Cheyenne, WY – The Director of Workforce Services told the legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee Monday they have formed a committee to better track some of the business training grant money the agency provides. Senators Irene Devin and Rich Cathcart expressed concern there might have been abuses. But agency Director Kathy Emmons says this workgroup will take a closer look at exactly what they are providing. Emmons says it's critical the grant funds have oversight because the program is used as a recruitment tool for new businesses thinking of relocating.
Cheyenne, WY – The U-S Fish and Wildlife SErvice is expected to rule soon whether Wyoming's plan to manage gray wolves is acceptable. U-S Interior Department officials aren't saying expactly when their decision will be announced. Wyoming Chief Deputy Attorney General Mike O'Donnell says the rule could come as early as Thursday. The agency has been reviewing wolf management plans submitted by Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. All three states must have acceptable plans before the gray wolf can be removed from the endangered species list.
Washington, DC – The Justice Department has filed a notice of appeal in a lawsuit over whether snowmobiles should be allowed in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The notice was filed Monday in the U-S Circuit Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia circuit. The notice preserves the Bush administration's right to lodge an appeal in the case after U-S District Judge Emmet Sullivan reimposed a Clinton-era plan to phase out snowmobiles in the parks.
Billings, MT – The US Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Wyoming's wolf management plan Tuesday. One of three areas the federal government had problems with was Wyoming dual classification plan. That would classify wolves as predators in much of the state and leave the animals open to unregulated killing.
Laramie, WY – The University of Wyoming will have its' budget request heard before the legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee Tuesday. U-W President Phil Dubois says he'll be presenting legislators with a combination of what they requested, keeping in mind what Governor Freudenthal proposed in his budget. Dubois expects the most questions he'll face will be about salaries and athletic facilities and operations.
Laramie, WY – The University of Wyoming's student government President cautioned Trustees Friday about a proposed double-digit fee increase. Jack Edwards says student senators are concerned about "a dramatic fee increase" of 11 percent because of how it affects the cost of an overall college education. Edwards says many students are now non-traditional students who have families, rents and other costs than a college education. U-W President Phil Dubois says the driving force is anticipated salary and health increases increases for employees.
Laramie, Wy – A newly formed organization is planning an anti war rally this weekend in Casper. Chairman Tom Blemming says he founded Wyomingites United Against War in Iraq and the Patriot Act last week. He says the goal is to change leaders in Washington D-C because the current government is focused on war over other priorities. Blemming's group plans a protest this Saturday in Casper. He says it will not be a Democratic party rally, but people with all views will attend, including Republicans.
Yellowstone National Park, WY – A wolf expert says the wolf population in and around Yellowstone is probably reaching its limit because of the numbers of elk in the area are on the decline. Chris Smith told Montana Outfitters and Guides Association members over the weekend that wolves will spread to new areas, but probably will stick to mountain country. Smith if the Chief of Staff for the Montana Kepartment of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He worked with wolves in Alaska for 20 years.
Laramie, Wy – Officials in Yellowstone say snowmobilers illegally entered the park and rode across several meadows on the west side, trampling some shrubs and small trees. In a statement Monday, park officials called the weekend incident the worst case of off-road snowmobile travel ever recorded along the West Entrance Road. The matter remains under investigation, and officials are asking that anyone with information contact park law enforcement.
Cheyenne, WY – A bill that would toughen Wyoming's Open Container law is back in the legislature again this year. Under this year's measure, open containers would be banned anywhere in a vehicle that is within easy reach of anyone, driver or passenger. Current law prohibits people from drinking while driving, but does allow passengers to drink. Representative Becket Hinckley says the current law has a major loophole and must be changed. Similar legislation has failed the last two years.
Cheyenne, WY – A co-chairman of Wyoming's Consensus Revenue Estimating Group says there is a lot to be said for having the state put a lot of its' surplus into a savings account. But Steve Sommers says how that is done will be the major policy question facing the legislature. House Republicans say putting a lot of the billion-dollar surplus into the Permanent Mineral TRust Fund is a good idea because it builds up a major interest-bearing account while the state has the money to enhance the fund.
Cheyenne, Wy – As the Joint Appropriations Committee goes through agency budgets, they are spending some time looking at the Governor's proposal to eliminate contract employees and are looking at the issue of pay raises. By eliminating contract employees, the Governor says he can get a better handle on who is working in state government. But, committee members are finding that the move is not necessarily saving them money because the contract employees now qualify for benefits.
Rawlins, WY – Ranchers in southern Wyoming are adjusting to a new danger to their herds following a wolf attack north of Wamsutter. U-S Fish and Wildlife Service biologists say the wolves were likely young males searching for new territory. They don't think an entire pack has relocated. U-S Department of Agriculture officials, however, believe the wolves may be the same seen around the area in recent months. Ranchers are trying to bring in the herd for calving season, but say their cattle are now spooked and don't like to be handled.
Cheyenne, Wy – State Senator Jayne Mockler is asking the Legislature to help pay for emergency brucellosis testing. In a statement released today, Mockler says it's appropriate for the state to at least temporarily help ranchers offset the costs of emergency state regulations. Brucellosis testing could cost Wyoming ranchers up to one million dollars a year.
Powell, WY – The Powell school board has signed a contract with the Wyoming School Facilities Commission giving trustees more than a million dollars for designing a new Powell High School. The contract specifies a building of 115 thousand square feet, including a 550 seat auditorium. A budget of slightly more than $20 million for the entire project has been approved by the commission. The school board approved the contract at a special meeting Tuesday. Superintendent Don Cravens expects the planning process, including public input, to last 12 to 14 months.
Laramie, Wy – Despite getting turned down by the Governor, U-W officials are going to try and get legislators to support a request of nearly three million dollars to enhance marketing and fundraising, along with competitive excellence of U-W athletics. But if they can't get on-going support, President Phil Dubois says they will ask for one time money to try and get fundraising and marketing programs up to speed. Athletic Director Gary Barta admits that saying that they are only asking for such money once--- could be risky.
Laramie, WY – A Laramie-based conservation group says it will oppose plans to allow more than 200 new methane wells in and around the Thunder Basin National Grassland. Eric Molvar of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance says the Big Porcupine Coalbed Methane Project in Campbell and Converse counties will send potentially toxic water into rivers and introduce human activity in pristine habitats. He says the forest service plans to allow millions of gallons of salty wastewater to be dumped into waterways.
Laramie, Wy – University of Wyoming Trustees are pondering a three percent tuition increase for the fall semester. U.W. President Phil Dubois recommended upping the tuition to cover inflationary costs while administrators look into a new tuition philosophy.
Worland, WY – In the first year of testing for chronic wasting disease, the most intriguing cases were the two found south of Worland. These were odd because they were found a good distance away from where the disease had previously been identified. Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Veterinarian Terry Kreeger says the cases aren't necessarily significant and it's too soon to draw conclusions. Kreeger says officials have seen cases in other areas where chronic wasting showed up and then disappered and has not re-appeared in those locations.
Laramie, Wy – Friday was the first day of the snowmobile season in Grand Teton National Park. Because of a ruling by a Washington D-C judge only 25 sleds a day can go into the park on the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail. But, Grand Teton spokesperson, Jackie Skaggs, says the cap shouldn't pose a problem as historically they have not had 25 snowmobilers a day. Another 25 snowmobilers a day can ride on the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway.
Cheyenne, Wy – The Department of Agriculture presented its budget request today (Thursday) to the legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee. But even with the brucellosis and mad cow issues hanging overhead,the department did not increase its request.
Laramie, Wy – Despite several years of trying to run it themselves, a private organization will hand over management of the Wyoming Territorial Park in Laramie to the state. A proposal that includes a state partnership will go to a legislative committee next week. The idea is that it will ensure permanent state financial support. The plan has the state handling employees and most maintenance costs, but the local nonprofit corperation would continue offering community programs.
Sioux Falls, SD – The Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad has secured a $233 million dollar federal loan to repair tracks and bridges. The railroad is hoping to build a line into northeastern Wyoming to tap into the Powder River Basin's coal fields. D-M-And-E President Kevin Schieffer says the funding from the Federal Rail Administration gives the company a huge boost. Schieffer says much of the railroad's line was created from abandoned or neglected track. He says finding money to pay for improvements has always been a challenge.
Laramie, Wy – Since the state tightened up its drunken driving laws there has been a drop in the number of alcohol related deaths and accidents. The change to a point oh-eight blood alcohol content went into effect in the middle of 2002. In 2003 there was a five percent reduction in alcohol or drug related traffic deaths. Colonel John Cox of the Wyoming Highway Patrol says there's also been an increase in D-U-I arrests. Cox says that has contributed to the decrease in fatalities but he says more people are using seatbelts too.
Laramie, Wy – Nearly eight feet of snow have fallen on the Teton Mountains since Christmas. The Bridger Teton National Forest's Avalanche Forecaster, Bob Comey, says all of that snow has not made the backcountry especially dangerous. He says the risk of avalanche is moderate, meaning there is some unstable snow, but there is no weak layer of snow, which makes conditions unpredictable. During the last few winters Comey says there has been a bad layer of snow. He says because of that a small mistake could lead to severe consequences.
Sheridan, WY – A group of Sheridan county legislators will try to get a graduated driver's license bill passed this year. It would mean teenagers would have to drive with several restrictions until they're 17 years old. Kate Taylor does education on graduated licenses in Sheridan county. She says the community is behind the idea because 13 youth from the area have died in car accidents over the last two years. Taylor maintains that at least seven of those young people would still be alive if a graduated driver's license program was in place.
Wyoming – Renny Mackay speaks with Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Forecaster, Bob Comey about the avalanche conditions in Wyoming
Topic: In the past year, the number of alcohol related accidents and deaths have decreased; Guest: Colonel John Cox, Director of the Wyoming Highway Patrol
Topic: Communities around the state are developing programs for youth; Guest: Laura Feldman, Research Scientist with the Wyoming Statistical Analysis Center and Steve Hamaker, Executive Director for the Greater Wyoming Big Brothers/Big Sisters Organization
Riverton, WY – Legal fees and other costs of school finance litigation have totaled more than $3.5 million over the past five years. That's according to state records. The costs were calculated by state officials on request from the Joint Education Committee. It includes money spent by school districts and the state. Since 1998, the state alone has spent $2.7 million defending the legislature's position in the legal battles. The litigation began in 1992 and the Wyoming Supreme Court still retains jurisdiction over the case.