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Yellowstone Biologist: Animals Will Survive Flooding, Don’t Worry

in News/wildlife

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The historic flooding in Yellowstone National Park has destroyed roads, bridges and multiples pieces of infrastructure, but one concern some people have is about one of the park’s most popular attractions: the animals.

Many comments on social media this week have popped up, with people inquiring about the safety of the bears, bison, elk, moose and the many more creatures that inhabit the Yellowstone ecosystem.

And for those concerned about the fate of the millions of animals that call Yellowstone home, wildlife biologists and game officials have reassuring words — they’re doing just fine.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that although the department does not manage the Yellowstone wildlife, the permanent inhabitants of the 2.2 million-acre park are very resilient.

“They continually contend with and survive Wyoming’s extreme weather,” DiRienzo said. “A large flood would certainly temporarily displace them to other areas. But, like we’ve seen with fires in the southeast, they do return quickly when conditions stabilize.”

Wildlife Care

But many people who aren’t familiar with the outdoors don’t seem to understand that animals can adapt.

Case in point, Preston Ferguson who wrote on a popular Yellowstone Facebook page that he saw a lot of empty cattle trucks heading to Yellowstone. “I hope they’re saving all the wildlife,” he posted.

Ever the helpful group, other Facebook posters jumped right in to respond.

“Yes, the cowboys will be along to lasso all of the animals,” Linda Faber wrote. “You can sleep tonight, rest assured, they’ll all be transported to Chicago.”

“Didn’t you know that when the ‘zoo’ has an emergency, all the wildlife are picked up and placed in foster care?” Christine Edwards said.

One person couldn’t handle the question.

“6:45 in the morning and I’ve already lost hope in society for the day,” Caleb Mertz said.

No Evacuation For Animals

The park has been closed since Monday morning, when flooding caused by torrential rains and melting snow washed out roads and made the northern part of the park completely inaccessible. More than 10,000 visitors were removed from the park.

But National Park Service wildlife biologist Doug Smith told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that no such drastic action was needed for the park’s biggest predators, such as wolves and bears.

Smith said the large animals can tolerate major flooding since they don’t tend to stay in dens or travel near rivers.

“These areas will be easy for them to avoid, and most are mature enough to move away,” Smith said. “There will be some accidents for an animal trying to cross a swollen stream, but this will be like any other year when waterways are in flood stage.”

Smith said that the predators’ offspring are at least a few months old by this time of year, so they are also less vulnerable to the flooding.

Ungulates such as bison will likely experience some accidents, but Smith said high water is a challenge for those animals every year.

Smith also said some of the animals that wolves and bears eat, like elk, moose and deer, are also probably doing fine and that they could even benefit from the flood because the influx of water gives the plants they eat a boost.

Waterbirds have strategies to withstand floods, such as adding material to their nests to build them up and keep eggs dry.

“Waterbirds may have trouble with reproduction due to nest flooding,” he said Friday. “We are monitoring trumpeter swans, which have begun nesting, and common loons, which are starting or have started, and nesting pelicans and cormorants as the one colony in the park is likely underwater. We check it aerially and have not done so yet, but it could be complete reproductive failure.

“Ospreys may be severely impacted as they depend almost entirely on fish,” he continued. “They may have difficulty finding fish with such high-water levels and murky, muddy water. Fish researchers have said many trout may get blown out.”

Bald eagles will likely not be impacted as they have a broader diet than just fish. 

“Wet, cold weather can affect other nesting raptors like golden eagles and peregrine falcons. We plan to monitor their nesting activities once access is safe,” Smith said.

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Electricity Restored In Yellowstone, Three Entrances To Reopen Next Week

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

With electricity restored to Yellowstone National Park, officials announced Friday there is a good chance the park’s southern portion could open sometime next week.

However, the opening will depend on the completion of repairs to a portion of the road south of Canyon Junction that collapsed Thursday, park officials said in an update on conditions following the flood that forced the park’s closure and evacuation on Monday.

“Crews will begin major repairs on Friday … with an intent to complete repairs by Monday … ” the update said. “This repair must be completed prior to opening the south loop.”

The park has been closed since Monday morning, when flooding caused by torrential rains and melting snow washed out roads and made the northern part of the park completely inaccessible. More than 10,000 visitors were removed from the park.

The flooding led to the collapse of multiple sections of roads in the park’s northern loop and park Superintendent Cam Sholly said the loop will remain closed for an extensive period while the roads are repaired. U.S. Highway 89, linking the park’s north entrance near Gardiner, Montana, with the northeast entrance near Cooke City, Montana, will remain closed through the season, Sholly said.

Damages to the southern loop were not as severe and park officials announced Friday that the west, south and east entrances could reopen as early as next week, assuming all infrastructure is ready for a return of visitors.

Sholly, in Friday’s update, said park workers had accomplished much to prepare at least part of the park for reopening.

“We have made tremendous progress in a very short amount of time but have long way to go,” he said. “All emergency and life safety objectives within the park have been accomplished or stabilized within the first 96 hours of the flood event, without major injury or death. We have an aggressive plan for recovery in the north and resumption of operations in the south.”

To prevent the southern loop from being overwhelmed by the extra traffic expected with the closure of the northern route, the park will adopt some kind of reservation or timed entry system, Sholly said during a town hall meeting earlier this eek.

“My intention was not to try to put into place some type of timed entry or reservation system or anything like that,” he said. “But what we can’t have happen is so much visitation on one loop of the park that wastewater treatment, the road infrastructure fails and then we end up having to close the southern end of the park for a long period of time like the north end will likely be.”

It may take three to four weeks to develop the system, Sholly said, and it will be developed with input from gateway communities. Until it is in place, people will be allowed to enter through the park’s east, south and west entrances without reservations, although some services may be limited, such as hotel accommodations.

However, he added other services, including food and gasoline, will be available by the time the park reopens.

The park said river levels swollen to historic levels by the rain and melting snow had gone down significantly Friday from the previous 24 hours.

However, Sholly said the park would continue to monitor weather conditions through the weekend.

Forecasts called for temperatures above 10,000 feet to rise to the low 60s over the weekend, melting snowpacks of up to 16 inches that remain in parts of the park. In addition, some rain was expected in the region and thunderstorms could drop another 0.5 to 0.75 inches of rain on the area through Monday.

“Current flood models DO NOT show any action levels or flooding, but that could change with with an unexpected heavy rainfall over snowpack similar to last weekend,” said Park County Homeland Security Director Jeff Martin.

Park crews were working Friday to determine how to proceed with work on collapsed sections of roads in the northern loop.

The park said preliminary assessments indicate damage to the road between Mammoth Hot Springs and the park’s northeastern entrance near Gardiner is so extensive it is unlikely the road will be rebuilt along its former path.

All employees who lost their housing in the flood have been provided new housing, Yellowstone officials said.

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Tourists In Limbo: Can’t Reschedule Or Get Refunds On Costly Yellowstone Trips

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Courtesy, T.K. Conklin

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Some people who had planned the trip of a lifetime to Yellowstone National Park are now waiting to see if they will even be able to enter the park in the wake of historic floods that forced the park’s closure this week.

On Monday, Yellowstone closed all of its entrances and began removing all visitors from the park as flooding caused by torrential rain and melting snow damaged park roads and infrastructure.

In Limbo

Now future visitors, some of whom cannot reschedule or get a refund for planned trips to Yellowstone, are in limbo wondering what to do.

One Michigan woman said she is coming out to Yellowstone even if it’s still closed because it’s too late to get a refund.

Nanette Marie, from East Lansing, Michigan, asked an online Yellowstone group to be “kind” when she asked for suggestions, not wanting to come across as not caring about people who have lost their homes in the flood.

“I am one of those that have a vacation planned they are starting on Saturday but I can no longer cancel,”Marie said. “I am an hourly employee and have been saving and planning this trip for over a year with my family.”

“Could we start a list of things to do outside of the park?” she asked. “Please only helpful suggestions and not criticism.”

Most respondents were helpful and had a list of suggestions for Marie.

Not Rescheduling

Virginia resident Ellen Woods told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that her family had planned to vacation at the park next week, staying at Island Park, Idaho, and touring the park over a multi-day period. This would be the Woods family’s first visit to the park.

“We wanted to see and experience the beauty that Yellowstone has to offer,” she said. “We love to do anything outdoors, so we just knew Yellowstone was the place for us.”

“We planned on doing lots of hiking and walking while there so that we could experience what the park has to offer and not just take the pictures to put on social media just to say we have been there,” she said. “We wanted to cherish our time in Yellowstone because our 4-month-old son will be with us and this is his first big trip.”

Now, the family must wait to see what news is announce about the park’s status over the next few days, as they plan to leave Virginia on Sunday. Since the trip is set to begin soon, the family cannot reschedule it or receive a refund if it were canceled.

While she is disappointed at the likelihood of not being able to see the entire park, Woods said she is more concerned about the safety of the people in the surrounding areas.

“We are hoping that with no more rain in the forecast and warmer weather, maybe we will be lucky enough for the lower (southern) loop to re-open at some point during the week, so that we can see at least some of the park,” Woods said. 

“If the park remains closed, we’ve come up with some other ideas and places to visit so that we will still be able to enjoy our time in the area. Our motto is ‘We will make the best of it and make memories that will last us a lifetime.,'” she said.

Honeymoon No More?

Lexington, Kentucky, resident Jennifer Lopez (not the actress/singer) told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that she is also currently waiting to find out more news about the status of the park and surrounding area, as she and her fiance intended to visit the Mountain West region for their honeymoon next month.

The couple, who have never been to Yellowstone, intended to camp in the park at some point during their trip. They still have their reservations booked, since the situation is still so new.

As an environmental educator and generally “outdoorsy” person, Lopez is still looking forward to the trip, even if she is unable to do everything she originally planned.

“I work at a STEM school for girls here in Kentucky, so we’ve actually been doing lessons related to the trip, so they could follow along with where I’d be going,” Lopez said. “This was kind of like a dream vacation for us. But even if they do close the northern portion of the park, we’ll still come out there and adjust.”

Lopez said that as a teacher, she is also a planner at heart. Although the schedule shift may cause some anxiety for her, she is still excited about all of the wildlife she and her future husband will see when they arrive out West next month.

No VRBO Insurance

Mandy Whiley, from Jessieville, Arkansas, said she was “devastated” upon learning that her rental home is non-refundable.

“Well it looks like our trip to Gardiner is a bust for July 10-15. I stupidly did not get trip insurance for our VRBO and it’s past the cancellation period,” she said on a Yellowstone Facebook page.

She said if she doesn’t get the $3,600 she’s already paid for the rental home in Gardiner, she can’t afford to go anywhere else.

“I am waiting to hear back from the VRBO host,” she said. “If the property is okay, we will still go and do what we can, but the rental is right on the river. I am devastated.”

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Realtors Say Fans of “Yellowstone” TV Series Trying To Buy Ranches In Wyoming

in Yellowstone/News

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

“We’re with the Yellowstone. Nobody’s gonna mess with us.”

That quote, spoken by the character “Jimmy Hurdstrom” on Paramount TV’s popular series, “Yellowstone,” embodies the spirit of the show, set on the fictional Dutton family ranch just outside Yellowstone National Park.

The popularity of the series has encouraged would-be Duttons to try their luck out west, hoping to acquire their own piece of property to launch their own family legacy.

“One client I had told me they always wanted to be a cowboy,” said Julie Snelson with Peaks to Prairie Realty in Cody. “Then they started watching ‘Yellowstone’ and came here and bought a house. It was because of their fascination with the show, and they just wanted to be by Yellowstone. They even said it’s kind of an obsession.”

“These are highly educated professionals,” she added.

House In Yellowstone?

Snelson told Cowboy State Daily that she has had other clients contact her because of their interest in the television show – and were under the mistaken impression that they could actually live in the Park.

“A gentleman called me and said he wanted to purchase a home in Yellowstone,” Snelson said. “I explained that is not possible. Then I started explaining the lay of the land – the North Fork (highway between Cody and Yellowstone), the National Forest and then National Park. So then he wanted to buy a property in the National Forest…  He said he was unhappy on the east coast and he just knew living by Yellowstone would change his life.”

“A lot of people are wanting to move out of the crazy, chaotic big cities and come to a more comfortable, relaxing town such as Cody and all over the Bighorn basin,” said Jona Harris, a realtor in Cody. “They want that out of town experience, with the river running through their property.”

Harris, who is a big fan of the show, said the appeal of the show, for her, is the intrigue – characters backstabbing each other, the romances, the twists and turns of the plot.

But she acknowledges that the romance of the mountain setting could be inspirational to those who don’t live here.

“I do see the correlation between the show and then wanting to come out here and have the experience of the old cowboy vibe,” she said.

The same thing is happening in Montana. An investment group owner told CNBC that the demand for property has spiked since the TV show began.

“We’ve had an influx of all sorts of wealthy individuals looking for ranches,” Robert Keith, founder of boutique investment firm Beartooth Group, told CNBC. “They’re looking to own really amazing large properties.”

Low Inventory

However, those large properties really aren’t that available, at least in the Cowboy State.

Wyoming realtors have very little to offer right now in terms of large ranch properties. Many such locations were snatched up in 2020 and 2021, when city dwellers with extra cash were looking for a less restrictive place to live.

Because of low inventory and high demand, housing prices have skyrocketed, impacting property taxes for residents.  So the added interest by fans of the “Yellowstone” series has put more pressure on an already-stretched housing market.

“We don’t have, like, large ranches,” said Harris, “but we do have some options for that out of town living that offers acreage.”

Residents of northwest Wyoming caution, though, that there’s a difference between what people see on TV and what it’s actually like living in the mountain west.

“The show never depicts the winter or the wind,” said Cody resident Lance Mathess. “Winters here are harsh and long. Like the bison, you have to be built to survive.”

However, Mathess told Cowboy State Daily he’s still a big fan of the “Yellowstone” series.

“I like the almost Godfather-esque flavor of the show,” he said. “Like Don Corleone, John Dutton displays an overwhelming patriarchal caring for his family and his legacy. In fact, a great deal of the show mirrors The Godfather in many respects.”

Going to Wyoming

Although the show is set in Montana, the title “Yellowstone” does link Wyoming heavily to the setting. However, the Cowboy State is only really referenced when the Duttons want to off someone that has crossed the family.

“You want off this ranch, you got it,” said the character Rip Wheeler in one episode. “I’ll drive your *ss to the train station myself.”

The “train station” refers to a roadside cliff in Wyoming that the Dutton family and ranch hands use to dispose of the dead bodies of anyone who has crossed them.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Wyoming fans of the show are any less interested in celebrating the success of the series. Cole Hauser, the actor who plays Rip Wheeler in “Yellowstone,” will be the grand marshal in Cody’s Stampede Parade on July 4.

“I’m so excited because he and Beth are my favorite couple on the show,” said Harris. “And so I do think that him coming and being the marshal of the Fourth of July parade is really going to bring a whole new vibe to the parade.”

So long as no one gets taken to the train station.

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Dept Of Interior Says No To Plastic Bottles in Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks

in Yellowstone/News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In the next 10 years, the National Park Service will phase out its use of single-use plastics in all national parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton, the U.S. Department of Interior announced on Thursday.

Secretary Deb Haaland issued an order mandating a reduction in the procurement, sale and distribution of single-use plastics and packaging by the department by 2032. The order is part of President Joe Biden’s executive order that called on federal agencies to minimize waste and support markets for recycled products.

Matt Seaholm, president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that while the group supports the goal of reducing waste, it was “disappointing” to see the DOI announce a blanket policy on a specific material. He said doing so could be counterproductive.

“In most applications, plastic products are the least environmentally harmful option, as long as they are disposed of properly,” Seaholm said. “We want all of our nation’s parks to remain pristine and would welcome the opportunity to discuss improving recycling infrastructure in parks as a better approach to sustainability.”

Under the order, visitors will be allowed to bring the containers into national parks, but they will not be used for goods sold within the park.

Haaland’s order also directed the DOI to identify nonhazardous, environmentally-preferable alternatives to single-use plastic products, such as compostable, biodegradable or 100% recycled materials.

Single-use plastic products include plastic and polystyrene food and beverage containers, bottles, straws, cups, cutlery and disposable plastic bags that are designed or intended to be used once and discarded.

According to National Geographic, every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the world’s oceans from coastal nations. Many of the additives in plastic make it stronger and more flexible, but they also can extend the life of the product, which by some estimates can take at least 400 years to break down.

Nat Geo also reported that half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years. Less than 10% of all plastic that has ever been produced has been recycled.

Officials from Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks refused to comment for this article. Cowboy State Daily was unable to connect with the Wyoming chapter of the Inland Ocean Coalition, an organization dedicated to plastic pollution reduction.

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Yellowstone Bison Gores Woman, Then Flips Her 10-Feet In Air

in Yellowstone/News/wildlife

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Ohio woman was gored by a bison and thrown 10 feet in the air in Yellowstone National Park on Monday after getting too close to the animal, park officials announced late Tuesday.

The 25-year-old woman from Grove City, Ohio, approached to within 10 feet of a bison on Monday morning, officials said. Two other people were also within 25 yards of the same bison.

As the bison walked near a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin, just north of Old Faithful, the woman approached the animal. The bison gored her and tossed her 10 feet into the air.

The woman sustained a puncture wound and other injuries that were not immediately specified.

RELATED: News organizations across globe wrongfully report woman died from goring

Park emergency medical providers responded to the incident and transported the woman to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls.

The incident remains under investigation, but park officials said there was no other information to share immediately.

This is the first bison goring of 2022 in the park, but park officials noted Yellowstone bison have injured more people in the park than any other animal.

Earlier in the season, a tourist was caught on video getting too close to a bison, but the individual escaped unharmed.

An elderly California woman was gored by a bison in summer 2020 after she got too close to the animal while trying to photograph it.

An Iowa woman was also caught on video being attacked by a bison in 2020, but it was in Custer State Park. She was de-pantsed during the encounter.

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Grizzly Bear Attacked By Mother, Mate In Yellowstone; National Park Service Euthanize

in News/Grizzly Bears

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A young female grizzly bear was attacked and mortally wounded by its mother and the mother’s mate over the weekend in Yellowstone National Park, a Utah photographer told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Julie Argyle said bear 815 and her male mate attacked the 3-year-old bear after the sub-adult wouldn’t leave an area.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of 815 being aggressive like this,” Argyle said. “But the situation is that it’s mating season, food sources are scarce and it’s her territory.”

She believed that the mother bear was attempting to frighten the bear away from the area, but when the male bear entered the altercation, things became deadly.

Argyle noted that the two older bears actually did not kill the younger one, but left it injured to the point she was euthanized by the National Park Service.

“Her injuries were too much for her to handle and she was suffering in an awful way so the National Park Service put her down in an effort to end her suffering,” she said.

She added that the young bear had been kicked out of its den by bear 815 last summer, so it has been on its own for a year.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily that it is not uncommon for mother bears and their mates to attack their young.

“As the overall density of grizzly bears has increased within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, we see more instances of what we call ‘intraspecific strife’ such as this,” he said. “These natural occurrences are another indicator of density dependence that is exhibited when a population is at carrying capacity.”

Argyle posted about the bear’s death on her wildlife photography page in order to bring awareness to the fact that the wildlife people see in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are exactly that – wild.

“This is a natural thing, it just happened to occur close to a road where people saw it,” she said. “I think this is a great wake up call for people who try to get too close to these animals. We’re viewing them as something that isn’t a wild animal and they definitely are.”

According to the Yellowstone Grizzly Project, bear 815 was collared by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team in 2015. At the time of her capture, there were no cubs present, but she was seen with three in 2016.

Yellowstone officials did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment by publication time on Monday.

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‘Murder-For-Hire’ Case Transferred From Wyoming To Vermont

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The case of a Colorado man accused of disguising himself as a U.S. Marshal to kidnap and kill a Vermont man four years ago is being transferred from Wyoming to Vermont.

Documents filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday show the case of Jerry Banks, who was arrested in Yellowstone National Park and charged with kidnapping in the 2018 death of Greg Davis, has been assigned to the federal court in Vermont.

Davis’ body was found partially covered in snow in northern Vermont in January 2018. He had been handcuffed and shot six times.

Davis was last been seen alive the previous night, when a person identifying himself as a U.S. Marshal visited Davis’ home in Danville, Vermont, and said he had a warrant for Davis’ arrest on a charge of racketeering.

An affidavit filed in support of Banks’ arrest in Wyoming said Banks had obtained items related to a U.S. Marshal’s uniform and vehicle online. 

The affidavit also said that a few minutes before Davis was kidnapped, a cell phone call was made to 911 services from a location a short distance from Davis’ home. The caller told police he had shot his wife and planned to kill himself.

Investigators determined the cell phone used to make the call to 911 belonged to Banks.

“I believe Banks used the … phone to facilitate the victim’s kidnapping and murder,” said the affidavit, written by FBI Special Agent Patrick Hanna.

Hanna also concluded that since Banks had no connection with Davis, he had been hired to kidnap and kill the man.

Since Davis’ death, records surrounding the case have been sealed by court officials in Vermont.

Banks’ arrest last week in Yellowstone, where he was working, followed an exhaustive investigation by FBI agents and detectives with the Vermont State Police, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Vermont.

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Yellowstone Superintendent Open To Changing Name Of Mountain in Yellowstone

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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

In 2017, a coalition of Native American tribes called on the federal government to rename a pair of Yellowstone National Park locations, asserting that the namesakes of Mount Doane and Hayden Valley were unworthy of the honor.

Four years later, the tribes’ petition remains in limbo, with the National Park Service having yet to weigh in on the proposal.

Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said much of the delay has been ensuring the Park Service has a “comprehensive engagement” with the more than two dozen tribes associated with the park. In an interview last week, Sholly said he is open to the idea of changing the name of Mount Doane. He said a few different alternatives have been suggested, “and we’ll be happy to work with the tribes closely to see what might be possible.”

As for renaming Hayden Valley, “I think we need to kind of look at everything that’s been submitted a little more closely — what the recommendations for change are, which tribes have been involved in those conversations,” Sholly said. “I want to really engage the tribes more to see exactly what they’re thinking.”

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association and the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council submitted a petition to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in September 2017 that formally requested the two name changes; the groups represent leaders from 26 different tribes, including the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Council and the Northern Arapaho Tribal Council of Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation.

The tribes’ petition called the namesake of Mount Doane, Gustavus C. Doane, “a war criminal” and accused Hayden Valley namesake Ferdinand Hayden of being a racist who advocated for genocide of Native Americans. The petition suggested new names of First People’s Mountain and Buffalo Nations Valley, calling the current monikers shameful and deplorable.

There are questions about whether Hayden — a pioneering explorer of Yellowstone and the Rocky Mountains — made some of the racist statements attributed to him in the tribes’ petition, but historical records and historians paint a more damning picture of Doane.

The Cavalry lieutenant led one of the government’s first expeditions into Yellowstone in 1870, but also participated in the Marias Massacre, in which more than 200 Piegan Blackfeet — mostly women and children — were killed.

The Cavalry had actually attacked the wrong band of Piegan, according to a summary prepared for the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, killing people who had been promised protection by the federal government. Yet two decades later, Doane unapologetically boasted of his role in the “the greatest slaughter of Indians ever made by U.S. troops.”

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has been seeking input on the proposed name changes to Mount Doane and Hayden Valley since 2017.

Cody Regional Health
Park County commissioners unanimously voted to oppose the proposals in May 2018. Then-Commissioner Tim French, now a state senator, called them the “dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” “political correctness run amok” and an attempt “to rewrite history.”

The Wyoming Board on Geographic Names initially waited to see what position the National Park Service would take, but with no word from the federal agency, the state board opted to move forward in 2019. The Wyoming board voted 7-1 to recommend leaving Hayden’s name on the sprawling valley that lies between Fishing Bridge and Canyon, but voted 6-2 to support stripping Doane’s name from the mountain peak, which lies east of Yellowstone Lake.

Two years later after the state board’s vote, the Park Service is continuing to visit with tribal representatives, including a conversation last week. Sholly mentioned that, when he looks at the groups that were a part of the petition, “there’s a lot of tribes that aren’t on that list.”

Membership rolls indicate that the South Dakota-based Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association and the Billings-based Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, who filed the petition, represent leaders from 18 of the 27 tribes associated with Yellowstone.

Sholly noted that, in general, there are varying opinions among the different tribes.

“[I] want to make sure that, to the best degree possible, we’ve got as much consensus around what we change the name to,” he said. “I’m not adverse to changing the name of Mount Doane, so we’ll keep working with them on that and figure out what the best way forward is there.”

In the meantime, Sholly said Yellowstone officials have been working on ways to bring more of a tribal presence in the park.

As part of Yellowstone’s 150th anniversary next year, a large tepee village will be erected near the North Entrance, providing an opportunity for visitors to speak with tribal members — and Native American art will be displayed at the Old Faithful Haynes Photo Shop. As part of ongoing dialogues with the tribes on what the Park Service can be doing better, Yellowstone officials have also compiled an inventory of all the park’s exhibits relating to Native Americans, Sholly said.

“We’ll be asking the tribes to look at what we’ve been doing, are we doing it right, what are we missing, what needs to be changed?” he said.

As for the potential name changes to Mount Doane and Hayden Valley, that decision will ultimately rest with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a panel made up of representatives from various federal agencies. It is unclear when the board might take up the proposal.

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Trailer Drops For New Season of ‘Yellowstone’ Series

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The trailer for the latest season of the television drama “Yellowstone” starring Kevin Costner debuted this week.

The trailer’s release appears to be very speedy, since filming for the series was going on just one month ago in Montana, as producers were looking for extras. However, there was no date given in the trailer as to when the new season will premiere.

“Yellowstone” was created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson, both of whom have long histories in the modern western genre, such as “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water” for Sheridan, and “Sons of Anarchy” for Linson.

A “Yellowstone” prequel is also slated to premiere on Paramount+ sometime this year, although no date has been set for its premiere.

“Y: 1883” will follow the Dutton family as it journeys west through the Great Plains “toward the last bastion of untamed America,” according to a series description provided by Deadline.

“It is a stark retelling of Western expansion, and an intense study of one family fleeing poverty to seek a better future in America’s promised land — Montana,” the description said.

No further information has been provided about the new series since the teaser dropped back in February.

The current “Yellowstone” series follows the Dutton family, led by Costner’s John Dutton, as it runs the largest contiguous ranch in the United States and its dealings with bordering Native Indian reservations and national parks.

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“Yellowstone” Back to Filming In Montana; Extras Needed Next Week

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The “Yellowstone” series starring Kevin Costner is back to filming its fourth season in Montana, and extras are needed for some scenes next week.

Currently, the casting department is looking for extras to shoot scenes on June 10 and June 11 in Hamilton, Montana, but actors should be prepared to work late, possibly until 2 a.m.

The roles the department is casting for include: protestors (men between 18 and 35 are needed, as well as ethnic men and women older than 18) and an on-air reporter (men between 30 and 55 who are clean cut).

All extras are paid at least $122.50, with a $35 gas bump added on.

Men and women who have interesting vans (Winnebagos, Airstreams or any other older, “hippie-ish” vehicles) are also encouraged to contact the casting department. Their vans can either be dropped off for three days and then picked up (with the pay being $600), or the van’s owner can bring the vehicle to the set and also work as an extra, getting paid for both their time and the vehicle.

Coronavirus testing is required for all extras.

Anyone interested should submit their name, age, phone number, height and weight, their clothing sizes and the town they live in to yellowstoneextrasmontana@gmail.com. More information about the casting call can be found on the Yellowstone Montana Extras Facebook page.

This fourth season is set to debut sometime later this year, with a “Yellowstone” prequel also slated to premiere on Paramount+ sometime this year.

“Y: 1883” will follow the Dutton family as it journeys west through the Great Plains “toward the last bastion of untamed America,” according to a series description provided by Deadline.

“It is a stark retelling of Western expansion, and an intense study of one family fleeing poverty to seek a better future in America’s promised land — Montana,” the description said.

No further information has been provided since the teaser dropped back in February.

The current “Yellowstone” series follows the Dutton family, led by Costner’s John Dutton, as it runs the largest contiguous ranch in the United States and its dealings with bordering Native reservations and national parks.

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Yellowstone Officials: It’s Elk Calving Season, Don’t Put One In Car

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Yellowstone National Park officials are reminding visitors that elk calving season will soon begin and to be aware of the animals while in the park.

As Cowboy State Daily has noted before, animals do not want to be hugged or be our friends (as disappointing as this might be). And being more than usually aware of that fact, the National Park Service is offering up a few helpful tips about how to be not quite as friendly with the park’s natural residents.

Cow elk are much more aggressive towards people during calving season, and may charge or kick. Visitors are advised to look around corners before exiting buildings or walking around blind spots, since cow elk may bed their calves near buildings and cars.

If a person sees an elk calf by itself, they should leave it alone. Really. Do not put the cuddly baby animal in your car because it looks cold. Because mama elk is probably nearby and will not be amused.

Selfies with animals are not recommended, and neither is sneaking up on animals.

People should stay at least 25 yards away from elk at all times. If an elk charges, find shelter in a vehicle or behind a tall, sturdy barrier as quickly as possible.

Calving season runs from May to late June and calves usually weigh around 30 pounds at birth. Full grown bull elk are around 700 pounds and stand 5 feet high at the shoulder, while cow elk weigh around 500 pounds and are shorter.

There are usually around 10,000 to 20,000 elk in Yellowstone during the summer season. Elk are the most abundant large mammal found in the park.

This is an annual warning by the park, but as we have seen before, there is always some tourist that ignores the rules and attempts to pet an animal. It usually doesn’t end well.

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“Yellowstone” Prequel Series to Debut Later This Year

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A “Yellowstone” prequel series will debut later this year on Paramount+, according to a recent Super Bowl teaser.

“Y: 1883” will follow the Dutton family as they journey west through the Great Plains “toward the last bastion of untamed America,” according to a series description provided by Deadline.

“It is a stark retelling of Western expansion, and an intense study of one family fleeing poverty to seek a better future in America’s promised land — Montana,” the description said.

The ad will run during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

No date was given for when the show will drop onto the streaming service. No casting information was provided, either.

The “Yellowstone” series has been renewed for a fourth season and regularly calls for extras in the Mountain West region, which includes pay, although there is no guarantee you will get to see Kevin Costner up close and personal, or even at all.

The Dutton family in the “Yellowstone” series own a ranch and deal with regular issues with the bordering national park and Native reservations.

“Yellowstone” is the Paramount Network’s most-watched drama series.

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“Yellowstone” Sends Out Final Call For Extras This Season

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Extras are needed for one more episode of “Yellowstone” for this season.

The “Yellowstone Montana Extras” page shared a call for extras on Tuesday morning, with filming slated for Nov. 12 in Hamilton, Montana. Extras will be required to take a coronavirus test in Missoula, though.

There are multiple categories for extras needed next week, including “college activists ages 18-23 men and women,” “career activists ages 40-70 men and women” and “out-of-state activists, think San Francisco types.”

All extras will be paid for their time and some have the opportunity to receive some extra cash to help pay for their.

Production is wrapping up on the fourth season of the series, which airs on the Paramount Network and streams on the Peacock app. It was co-created by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote and directed the critically-acclaimed film “Wind River.”

Kevin Costner, savior of the world and thief of many a woman’s heart in the 1980s, stars in the show.

Anyone interested in submitting should email yellowstoneextrasmontana@gmail.com and include information such as name, age, phone number, height, weight and clothing sizes. People who worked at the protest scenes in mid-October are eligible to come back for this day of shooting.

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Enzi: Remove Yellowstone Grizzlies From Endangered Species List

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park areas have recovered and should be removed from the endangered species list, U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi said this week.

Enzi addressed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in support of his bill S.614, the Grizzly Bear State Management Act, which he introduced in February 2019.

The bill would direct the Department of the Interior to re-issue its 2017 decision to remove grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered species list and prohibit further judicial review of this decision. It would also turn management of the grizzlies over to the states.

“Wildlife experts and federal officials agree that the grizzly bears in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have been fully recovered for years,” Enzi said in his testimony at the hearing. “Senseless litigation still continues to hinder the effective state management and protection of the species.”

The grizzly bear was first listed on the federal threatened species list in 1975.

In 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzlies from the endangered species list, citing a significant increase in bear populations and a doubling of their range land.

In September 2018, a federal judge in Montana ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to return the grizzly bear to the endangered species list. The state of Wyoming appealed the decision, and in July, a federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the continued protections for the grizzly bear.

Opponents of Enzi’s bill believe the animals remain threatened despite the Fish and Wildlife Service’s findings.

“This bogus hearing shrugs off the huge threats still facing these beleaguered bears,” Stephanie Kurose, a senior endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Wednesday. “Yellowstone’s grizzly bears are some of America’s most iconic animals and still have a long way to go before recovery. If they lose protections, it will make it much more difficult to recover other grizzly populations in Idaho and other places south of Yellowstone.

“As the world faces both a wildlife extinction crisis and a global pandemic caused by our exploitation of nature, we need to strengthen protections for our most vulnerable animals and plants, not weaken them,” she continued.

Enzi argued that while proper management of grizzly bears is critical to protecting the species, it is also critical to protect people from potential attacks, along with the species that grizzly bears prey on.

“As the grizzly bear population has increased in Wyoming, so has the danger these animals pose to livestock, property and to humans,” Enzi said. “That’s why I believe the authority to manage the species needs to be turned over to the states. I have often found that states are better suited to address these kinds of issues because they are more familiar with the unique needs of their own communities and ecosystems.”

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso is one of the co-sponsors on the management act. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney introduced an identical companion bill in the House of Representatives last year.

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“Yellowstone” TV Series Looking For Extras To Film This Week In Missoula

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Any actor who might be in the Missoula, Montana, area this week has the opportunity to be an extra on the TV series “Yellowstone.”

According to the “Yellowstone Montana Extras” Facebook group, the series will be shooting a hospital scene on Thursday and multiple extras are needed.

The categories for extras include: male and female hospital visitors between the ages of 20 and 50; male and female doctors between the ages of 35 and 60, clean-cut and of average sizes, and female nurses of average sizes.

All extras will be paid, but must submit to a coronavirus test. Actors should have open availability on Thursday.

Submissions can be emailed to yellowstoneextrasmontana@gmail.com and should include a name, age, phone number, height and weight and a current photo. Men should include their coat, shirt, pant and shoe size. Women should include their bra, waist and hip measurements, as well as scrubs and shoe sizes.

The subject line should include which extra category you are submitting for (visitor, nurse or doctor).

The Facebook page regularly updates with calls for extras.

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Woman Falls Into Old Faithful Thermal Feature After Entering Yellowstone Illegally

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A woman was seriously injured Tuesday morning when she entered Yellowstone National Park illegally and fell into a thermal feature at Old Faithful.

Park Public Information Officer Linda Veress confirmed the incident in an email to Cowboy State Daily.

Yellowstone National Park is still closed to the public because of the coronavirus.

According to reports, the woman was at the Old Faithful Geyser area of the park taking photos when she stepped backwards and fell into a thermal feature. It is not known which thermal feature the woman fell into.

The woman suffered burns after falling into the feature. She then drove north through the park and was contacted by park rangers 1 mile south of Mammoth Hot Springs.

Due to her injuries, she was life-flighted to the Burn Center at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

The incident is under investigation. No further information was provided about the woman or the extent of her injuries.

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Yellowstone Visitors Need to Give Wildlife More Space

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Bison in Yellowstone

By Seneca Flowers, Cowboy State Daily

A bison chucked a 9-year-old Florida girl visiting Yellowstone National Park into the air like a rag doll in late July. The incident was shared via social media and was soon followed by an unrelated video of a man reaching over a fence to pet a bison. 

Time and time again, videos surface of park visitors, often branded “tourons” by social media, violating rules that many people in the area see as common sense. 

But officials say knowledge of safe wildlife interactions isn’t always common.

“Sometimes they [tourists] don’t really know what they can or can’t do,” said Linda Veress, a spokeswoman for Yellowstone National Park. 

Veress said tourists will often watch what other people do and assume that those actions are acceptable because they have never been in those situations before.

Yellowstone provides a different environment than those in which people usually see wildlife, such as in zoos that have barriers and other forms of dividers. So tourists may not completely understand how to safely view and appreciate wildlife, Veress said.

Yellowstone and Wyoming have a variety of wildlife for viewing, but Sara DiRienzo, a public information officer with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, reminded Wyomingites and visitors to give the large animals plenty of space.

“Keeping a safe distance from wildlife is important for the individual’s safety as well as the wildlife’s,” DiRienzo said. 

She recommended people stay a respectful distance from wildlife and remember to observe the animal’s behavior. She added that if the animal begins making eye contact or acting nervous, it is time to back away. DiRienzo recommended people understand how to handle various wildlife situations before setting out to view animals.

The National Park Service website states that 67 mammals, including bison, wolves and bears, call Yellowstone their home. Bison cause more injuries than any other animal in the park, Veress said.

Bison are agile and sometimes aggressive creatures with the ability to charge at 30 mph, and bulls can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. This means people should stand at least 25 to 100 yards away from the animals, according to Yellowstonepark.com.

Veress noted when people visit Yellowstone, large numbers of animals are often visible in public areas. This is an unusual experience for many people. But she added that people can forget the animals are still unpredictable and wild.

The park attempts to educate tourists with the widespread use of illustrated signs with warnings written in several languages at key locations. But she also recommended visitors take the “Yellowstone Pledge” for wildlife education prior to visiting the park. 

The Yellowstone Pledge is part of a National Park Service public education initiative found here. It offers 10 tips designed to educate visitors about proper park etiquette in several of the most common tourist languages, such as Chinese and Spanish.

As recordings of Yellowstone wildlife conflicts become more widely available, officials are using social media to pursue individuals acting inappropriately within the park. Veress said it was hard to tell what kind of effect videos and other social media sharing are having on tourist behavior because the posting of videos is a new phenomenon. There is no way to correlate a reduction or increase of incidents to the videos. Videos are mainly used for identifying individuals.

“Some of these incidents were taken on video and passed onto us,” Veress said. “From there, the videos can result in court (action).”

The videos enable park rangers to deduce locations and identify people involved. As federal law enforcement officers, rangers are able to issue citations to help reduce incidents, Veress added.

Many people are more worried about the dangers of bears than bison, but bears are often less accessible than bison in the park, she said. In addition, there are fewer bears than bison, and they tend to remain further away from people. 

The National Park Service website states that eight people have died from bear attacks since the park opened in 1872. But deaths caused by bears are less common than other causes of death in the park, such as drowning, which has claimed 121 lives in the park’s history.

The Wyoming Game and Fish currently offers “bear wise” education on its website along with other wildlife information. The key to viewing any wildlife is to stay back and stay safe, according to the department.

“The onus is people to be safe around all types of wildlife,” DiRienzo said. “Wyoming [and Yellowstone] offers an incredible opportunity, anywhere you go, to view and enjoy wildlife. It can give people some of the most incredible experiences outdoors.”

Sniffin: Two Cowboy State road trips show state is green and clear

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Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

By Bill Sniffin for Cowboy State Daily

Road trip! 

Is there any better place in the world to take a road trip this time of year than Wyoming?

Recently, we made two such trips and saw a bunch of wonderful sites in our great state. Two things stood out:

First, I have rarely seen the countryside as green as it is now this late in the year. 

Second, for the first time in a long time, you can see for 100 miles or more.  There are no smoky horizons blocking views because of California or Canadian fires. What a relief that is. 

The book The Big Sky by Montana author A. B. Guthrie Jr., was actually writing about the big sky in Wyoming, not Montana.  The state of Montana was smart enough, though, to grab that as one of their primary mottos. Our Big Sky has never been prettier than now here in the Cowboy State.

We took two trips, both of which ended up out-of-state. The first one headed north. The second headed south. Here are my observations:

Yellowstone National Park is my favorite place on earth. I have probably visited our country’s first national park 120 times. I just cannot get enough of it. This park is the main draw for tourists coming to Wyoming. 

There are three Wyoming entrances to the park.  The northernmost is the Beartooth Highway out of Park County—wow, what a ride that is!

Also, the east gate over Sylvan Pass west of Cody is one of my all-time favorite drives. The Wapiti Valley is a showcase in its own right.

We took the southern gate from Moran and worked our way through the check-in gates for Grand Teton Park and for Yellowstone Park. 

We were traveling on July 2 and the park was at near capacity over the Independence Day holiday.  People from all over the country and all over the world having a great time. We are so fortunate to have Yellowstone in our state. 

Ran into a Mr. and Mrs. Eisenheiner at the Old Faithful parking lot. They were riding a motorcycle to Alaska. They had started in Los Angeles. Wow, what a ride. I believe that the name Eisenheiner is German for “Iron Butt.” 

On this trip, we left Lander about 8 a.m. and took US Highway 287 north through the Wind River Reservation. The gigantic Wind River Mountains were looming on our left and were just awesome.  Next comes Dubois, one of the state’s prettiest little towns and it was jammed with tourists.

From there, we headed over Togwotee Pass, which tops out at about 9,600 feet near Brooks Lake.  As you head over the pass to Jackson Hole, the spectacular Tetons are shining in the distance – a million dollar view. As you descend into Jackson Hole, it is common to see a grizzly or two, but not on this warm day. 

This is one of the most beautiful drives in the state and is just keeps getting better, the closer you get to the national parks.  Then, on this day at least, it got a little crowded.

I was headed to a meeting in Bozeman, MT, one of the fastest growing cities in the country at 112,000 people. 

My trip home involved coming through Cody, Thermopolis, Shoshoni, and Riverton. Everything is so green! 

Our next road trip involved heading to Montrose, CO by way of Rawlins and Baggs. Then over to Denver to see my 95-year old mother and back home via Cheyenne, Laramie, and Rawlins.

Wyoming is famous for its wildlife. No other state in the lower 48 even comes close to the antelope, deer, elk, moose, bear, coyote, and jackrabbits you see along our roadways.

Some of the biggest antelope herds in the state can be seen along the route we took. Not sure we can call them wildlife, but the state’s biggest herd of wild horses roams the Red Desert between Lander-Rawlins-Rock Springs-Pinedale areas. 

Wildlife Worth the Watching was a program used for many years to promote folks visiting Wyoming to see actual wild animals, actually in the wild.  A great program.

We made the mistake of taking Colorado’s Interstate 70 going east into Denver on a Sunday afternoon. Spent an extra two hours jammed in bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Horrible experience.

Cheyenne was gearing up for Frontier Days, Laramie looked prosperous, as did Rawlins, as we sailed through on our way home.

Great trips, but a little too purposeful for me. I prefer to travel slowly and stop and visit interesting folks and interesting places. Will do that on our next trip.

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 them at www.wyomingwonders.com.

Yellowstone Lodges official wins top tourism award

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Grand Prismatic Hot Springs, a steaming blue natural pool, ALT= Yellowstone, Geothermal, Hot spring

By Cowboy State Daily

The sales and marketing director for Yellowstone National Park Lodges has been named the winner of Wyoming’s top tourism award.

Rick Hoeninghausen, who has been associated with Yellowstone for 30 years, was awarded the “Big Wyo” award Tuesday during the Governor’s Hospitality and Tourism Conference held in Cheyenne this week.

Hoeninghausen has been one of the leading promoters of Wyoming tourism inside the world’s first national park.

“If you know me, you know that as a kid, I wanted to be a cowboy,” he told members of Wyoming’s hospitality industry gathered for the conference. “And I got a little older and I wanted to be … a park ranger. And I’ve never been any of them, but I live in the Cowboy state and I work in the world’s first national park. How do dreams come true?”

The Governor’s Hospitality and Tourism Conference is held by the Wyoming Tourism Division and the Wyoming Restaurant and Lodging Association.

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