the levels of moisture we get. During drought years, the costs are lower.” 

Aging equipment and increased interstate traffic are also contributing factors, she added.


RELATED VIDEO: Watch WYDOT Clear Snowy Range Road

Know when to hold ‘em

WYDOT annually maintains about 6,700 centerline miles, a road measurement that includes all lanes in a single stretch of pavement.

Interstates 80, 25 and 90 account for about 900 centerline miles.

According to WYDOT documents, the majority of 2020’s winter maintenance costs are nearly evenly split between labor, budgeted for $9 million, materials, budgeted for $8.6 million, and equipment, budgeted for $9.6 million. Contractor services and miscellaneous costs are budgeted at about $755,000.

“We have a lot of snow plows, tow plows and rotaries to help us clear the roads,” Carlson said. “And we use chemicals, sand and liquids to remove the ice and snow.”

In all, the state owns 400 conventional snow plows, 18 rotary plows and seven tow plows, a trailer-mounted plow towed behind a plow truck, she said.

However, WYDOT Director Luke Reiner, a retired U.S. Army Maj. General, said keeping Wyoming’s roads safe isn’t just about manpower and equipment.

“Part of keeping those roads open is knowing when to close them,” Reiner explained. “We’ve learned the hard way over many years that preemptively closing roads to allow our crews to get in there and do the work saves lives.”

Closing Wyoming’s major thoroughfares for any reason costs transport companies millions of dollars by the hour, but Reiner said WYDOT discovered closing the roads as soon as a storm hits can reduce overall closure times.

“The road is closed for a shorter time, because there’s no crashes to clear,” he said. 

Beet juice and barn wood

Plows might be WYDOT’s most recognizable snow-removal method, but the department uses a variety of other strategies to combat winter conditions, Carlson said.

“Our materials costs include salt and sand, salt-brine solution, magnesium chloride and beet juice among other things,” she said.

While some de-icers like salt-brine solution freeze at 6 degrees below zero, WYDOT’s beet juice solution doesn’t freeze until the temperature reaches 26 below zero.

“It’s a byproduct of the sugar beet processing we have here in the state,” Carlson said. “And it’s more ecologically friendly than some other solutions.”

WYDOT also uses snow fences to prevent drifting in high wind areas.

“A snow fence is constructed of wood and set perpendicular to the wind to break up wind turbulence, causing the snow to deposit at the fence,” Carlson said.  

The fences, typically 10 to 12 feet tall have been used by WYDOT since 1971. Depending on the fence pattern, the fences can cost $400-600 per panel, but maintenance pays for itself.

“Because there is a market for weathered wood, we have contractors pay us to maintain the fences,” Carlson said.

Contractors pay the department to replace the fencing’s old planks with new ones, so they can sell the weathered planks to the growing “barn wood” market.

The state owns nearly 450 miles of snow fence, but Reiner said WYDOT is looking to increase that mileage.

“We’d like more,” Reiner said. 

Carlson added, “A whole lot more.”

Dave Simpson: Strike ‘Heartland’ From the OK List

in Dave Simpson/Column
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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Those of us who live in Flyover Country are in big trouble once again with our more evolved bi-coastal cousins. 

Dang, we’ve gone and done it again, Ma. Another ding-dong faux pas.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (and did it ever take me a while to learn how to spell THAT name), who is proud of the fact that he polled his campaign staff to see if they have suffered “micro aggressions” while in his employ, has nevertheless stepped in it big time by using a term that many of us did not realize is politically incorrect.

(The How Dare You Scolds need to put out a weekly newsletter so that we can all keep up with what suddenly is NOT OK to say. It would be a big help.)

It seems that Mayor Pete, despite his many good intentions as he runs for president, got himself into a pickle (unacceptable food-group cultural appropriation?) when he claimed to have some kind of special virtue in his “vision shaped by the American Heartland.”

To our surprise out here in the Big Empty (I think it’s still OK to use that term), the word “Heartland” is apparently now on the Official Do Not Say List, because it has been deemed a “dog whistle” (a subtle indicator of bigotry), a micro-aggression, and – as is everything else Democrats don’t like – racist. (I knew they’d get around to that last one.)

For years now, we have heard the term “Flyover Country.” And if folks like us, who live in Flyover Country, were in the habit of telling other people how to talk (we aren’t), we might call the term Flyover Country a dog whistle, implying that we are backwoods, unsophisticated hicks.

Since the term Flyover Country has been used for years, I think of it less as a dog whistle, and more of a fog horn of coastal superiority. It has pretty much entered the lexicon.

(I once lived in an area of Illinois that some called the “Heart of Illinois,” because of its upper middle of the state location. But wags – every zip code has them – pointed out that it was more like the “Pancreas of Illinois,” or the “Gall Bladder of Illinois.” We won’t get into what organs or body parts areas of Southern Illinois might be dubbed.)

So anyway, a Buttigieg critic pointedly asked if living in Compton, Cal., might also provide a “vision shaped by the American Heartland.” And a journalist who said she grew up out here in whatever you can still call where I live, dubbed our area the “land of casseroles, county fairs and Friday night bingo.” She can apparently say this, having somehow escaped living where I live, and not be accused of dog whistling. But it sure sounds like dog whistling to me, even though my hearing isn’t what it used to be.

For the record, even though I live in deepest Flyover Country – you can hardly even see the planes flying over my back yard, they’re up so high – I have not been to a county fair in decades. I don’t play bingo. (Yet.)  And casseroles are not on the South Beach Diet.

Amazing, isn’t it, what you can get away with saying in these otherwise contentious times, if your political beliefs are dubbed correct. For the rest of us, it’s open season.

Now Buttigieg will have to apologize for where he was born, and the color of his skin, his faulty “vision,” and probably some other stuff we haven’t thought to be outraged about yet. The only thing he won’t have to apologize for is being gay, which is gangbusters with the How Dare You Scolds.

Since they are mildly derogatory terms, it is probably still OK to refer to where I live as “the Big Lonesome,” “the Big Empty,” “the Corn Belt,” “the Sticks,” “East Bum Something or Other,” “Rubesilvania,” and my favorite, “Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.”

The acceptability of these terms could change at any time, however, so keep a close eye on the How Dare You Scolds for guidance.

In the meantime, so long from Out Where the Buses Don’t Run.

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in
Cheyenne.

Wyoming’s Economy: Trona is Bright Spot for Wyoming Mining

in Mining/Trona/News
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Hidden from sight beneath Sweetwater County’s rolling hills, thousands of miners dig for Wyoming’s top international export — trona.

“We have four different companies mining underground beds of trona between Green River and Rock Springs,” said Travis Deti, the Wyoming Mining Association executive director. “The mines are actually quite the sight to see. It’s like a whole little city down there with machine shops, bathrooms and roads.” 

A sodium carbonate compound, trona is processed into soda ash, which is used in baking soda, glass making and cleaning products such as laundry detergent.

Wyoming is home to the largest trona deposit in the U.S., and the Sweetwater mines produce more than 17 million tons of trona annually, Deti said.

“We export about 50 percent of that right now, and I do think you’ll see the demand go up in coming years,” he added. “It’s really a bright spot for Wyoming mining right now.” 


RELATED VIDEO: Gigantic Drill in Wyoming Trona Mine

Unlike coal, trona doesn’t need to trudge through red tape before being exported.

“Coal is an energy material and has emissions, but trona doesn’t have those issues because you’re exporting it to create products, not to burn for energy,” Deti said. “There’s not a lot of politics surrounding trona and soda ash.”

Natural vs. synthetic

Soda ash produced from trona rock competes against synthetically produced soda ash to meet global demands, said David Caplan, communications director for Genesis Alkali.

“Synthetic soda ash is created with a chemical process and fills about 75 percent of the worldwide supply,” Caplan said. “Natural soda ash makes up the remaining 25 percent. But it has a lot of environmental advantages over the synthetic product.”

The process to produce soda ash from natural trona rocks requires less energy input, thus creating less greenhouse gasses, he explained.

In the U.S., soda ash is primarily used to create glass products and baking soda. In years past, North American laundry detergent companies used soda ash as a key component of dry detergents, but Caplan said consumers shifted toward liquid detergents and pods, which are created with significantly less soda ash.  

“In the U.S., we have a mature market — the average household uses 17 pounds of soda ash each year,” he said. “In developing countries trying to industrialize, you’re seeing soda ash use of less than 5 pounds per household per year. So, there’s a lot of room left for growth.” 


RELATED VIDEO: Another Gigantic Drill in Wyoming Trona Mine

Genesis Alkali’s products are shipped to Southeast Asia, Central America and South America, he said. 

“With the growing popularity of Mexican beer over the last decade, we’re seeing a lot of our international products — primarily the glass bottles — come back into the U.S.,” Caplan said. 

With a potential for a strong future in growing markets, the industry is continually evolving, developing new technology and reducing inefficiencies.

“Through technology and engineering, we’re able to improve our yields,” Caplan explained. “But one challenge we spend a lot of time researching is trying to ensure we have ample water. We use a lot of water, and we have to keep an eye on that.”

Supporting Sweetwater

Employing more than 2,000 workers, Wyoming’s trona industry plays an integral role in both the Green River and Rock Springs economies.

“Trona is the life blood of this community,” Green River Mayor Pete Rust said. “It’s the reason Green River has the second-highest median income in the state.” 

More than just jobs, the industry injects spendable income into the local economy, allowing other industries to thrive, Rust said. 


RELATED VIDEO: A Look Inside a Wyoming Trona Mine

But as the state works to diversify its energy portfolio, he said new hurdles have popped up.

“Recently, there’s been some interesting kinds of challenges with new interest in solar farms,” Rust said. “There’s some potential conflict of interests with these new developments that take up quite a bit of space.”

Deti said the energy and trona industries have to work together to ensure surface development doesn’t “sterilize” access to the minerals below. 

“I think it’s all about striking a balance,” he said.

In Rock Springs, Mayor Tim Kaumo said trona is equally critical to the city’s survival. 

“We’ve already got a black eye from the decline in coal,” Kaumo said. “If we were to ever lose trona mining, it would be extremely detrimental.”

That situation seems unlikely, however, and instead, he said the city is seeking to capitalize on the potential growth of soda ash demand.

“We’re trying to capture more of the manufacturing side so we can entice businesses to come to Sweetwater County, take advantage of the in-place infrastructure and produce products generated by the trona patch,” Kaumo said.

Cat Urbigkit: Grizzly Bears, Cattle, and the Tangled Web of Activism

in Cat Urbigkit/Column
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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

In more of the same-old-predictable strategy, there have been two notices of intent to sue over conflicts between grizzly bears and cattle in the Upper Green River region of the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Here’s a quick overview of that issue, then we’re taking a deep dive into who is threatening to sue.

Grizzly Decision

As the Forest Service authorized continued livestock grazing in the Upper Green, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Biological Opinion concluded: “In this biological opinion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) concludes that the anticipated adverse effects resulting from the issuance of grazing permits by the Forest for the Upper Green River Rangeland Project (the proposed action) for a period of 10 years (2019 through 2028) will not jeopardize the continued existence of the grizzly bear.

The Service reached this conclusion after reviewing the rangewide status of the species, the environmental baseline within the action area, and evaluating the effects of the proposed action and cumulative effects. The grizzly bear population within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has exceeded recovery goals and continues to expand into new locations, including into the Allotments.

The recovery and continued population expansion has occurred concurrent with the Forest implementing many of the actions described in the FEIS. This means historical activities, which are comparable to the proposed action, have had little to no discernible effect on the population’s trend toward recovery, and we do not expect continuation of these activities to reverse the trend.

“Based on population trends and the number of removals over the last nine years, the incidental take statement exempts a total of 72 grizzly bear mortalities over the 10-year timeframe of the proposed action. … Although we anticipate some level of take of grizzly bears primarily due to management removal within the allotments, it is our opinion that the proposed action will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of grizzly bears.”

Grizzly Bears country

Notice to Sue

The first notice of intent to sue comes from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, and Western Watersheds Project (WWP).

The second notice comes from the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club.

While most of these groups are familiar, a few aren’t so recognizable. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies is an admittedly small group based in Montana, with one staffer (Michael Garrity) and with a Board of Advisors that includes Earth First! co-founder Howie Wolke (who spent six months in a Sublette County jail a few decades ago after pulling up survey stakes for a drilling location in the Hoback), and anti-grazing activist and writer George Wuerthner. So that group is a good fit with their partners at WWP.

Y2U

The Yellowstone to Uintas Connection (Y2U) is a relatively new name, so I did a quick internet search that took me down a rabbit hole. Y2U opposes livestock grazing in the Upper Green.

According to an article, Jason Christensen is the Y2U director, and is the foster son of anti-grazing activist John Carter.

Carter served on the board of WWP for years, and is now part of an effort to get the US Forest Service to regulate the use of livestock guardian dogs as part of livestock grazing permits, and is pushing for state laws requiring working dogs be spayed, neutered, microchipped, undergo mandatory veterinary checks, etc. Considering Carter’s long-time activism against livestock grazing, some may hold skepticism for his motivations.

The article noted that Carter lives “with his dogs on a 824-acre conservation easement created by Y2U in Paris, Canyon Idaho. The property, dubbed Kiesha’s Preserve is explained on the website kieshapreserve.org.” That website notes: “Going forward, as we acquire additional funding, more land will be purchased and set aside in conservation easements. This will ensure permanent protection of the Preserve and enable it to continue to provide essential ecosystem services to the surrounding communities.”

The Preserve

The preserve appears to be mostly serving as a private preserve for Carter, but it accepts financial contributions which its website notes are not tax deductible. The preserve website adds, “You can also support our work with our partner Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, for example, our Forest and BLM road closure and fencing projects. These are tax-deductible.”

Thus,Y2U uses tax-deductible contributions to retrofit the preserve’s fences for Carter’s private playground. And one of the Y2U board members is a fencing contractor. According to the preserve’s website, they’ve spent about $150,000 on the preserve’s fences so far.

Who is on the board of Y2U? The eight-member board includes: John Carter; retired Florida real estate saleswoman Susan Warren; Warren’s Alaska-based son Guy Warren; retired Utah State University wildlife ecologist turned cattle-critic Barrie Gilbert of Canada; Paris, Idaho-based fencing company owner Jeremiah Mattson; political activist Jack Greene of Utah; and two other people who also serve on both the board and staff.

The Y2U six-member staff includes three people who also serve on the board. John Carter is listed as both a staff member and a board member. Carter’s foster son Jason Christensen, the director of the organization, is a staff member also, as is his wife Kandis.

According to Y2U’s 2018 tax filing (the most recent year available), Carter’s son and daughter-in-law were paid staff members for the organization, and of the organization’s $90,000 in revenue received that tax year, $70,000 went to salaries or other compensation for staff, while another $4,000 went to professional fees or payments to independent contractors.

Who owns the Preserve?

That Carter lives on a 824-acre preserve “created by Y2U” (a group that Carter founded, and for which he serves on both board and staff, and two of his family members are also listed as staff) was intriguing, so I searched further. Y2U claims that it “created” the preserve, and “manages” the reserve where Carter lives. But recent tax documents indicate Carter still owns the property.

I found a document that Carter had written that describes his purchasing a 20-acre rural subdivision parcel, then was disgruntled that other people could do the same, so he started buying more parcels.

The undated prospectus document explains “I am seeking funding to retire the development rights and place the property into a conservation easement.” Carter provided a sworn statement to a federal court about his ownership of the preserve last year.

In a 2017 letter to the U.S. Forest Service from the Yellowstone to Uintas Connection, Y2U noted it also represented “KM Ranch LLC, owner of 914 acres of private land along the Paris Canyon trailing route to the project area. Most of this property is set aside in a conservation easement to protect and restore the winter range and sage grouse habitat that occurs therein.”

According to Utah public records, KM Ranch, LLC was registered in Utah from 2007 through 2016, doing business as Kiesha’s Reserve, and was voluntarily dissolved at that time, at which point it became registered as a business entity in Idaho.

John Carter is the registered agent for KM Ranch, LLC in both states. While in Utah, the mailing address for this business entity was the same as Y2U’s address, and in Idaho, the address between the business entity, John Carter, Kiesha’s Preserve, and Y2U are all the same.

It is unclear what entity holds a conservation easement for the preserve property. Idaho tax records reveal tax assessments were issued to KM Ranch, LLC in 2018, covering about 12 parcels totaling 867 acres, and mailed to the Carter/Kiesha’s Preserve/Y2U address in Paris, Idaho.

Y2U’s website claims Kiesha’s Preserve totals 1,034 acres protected through conservation easements and “The preserve is now managed by Yellowstone to Uintas Connection.”

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Don Day: How the Approaching Storm Will Impact Roads in Wyoming

in weather
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Wyoming’s weatherman Don Day says the forthcoming winter storm will highly impact travelers across the state. This could mean more road closures as we’ve seen over the past few days.

Day says the storm will begin affecting travel Sunday night and last through mid-day Tuesday.

That means much colder temperatures, snow, and blowing snow are all likely. Many areas of the state will drop well-below zero, he said.

Appropriate for Super Bowl Sunday, Don Day turns into a modern-day John Madden in his YouTube video with his own version of a telestrator.

You can watch the telestration (below) or we’ll walk you through it:

Sunday through Early Monday

Northern Wyoming

By sundown, expect to see snow forming along the Wyoming-Montana border near the Sheridan-area, Cody, Powell, and through the Yellowstone Park area.

Western and Central Wyoming

By midnight tonight, snow will expand to western and southwestern Wyoming. Snow will then move east through South Pass, into Lander, Casper, and near the Douglas areas.

By sunrise Monday, snow will be reaching Rock Springs and Green River.

Eastern Wyoming

Tonight through the morning hours on Monday, areas of fog and freezing drizzle will develop along and south of the Laramie Range impacting I-25.

Fog and freezing drizzle will also impact the summit between Laramie and Cheyenne and to both the Nebraska and Colorado state lines.  Look out for icy conditions on Sunday night and early Monday.



Monday Morning Through Mid-Day Tuesday

By Monday afternoon, all of Wyoming will experience snow, blowing snow, and falling temperatures. 

Look for snow throughout Carbon County and the south central portions of Interstate 80 including Rawlins, Laramie, Saratoga, and the Shirley Basin.

Expect considerable blowing and drifting of snow on Interstate 80 between Wamsutter and Rock Springs with strong winds.

Strong winds will also cause considerable blowing and drifting of snow along Arlington and Elk Mountain and between Laramie and Cheyenne on I-80.

Blowing snow will also occur along I-25 from Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning and out to the Nebraska and South Dakota border.

For more information, visit WyoRoad.info or call 511.

Bill Sniffin: Here in Wyoming, Lives the Wealthiest Man in the World

in Column/Bill Sniffin
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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

We have all seen this Wyoming guy.

He doesn’t look rich.

But if you examine his life and measure his level of happiness, there is a compelling argument he could very well be the richest man in the world.

This is a man who loves the outdoors.  He loves to hunt and fish. He loves to explore.  He just happens to have a few gadgets around (his wife calls them “toys”), which are not necessarily new, but he keeps them in good repair.  He loves tinkering on them.

This rich man lives in Worland or Cheyenne or Laramie or Rock Springs or Evanston or Riverton or any other Wyoming city or town.  He gets up early each morning to greet the day with a big smile because he is in total control of his universe.

The day starts off with coffee with his buddies.  They meet every  morning,  rain or shine, and spend an hour telling tall tales to each other and a few off-color jokes.

Let’s call this guy Joe.  With all due respect to the University, we might even call him Cowboy Joe because he is a big fan of UW and is rarely seen without some kind of brown or gold apparel that reads WYOMING or COWBOYS.

Joe does odd jobs and controls his schedule.  His wife has a good steady job with good benefits and good retirement. They are pretty frugal and have saved up a little money. They enjoy Wyoming’s outdoor experiences together.

It is well-known that Joe married “up,” which means he found himself a very good wife. People say his wife should not put up with all of Joe’s hobbies, but she accepts them with a smile, because she likes them, too.  They are active in their church and people count on them to help out during times of need in the community. They are always there for others at such times.

Folks like Joe are among the richest people in history.

Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett or some Arab sheik may think their lives are better than Joe’s, but do not try to convince Joe. He would not trade his place on the planet with any of them.

He and his wife encouraged their kids to study hard and qualify for scholarships because extra money was hard to find. The kids qualified and they also worked during their years at UW. They graduated almost debt-free. They then taught their kids to be thrifty and to appreciate the finer things in life, such as the joys available to them in Wyoming’s great outdoors.

Joe and his wife are the best grandparents in the world. They take their grandkids fishing, hunting, and camping. They have lots of time to spend with them and are never in a hurry.  They listen to the kids’ problems because often the kids’parents are too busy trying to make a living.

At some point, one of Joe’s children will lecture the old man about how if he had worked an extra job or invested in the stock market, he probably would have ended up rich. And when he is 70 he would have time to do all the fishing and hunting he might want to do. 

Joe looks at him and shrugs.  You can almost tell that he is thinking, rather than argue over this it is probably time to go fishing.

The Cowboy Joe described here is a stereotype of a lot of people I know in Wyoming. I wish that I could have been more like him.  In business, my wife Nancy and I have tried to get it all done but I missed out on a lot because of pressures associated with running a number of companies. Sure would have liked to have spent more time hunting, fishing, and camping.

Perhaps the closest I ever came to the perfect life was when I aspired to be a newspaper publisher at a young age.  I made it at age 24 here in Lander, which was sort of incredible, at least to me.

A friend back in those days invited Nancy and me to dinner where a third man showed up and gave us a pitch about how we could make all this money with some kind of multi-level marketing sales scheme. I think it was Amway.

“Just think, Bill,” the man exclaimed. “If you make all this extra money, you can be whatever you ever wanted to be!”

My answer to him was: “Sorry, but I already am what I always wanted to be.”

Now that is what Joe would have said had he been asked that question. 

Transparency: State Ombudsman Should be Empowered to Resolve Public Record Disputes

in Column/CJ Baker
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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

Wyoming lawmakers and Gov. Mark Gordon deserve real credit for their efforts to improve citizens’ access to public records in 2019.

Revisions to the state’s public records law — approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor — set a definitive 30-day timeline for turning over records and created a new “public records ombudsman.”

We were excited about the addition of an ombudsman, hoping they could help avoid expensive court fights when information seekers get into an argument with a government agency over what information is public.

But it was dismaying to hear last week that the office may actually have little power to sort out disputes.

The new law says that, just like a judge, the public records ombudsman can deliver “a determination as to whether the custodian [that is, the government] has demonstrated good cause” for withholding any particular record.

However, the state’s first public records ombudsman, Ruth Van Mark, told members of the Wyoming Press Association on Friday that there’s some uncertainty as to how her office is supposed to handle disputes. For instance, Van Mark is not a lawyer, so there’s been some concern that she shouldn’t be giving anyone any legal advice.

And while Van Mark believes she needs to make a determination as to whether a particular record is public, the governor’s office is still working to figure out how to do that “within the confines of the law.”

“There’s some disagreement as to whether the act actually gives the ombudsman the authority to make opinions, issue opinions,” Van Mark said. It’s possible, she said, that her role is more to try persuading information seekers and government agencies to come together and meet in the middle.

Van Mark made very clear that the question has yet to be settled, and she has only been on the completely new job for a few months, so it would be premature to jump to any conclusions. But we suspect it will take more than persuasion to settle the kinds of disputes that are most likely to come before the ombudsman.

We’ve found local government officials and employees are, as a rule, open, transparent and helpful. For that reason, the disagreements over public records typically arise in some of the stickier situations and grayer areas of the law. For instance, would the release of an internal investigation into a government employee’s misconduct be in the public’s interest, or “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” and thus confidential?

Governments are loathe to release any information that could possibly be construed as being part of an employee’s confidential personnel, in part because of concerns about liability. And that means prying any kind of employee information out of a government agency can require hiring a lawyer and paying high legal fees.

Here’s an example. In 2013, the City of Laramie hired a former mayor as recreation manager, and questions were raised about her qualifications for the job. When Laramie officials refused to release any information about her work history, the Laramie Boomerang went to Albany County District Court and ultimately won a ruling saying that such basic biographical information was a public record.

However, when the Powell Tribune later cited that opinion in seeking the resumé of a disgraced police officer, a City of Powell attorney told the Tribune it would need to get a separate order from a Park County District Court judge.

These are the kind of disputes that we hope an ombudsman can resolve.

To be sure, we appreciate Van Mark’s approach and her willingness to help anyone with a question about public records — and we appreciate the Legislature’s decision to create a position dedicated to helping bring public information to light. But ultimately, it will be a profound disappointment if the ombudsman lacks the power needed to settle tough disputes.

Sections of Interstate 80 in Wyoming Closed Due to Multiple Accidents

in News/Transportation
2883

More accidents on Interstate 80 on Friday morning has led the to closure of the Interstate between Laramie and Cheyenne.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation reported that the accidents occurred near milepost 331.

Courtesy: Wyoming Highway Patrol

More than 20 vehicles reportedly were involved in the accidents and injuries were reported.

As of 8am, the estimated opening time for the section of the road is between 10 – 12 hours.

WYDOT and the Wyoming Highway Patrol are diverting eastbound traffic onto the westbound lane to clear the area.

Winter weather is impacting other parts of the interstate. I-80 is closed eastbound between Rock Springs and Rawlins due to winter conditions. The estimated opening time is unknown.

Meanwhile, looking at screenshots from WYDOT’s web cameras — which you can access here — the closed section of Interstate 80 looks like a ghost town without a vehicle to be seen (except one).

Along I-80 between Elk Mountain and Laramie, I-80 is closed to light, high profile vehicles due to gusting winds.

“Update on the crash involving multiple vehicles on Interstate 80, the Wyoming Highway Patrol tweeted at 10:04am. “Emergency crews are beginning to transport drivers and passengers involved in the crash and who are not injured back to Laramie, Wyoming.”

Wyoming Legislator Says Bill Prohibiting Gun Buyback Programs is “Goofy”

in News/politics
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By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

A bill submitted to the Wyoming Legislature would prevent cities, towns, counties and state agencies from initiating gun and ammunition buyback programs.

There hasn’t been a gun or ammo buyback program in Wyoming in recent memory, if ever.

But House Bill 28 comes at a time when buyback programs have been discussed and tried in other parts of the United States. Gun rights enthusiasts became concerned when Beto O’Rourke, the one-time Democratic presidential candidate, proposed a buyback of high-powered rifles.

“It’s not really a concern right now, but if it is ever a concern where organizations such as government — whether it’s local or state — are starting to do this in Wyoming, I want to make it as painful as possible to be able to peel back our pro-gun legislation,” said sponsor Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance.

Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, said he agreed to co-sponsor the bill because he wants to protect the Second Amendment.

“My thinking on it, when I read the bill, is it’s a gun rights thing for me,” he said. “I don’t think government should get involved in going in and confiscating someone’s firearms under the Second Amendment.”

However, Rep. Sara Burlingame, D-Cheyenne, called the bill “goofy.”

She noted that the 2020 legislative session will be focused on the budget, and lawmakers are staring at diminishing revenues this year.

Non-budget legislation will need a vote of two-thirds of either the House or Senate before it can even be sent to a committee, a protocol designed to defeat many bills to keep the lawmakers focused on the two-year budget bill.

“I think our budget is in crisis,” Burlingame said. “We’re going into a budget session that’s meant to be all-hands-on-deck to deal with it. I would never question the motives of my colleagues who are sponsoring this, but I just don’t see the urgency for spending time in a budget year for a hypothetical crisis that seems very unlikely to occur.”

The legislative session begins Feb. 10.

Favorite Super Bowl Recipe in Wyoming? Ground Beef

in Food and Beverage
2862

On Tuesday, Google released a list of the top recipes that Americans have searched for in the last week to determine the most popular Super Bowl foods in every state.

Just yesterday, we noted that cows outnumber people by a 2-1 margin in Wyoming.

So is it really a surprise that Wyoming’s favorite Super Bowl main dish has ground beef in it?

Some apparently think ground beef is boring.

One individual tweeted, “Just ludicrous that the whole state of Wyoming could only come up with ground beef as their Super Bowl recipe.”

Others on Twitter seemed to be genuinely offended at our favorite Super Bowl recipe.

“What the hell is Wyoming doing serving plain ole ground beef?” tweeted Mr. Ray785

“What the hell Wyoming? Just cooking ground beef and not doing anything,” said Anthony Merkle. 

Hey Anthony, how do you know we’re not doing anything with the ground beef?

I just Googled “ground beef recipes” and immediately found 70 recipes with ground beef in them like Cheeseburger Pizza, Pesto Bolognese Lasagna, and Grilled Cumin-Rubbed Hanger Steak with Smashed Minty Peas and Grilled Bread.

You read that right, Anthony. Maybe some of us are making Grilled Cumin-Rubbed Hanger Steak with Smashed Minty Peas and Grilled Bread on Super Bowl Sunday.

Sure, ground beef on its own may not be flashy. But let’s examine some other states.

Let’s start with our neighbor Idaho. Their favorite Super Bowl side dish? Potato.

Really, Idaho?

Another neighbor of ours – Nebraska – prefers Cream Cheese Jalapeño Hamburger. 

How is it even possible that a sizable number of people in Nebraska even know what that is? They say the N on the Cornhuskers football helmet stands for knowledge so maybe it’s correct.

Our neighbor to the north picks Bacon Shrimp as their favorite appetizer. That’s solid.

And New Mexico selects Green Chicken Enchilada as their favorite main dish. Another worthy selection.

But if Wyoming is going to be criticized for picking ground beef then the critics must denounce Alabama and Indiana as well. Chicken. That’s the best they can do?

Ground beef is ‘Merca. I know that because Sam Elliott says it is. It’s what’s for dinner. Wyoming rules.

Wisconsin High Schooler Asks Legislators: “Does Wyoming Exist?”

in News/politics
2849

By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

The email sent to the 60 members of the state Legislature could have been ironic, maybe even a little condescending — coming from a Wisconsin high school senior who claimed his Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics teacher had asked him and his classmates to prove that Wyoming does not exist. 

“If you, as a State Assembly Member, could confirm that the State of Wyoming does not exist, this would be extremely helpful in our endeavor,” the teenager wrote. 

The wisecracks get old – about Wyoming not existing on the map, Wyoming having more horse than car parking, Wyoming having a higher population driving along Interstate 80 to exit the state than people who call it home. 

Transcending the impulse to hit the delete key, Rep. Sara Burlingame, D-Cheyenne, turned the question back at the Wisconsinite: “How can we know any of us exist?” she replied.

“In the great state of Wyoming our AP students have been exposed to Plato and his concept of the Great Plane of Being,” she continued. “I don’t mean to cast aspersions on your fine school but I can’t assume that you’re familiar, as you would be had you attended a school whose state consistently ranks in the top 10 nationally.”

Ultimately, the point of Burlingame’s four-paragraph argument was that it’s impossible for people to prove with certainty that they exist. And if someone were to take the argument to its logical conclusion, the Wisconsin high school student is off the hook for his assignment. 

“If none of us really exists, then why does he have to do his homework?” Burlingame later said. “He doesn’t.”

Burlingame described the all-too-common feeling of defensiveness of her beloved home, and the angst when other people try to describe it. 

The director of Wyoming Equality, Burlingame has been asked if she’s been to “Brokeback, Wyoming.”

“This is probably true about most Wyomingites,” she said. “I have a little chip on my shoulder about, ‘Don’t feel bad about your state, you could be in Wyoming.’ Or, ‘Is there anything there?’ What teacher thought this was a good idea for a school kid to be snotty about a small, rural state?”

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, chose a reply that was not extremely helpful to the Wisconsin student’s endeavor. 

“It’s actually true,” he said. “We’re a government conspiracy. I’m in a bunker outside the D.C. area. Just don’t tell anyone.”

Zwonitzer then attached a video from the “Garfield” cartoon

“There’s no such place as Wyoming,” the orange cat says, pointing to a map of the state. “Think about it: Have you ever met anyone from Wyoming?”

Burlingame chose to end her reply on a serious note — with a Wyoming plug. 

“PS- You should check out the University of Wyoming – it’s a solid school, highly ranked and our constitution mandates that it be as close to free as possible. http://www.uwyo.edu.” 

Wyoming Beef: Big Marketing Opportunities with Farm-to-Table Movement

in News/Agriculture
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Cattle outnumber people nearly two-to-one in Wyoming, but buying beef identified as locally raised can be a challenge, a Wyoming Stock Growers Association spokesperson said.

“These animals often get shipped out as calves, and they might even come back as yearlings, but they lose their identity as Wyoming beef,” said Jim Magagna, the Stock Growers Association’s executive vice president. “You may have eaten a lot of them throughout your life, but you’d never know it.”

A trickle-down affect of the farm-to-table trend is an American curiosity about where food comes from and a desire to consume locally produced vittles. This curiosity is increasing the demand for both small and large meat processors in Wyoming, Magagna said.

“I don’t know that (beef processing) was ever less common,” he said. “We’ve always had a good array of small processors throughout the state. But we’ve never really had processing on a level where we were providing volume of product.”

That could soon change.

Niche demand

Up until two years ago, Magagna said Wyoming didn’t have any beef processors inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture. 

State-inspected facilities can ship products throughout Wyoming, but not across state lines. USDA-inspected facilities can ship their products anywhere within the U.S. and internationally.

Nowadays, the state is home to two USDA-approved facilities, another is transitioning from state-inspected to USDA-inspected and two more are in the construction phase, said Ron Gullberg, the Wyoming Business Council business development director.

“In 2018, the ag marketing bill — Senate File No. 108 — looked at the data saying Wyoming beef is a dominant industry, but it’s not a value-added industry,” Gullberg said. “It’s a commodity industry. So, we’re looking at how we can work to develop strategies to bolster processing in Wyoming.”

Last summer, the Business Council initiated a beef study that could provide beef producers and processors information essential to capitalizing on Wyoming branded beef products, he said.

“We’re asking the question, ‘How big can we go to fill a niche demand for Wyoming beef?’” Gullberg said. “(The study) has  three parts: Market opportunities,  opportunities for offal or byproducts of the processing, and workforce.”

The study is slated to be completed within a few weeks, but not everyone is waiting for the results.

Homefront processing

Born and raised in northeast Wyoming, Kelsey Christiansen grew up around meat processing.

“When I was young, my dad and grandfather ran a small butcher shop,” Christiansen said. “That caught my interest, then in college, I got a job working at the meat lab at the University of Wyoming. That really pulled it all together for me.”

With 15 years of experience in meat processing, Christiansen decided to open his own USDA-inspected meat processing plant — the 307 Meat Company in Laramie.

“If we’re one of the leading cattle-producing states in the nation, then we should be able to eat our own meat,” he said. “Most all the cattle leave the state to be harvested. Hopefully, we’re making a move to change that.”

The plant is not operational yet, but Christiansen said he plans to open its doors this spring. 

“My main focus of my business plan is to be a service company and a private label company,” he explained. “Whether you have a 100 head of cattle or 15, you can bring them to us, and we’ll process them and put your labels on them exactly how you want.” 

While most ranchers send their cattle out-of-state to large-scale processors, because shipping in bulk is more economical, Christiansen said there is a growing interest in small-scale operations.

“There is a massive shortage in small meat processors to do work for the little man,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for Wyoming and the beef industry as a whole. I think you’re going to see a change in dynamic across the state with a couple more processors coming on line in the near future.”

Opinion: We’ll Walk Across Hot Coals to Re-elect Donald Trump

in Dave Simpson/Column
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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

So, what have non-coastal, common-sense folks like us – odoriferous Walmart shoppers, wearers of hats with ear flaps,  purveyors of homespun wisdom – learned from the presidency of  Donald Trump?

What do we think out here in the Big Lonesome?

Some thoughts:

On his first day on the job, Trump should have fired everyone he could legally fire.

“Thanks for your service,” he should have said. “Good luck in your new careers as lobbyists, top-level hangers on, and screaming Trump critics on CNN and MSNBC. Don’t let the door hit you in the caboose on the way out.”

It would have caused chaos. The media would have screamed like mashed cats. Imagine getting along without the deputy undersecretary of the assistant to the administrator of the counsel on incredibly important affairs. But the festering boil would have been lanced.

Instead, Trump kept a lot of people in place, and many have proven to be knife-wielding scoundrels who were (and still are) itching to betray him. Did you ever think you’d see accounts of presidential phone calls to foreign leaders leaked to the press? I didn’t. Did you ever think an anonymous staff member would write an opinion piece for the New York Times, claiming to protect us from the dangerous man we stupidly elected president? I didn’t.

And some of these back stabbers are still on the payroll.

Saboteurs, even civil service saboteurs, can’t be tolerated. They have done terrible damage.

The guy who spent 15 years firing people on TV should be firing leakers in his administration.

We have also learned in the Trump years not to get in the way of Congress when it’s spending billions. (Borrowed billions.) All Trump did was delay sending $400 billion to the Ukraine, and ask some questions about corruption. Isn’t that a good thing?

But, it resulted in impeachment in the House and trial in the Senate. At a time when we’re already $23 TRILLION in debt.

We all know there are different rules for Democrats, who are the passionate love interests of the media, and Republicans, who are hated by the media. In Ukraine’s struggle with Russia, Obama sent blankets and meals ready to eat. Trump sent missiles. And Trump gets impeached for somehow abusing Ukraine. Go figure.

Joe Biden can be seen on video telling Ukrainians that $1 billion in U.S. aid would be held up unless they fired a prosecutor. We’ve all seen it. And yet, the adoring media says any suggestion that Biden did anything wrong is a “debunked conspiracy theory.” But, Trump gets impeached for maybe doing what we SAW Biden doing. (Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.)

Does anyone remember the word “debunked” being used in reference to Obama’s lie that if we liked our doctors we could keep our doctors? How about that $2,500 he said we would save?

Why aren’t those promises dubbed debunked?

We have also learned that asking questions about corruption in Ukraine is off limits for Republicans. And questioning Joe Biden’s son making $50,000 a month, or maybe $83,000 a month, from a Ukrainian gas company is way out of line, and none of our business. So if your dad is running for president, any sweet deal you can come up with is nobody’s business. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Say what you want in defense of the Bidens, but a guy making $50,000 a month, or maybe $83,000 a month, will never fly out here in Flyover Country.

(Fifty thousand a month would buy you one heck of a bass boat.)

Most stark of all, Barack Obama, who killed hundreds of terrorists with drone strikes, was a hero for giving the go-ahead to kill Bin Laden. But Trump’s decision to kill Iranian terrorist Gen. Qassem Soleimani was immediately dubbed an “assassination” by hysterical, hair-on-fire Democrats, who then passed a meaningless House resolution to limit Trump’s war powers.

Funny how that works.

Looks to me like there’s only one way to win this stacked-deck deal with the Democrats and their liberal media pals:

Flyover Country folks like us have to be ready to crawl over broken glass and hot coals to get to the polls in November.

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in
Cheyenne. Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Bill Sniffin: Is it Really 2020? Reflections on a Half Century in Wyoming

in Column/Bill Sniffin
Financial advisor Bryan Pedersen.
2847

Is it really 2020? Back at the turn of the century (yeah, 20 years ago at 2000), our little town put together Project 2020, which was a guide for the town’s future.

That Project 2020 is the topic of a future column, but my point here is that we are now at that far distant place that we used to identify as “the year 2020.” 

My wife Nancy and I are very active and I just continue to deny how old we are – we keep busy, we keep working, and we keep traveling.  No slowing us down yet.

But this column is about growing older and also watching my beloved Wyoming grow older.

Heck, I have been around so long I worked on the original Wyoming Futures Project back in 1986. That Futures Project was headquartered in tiny Ucross, Wyoming, and we were an optimistic bunch.

Our moderator was a youthful TV anchor from Casper named Pete Williams. He is now that mature, graying legal correspondent for NBC News.  During these times, he is on national TV all the time. He does a great job, but I digress.

Further back in 1974, Wyoming was starting to boom. Our Gov. Ed Herschler, a Democrat, won election with a slogan “Growth on Our Terms.” 

Wyoming’s chaotic economy, because it is tied to energy, was about to hurdle through eight more years of spectacular growth. It was a boom and we all loved it.

Crash!  Arguably the worst bust in Wyoming’s history hit in 1982. It lasted until 2002.  Everything went wrong.  Oil and natural gas prices plummeted. Coal was still in its infancy.  Uranium crashed after a huge boom and 2,000 jobs in Fremont, Carbon, and Converse counties disappeared. 

Gov. Herschler said our town of Lander was hurt the worst. We saw an iron ore mine close that had 550 highly paid workers.

The economy was so bad one year the Legislature would have had a tough time balancing the budget had not a wealthy Jackson woman died, leaving millions in estate taxes.

The year 2020 was just a far away gleam in peoples’ eyes.  Around 2002, we saw oil prices surge, and natural gas (and coalbed methane) really take off.

Congress put in regulations against smoky coal plants so Wyoming’s coal, which burns cooler and pollutes a lot less, suddenly became the fuel of choice for power plants across the country.

With 300 years of coal in the ground, it seemed like this was a gravy train that would never end.

Along about this time, a couple of drilling entrepreneurs named Mick McMurry and John Martin of Casper struck big time with a deep natural gas well in the Pinedale area in 1992. They used a new technique called fracking. Little did anyone know what that technology would mean to the future of energy.

Ultimately, because of fracking, natural gas could be drilled anywhere.  Besides natural locations like Wyoming, Texas, and North Dakota, new states like Ohio and Pennsylvania became leading producers.  Natural gas prices continue to plummet to lowest levels in memory, right here in 2020. Gov. Gordon announced to a group of press folks Friday that prices hit a low of $1.87 MCF.

Wyoming is not in a bust right now as these are a different kind time. Towns all over the state are benefitting from the local diversification that has occurred in the last 38 years – over a third of a century!

Although the above dissertation is about some past history, this story is prompted by where I am at writing this column. Holed up in my room at the beautiful Ramkota in Casper, we are getting ready to attend the early bird cocktail hour for the Wyoming Press Association.  This is my 50th year of being in the Wyoming press.

When I attended my first press convention, I was a 24-year old publisher, the youngest in the room. Unless Pat Schmidt or Jim Hicks shows up this year, I will be the oldest attendee at this year’s event.  What a life cycle.

Back in 1970, a majority of the newspapers operated with what is called “hot type,” a system of page formatting that actually is not that far removed from what Gutenberg invented in the Middle Ages.

Today, they all still print on paper but most of them also have digital and video offerings. 

Based on national contests, Wyoming has the best newspapers in the country.  This is something of which to be proud since our state has just 44 newspapers.

It’s always fun hanging around with the Wyoming journalists.  They are a confident and optimistic lot. 

Sure there are a few sour lemons here and there but most of these folks love their towns and cover them enthusiastically.

Wyoming is a far better place because of their efforts.  Happy 2020.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Farm Bureau Provides Tips for Tackling Springtime Ag Challenges

in News/Agriculture
2819

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Spring is fraught with dangers for Wyoming’s agriculture producers, but networking and planning can help farmers and ranchers mitigate the worst mother nature has to offer, a Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation spokesperson said.

“The biggest challenge come spring is the weather,” said Brett Moline, the Farm Bureau public affairs director. “You have to be prepared for anything, because you’ll just never know what you’ll have year to year.”

As a reminder for old hands and a guide for the new ranchers, Moline provided a list of Wyoming ag producers biggest springtime hurdles and tips on how to clear them.

Problem: Calving in a Storm

For many ranchers, Moline said spring is a time of new life and the frailty it presents.

“Spring is the typical birthing season,” he explained. “But big storms and high winds can be a pretty big problem.”

Upon exiting the womb, newborns can struggle to keep their body temperatures up if the animals don’t have proper wind breaks and shelter.

“When they get wet, they can’t get dried off and warmed up,” Moline said. “They come out of something that’s 95 to 100 degrees to something that’s 10 degrees — that’s pretty shocking, and many don’t recover.”

Solution: Break the wind

Out on the range, shelter can come in several sizes and shapes from dense shrubbery to sizable structures.

“Most ranchers will run their first calf heifers through a barn,” Moline said. “It may not be heated, but it’s out of the wind and that’s half the battle sometimes.”

In areas with dense shrubbery and tree coverage, ranchers can use the landscape to protect the young, but not all pastures are created equal.  

“On the high plains around Laramie County, ranchers don’t have a lot of natural shelter,” Moline explained. “People will build wind breaks to make sure the calves have the best chance.”

Alternatively, some producers push their calving season back until around July to avoid the snow season altogether, he said.

Problem: Predators

Coyotes and wolves looking for a meal after a long winter can pose a significant threat to shepherds with lambing sheep, and in some cases, cattle as well.

“Predation will always be a problem,” Moline said. “I don’t think there is a solution that eliminates predation, but that’s not the goal. Ranchers just want to keep their predation loss down enough to allow them to still be economically sustainable.”

Coyotes cause real problems for sheep herds, especially during the lambing season. Cattle, on the other hand, present more of a problem to themselves when predators are on the prowl.

“I had a rancher tell me he didn’t think he’d ever lost a calf to a coyote,” Moline said. “But, he lost several to their mothers stepping on them when trying to defend against coyotes.”

Solution: Work with Local and State Agencies

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and county predator boards are excellent resources for dealing with predation, Moline said.

“Some county predator boards will locate the coyotes’ territory, fly over and take out some coyotes before birthing season,” he said. “For sheepmen, guard dogs are a good measure.”

Sheep dogs raised with the herd can reduce attrition caused by predation.

For cattle, the window of vulnerability is relatively small.

“Once a calf gets a few days old, a coyote isn’t going to be too much of a problem,” Moline said. “The trick is making sure they are safe those first few days.”ttps://wyagric

Problem: Balancing the Water Supply

Spring is planting season, and too much precipitation can be just as harmful as too little, Moline explained.

“It’s got to be dry enough to get a tractor in there, but you don’t want it too dry — it’s all about that balance,” he said. “If your planting is delayed, your harvest is going to be delayed, then you start worrying about snow again.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture determined too much precipitation was the cause of a recent irrigation tunnel collapse in Goshen County, which cut water off to hundreds of farmers on thousands of acres in Wyoming and Nebraska.

Solution: Preparation and Networking

Keeping an eye on the snowpack report can help producers predict how much irrigation they’ll need, Moline said.

“Listening to the weather report is big for ag producers,” he said. “They need to figure out what works best for them. But I think that’s what makes producers such a unique community. Ranchers and farmers always look at a problem and figure out how to adapt.”

For too much water, Moline said the best a farmer can do is wait it out and hope for the sun to shine.

For too little, planning ahead and adjusting crops to suit the availability of irrigation could prevent a lot of heartache, he said.

“Work with your neighbors — networking is key,” Moline said. “Together, you can make a plan to address each situation as it comes.”

Northwest College Adds Video Gaming (eSports) as Competitive Sport

in News/Education
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

When thinking of competitive college activities, sports usually comes to mind.

But Northwest College is looking to increase its enrollment by offering a new sanctioned competitive program — video gaming.

According to a report by Goldman Sachs, Esports — or competitive video gaming — is more popular now than major league baseball. Entire stadiums are being constructed to lure fans and gamers to the booming billion-dollar industry.

Brian Erickson,  athletic director for Northwest College, said the college is banking on the popularity of Esports to boost enrollment numbers. 

“What do college kids do these days? They’re not throwing a frisbee, they’re not throwing the football anymore,” he said. “What are they doing on their time off? Well, they’re in their room and they’re gaming. So let’s get them out of their rooms, let’s get them in this facility gaming with each other, to give them a different interaction.”

Erickson said he was able to apply for a grant through Northwest’s college foundation to begin funding the activity, which he said won’t be very expensive compared to other sports.

“It will really only cost about $10,000 a year to run the whole thing,” he said, “and we’re already out there trying to get sponsors.”

He said Northwest is the first Wyoming school to offer e-sports as a sanctioned activity.

Once established, NWC players will be competing in Powell against teams from all over the country. For example, if they play against a team from Florida, NWC competitors would be playing from Powell and Florida players would be playing from their campus.

Erickson said a group formed for college e-gaming, the National Association of Collegiate Esports, has 178 teams as members, with competitors playing 15 different games.

When NWC’s program is up and running, its students will play regional and national teams. 

“League of Legends, Rocket League, Fortnite are the ones we’ll probably start with,” Erickson said.

Erickson said the program is just getting off the ground, starting with a “club” for the existing players this spring. The college will then recruit for a full Esports program for the fall semester. 

“We’ve got to do a really good job of marketing, that Northwest College has an Esports team,” he said. 

Erickson explained that the NACE has recruiting websites where potential students can log in and upload their profiles. He said there could be international students interested in attending Northwest College to game.

Before they begin, though, there are logistics to be tackled.

“We’re moving forward with the facility right now,” he said, spreading his arms inside a large empty room in one of the classroom buildings on the NWC campus. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the Internet connection that can run these games, then get the computers.”

Erickson said the school is looking to recruit 30 to 40 new students going into next year. If the recruiting drive is successful, he said it would halt the downward trend in enrollment the college has seen over the last few years. 

He added NWC hopes to have scholarship money available for potential students in the next three or four years. 

“One of our missions for the college is to retain and recruit,” he said. “We’re trying to keep our students here, and get our enrollment numbers back up.”

Eating Wyoming: Casper’s Little Shop Of Burgers

in Column/Food/Tim Mandese
2805

By Tim Mandese, Eating Wyoming columnist for Cowboy State Daily

It’s creepy, crawly, weird and wacky and offers up some of the best burgers around. A horror-themed restaurant serves up whimsy with a side of fries, and it’s the best kept secret in Casper.

Have you found yourself hungry for a good burger, but you’re surrounded by clowns and kings and endless drive-through lines? Well, if you’re in Casper, head north down Center Street….way down Center Street. Just before K Street, you’ll find a place that’s truly off the beaten path — Little Shop of Burgers

Walking into the Little Shop of Burgers, you’ll find it’s a treat before you even get seated. The walls are covered with vintage horror movie posters and the shelves are decorated with enough creepy items to make the most avid Halloween fan giddy. 

On one wall, there’s a movie poster for “The Mummy,” on another, one for “Dracula.” There’s a suitcase full of heads on a shelf, and playing on the speakers are songs that would fit in at a monster’s ball. On the top of the wall next to your table is a little girl’s doll with clown makeup that would send chills down the Joker’s spine. 

In September of 2018, owner Sarah Weikum opened this one-of-a-kind burger shop. Having worked in the restaurant business in places like San Francisco and New Orleans, as well as Casper, Weikum wanted to bring her love of good burgers and classic horror movies together in one place.

Menu items are all named with a macabre sense of humor. 

Burgers like “Fungus Among Us,” which is Sarah’s take on the classic mushroom Swiss burger. Then there’s the “Drac Attack,” a burger topped with garlic sauce and Havarti cheese.

Sarah recommends her favorite, the “Freddy,” a jalapeno and cheese lover’s dream. 

My go-to burger is “The Fester,” named for Uncle Fester from The Addams Family. It’s a bacon cheeseburger with an amazing barbecue sauce. 

All of the patties are made fresh by hand, seasoned, and each burger is cooked to order. 

Want something other than a burger? Look no further than the selection of chicken sandwiches. But which one? “The Ripper?” Barbecue sauce, bacon, cheddar and green onion on grilled chicken breast. 

Or maybe “Carnival of Chickens?” A crispy chicken sandwich, with your choice of cheese. 

All of the sandwiches at Little Shop of Burgers comes with PLOTS. What’s PLOTS? Pickles, Lettuce, Onions, Tomatoes and Sprouts of course. 

What about the sides? All the fries are fresh cut. My personal favorite, the garlic parmesan fries, will scare off the vampire hordes! But you can go for the crispy onion rings, tater tots, sweet potato fries, sweet potato tots (YUM) or chips. If you want a lower carb side dish option, there’s cottage cheese or side salad.

Shakes? Of course. New on the menu is a full lineup of fresh made milkshakes. You can order “The Gloop,” a Chocolate shake named after Augustus Gloop, the naughty chocolate-craving kid from the movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It’s a shake so full of chocolate and chocolate chips, that you need a spoon, because a straw just won’t cut it. 

You have got to try the “Candy Man,” another name taken from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It’s a scrumptious Butterfinger delight.

As if the amazing burgers, fries, shakes and theme weren’t enough, Little Shop of Burgers has a movie screening room! Yes, you can watch a horror movie and eat your horror-themed burger and drink your horror themed shake, all at no extra charge! The screening room features family friendly movies such as “Goosebumps,” as well as the classic Universal Films monster movies and others. Check with your host to see what’s playing. Being the most popular room in the restaurant, it is often rented for parties and business functions. 

Little Shop of Burgers is located at 1040 N. Center St. and is currently open during its winter hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sundays. In April, the restaurant will switch to its summer hours of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Phone: (307) 234-3472 

Follow Little Shop of  Burgers on Facebook to discover the daily specials. If you are an Instagrammer, look for them there as well. 

For a scary good burger, don’t be afraid to get the off the beaten path. If you are alive, dead or one of the undead, you’ll be glad you did.

Ray Hunkins’ Book About Wyoming is a Delight

in Column/Bill Sniffin
2802

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

At 224 pages, the new book, The View from Thunderhead by Ray Hunkins, is a delight. You almost wish it were even longer.

Hunkins is an iconic Wyomingite. He has had a varied career as an attorney and as a rancher.  He twice ran for governor and has been a champion for the University of Wyoming. Part of the reason for this book is to recognize our state’s amazing history with Women’s’ Suffrage.

He was the chairman of the Louisa Swain Foundation, of Laramie, from 2008 to 2010. This group celebrates the woman who was the first woman to legally vote anywhere in the United States.  As a result of the Wyoming territorial legislature’s decision to allow women the vote, Louisa was the first woman to cast a ballot in an election, doing so in Laramie, on Sept. 6, 1870.

Hunkins, 80, and his wife Debby had a ranch for decades outside of Wheatland near Laramie Peak called Thunderhead Ranch. They currently live in Cheyenne.  

Over the years, Hunkins has been a prolific writer with most of his articles appearing in the Casper and Cheyenne daily newspapers. This book contains some of his favorite stories and they are very good. 

Hunkins is a dedicated and experienced ranchers so many of his favorite stories are about ranching.

As a politician, he does not shy away from taking some serious stand concerning the issues of our time.

But most of all, Hunkins loves Wyoming.  It comes through again and again.  Whether he is talking about some upsets pulled off by the University of Wyoming football team or when talking with a Marine recruiter about why so many young people in the Cowboy State sign up for military careers.

He defends the traditions of Wyoming in one essay when he felt the state was unfairly attacked.  In 2002, Sam Western wrote a book called “Pushed Off The