Willow Belden

Reporter

Phone: 307-766-5086
Email: wbelden@uwyo.edu 

Willow Belden joined Wyoming Public Radio after earning her masters degree at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Prior to grad school, Willow spent a year in the Middle East on a Fulbright grant, conducting research in a Palestinian refugee camp, and writing for the Jordan Times and JO Magazine. Upon returning to the U.S., she became a reporter and editor at the Queens Chronicle in New York City and received the Rookie Reporter of the Year award from the New York Press Association. This spring, she received the Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship from Columbia University. When she’s not working on stories, Willow spends her time bicycling, hiking, kayaking and traveling. She can occasionally be spotted on a unicycle. And she has a habit of swimming in the ocean with the Polar Bear Club on New Years Day.

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Open Spaces
4:41 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Study shows Pinedale water contamination mostly unrelated to gas drilling

Pollutants including benzene and diesel-range organics have shown up in water wells like this one in the Pinedale Anticline for several years.
Credit Courtesy Linda Baker

Pollutants have been showing up in water wells in the Pinedale Anticline gas field since 2006. Until recently, no one knew where the contamination was coming from. Now, the Bureau of Land Management and Department of Environmental Quality have released a report indicating that most of the problem was not caused by energy production. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Open Spaces
4:18 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Bark beetles turn forest into carbon source

Pine and spruce beetles have killed millions of trees across Wyoming and the West. To many, the dying forests are visually unattractive. But there’s a bigger issue. Researchers in the Medicine Bow National Forest are finding that beetle kill has had a major impact on how the forest processes carbon dioxide. Wyoming Public radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Wyoming Stories
12:40 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

Wyoming Stories Podcast #2

In honor of Veterans Day, stories from the Vietnam and Iraq Wars.

Subscribe to the Wyoming Stories podcast here.

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News
6:17 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Environmental groups urge speedy development of pollution prevention plan for Pinedale

Credit Courtesy Linda Baker

Environmental groups are urging the Bureau of Land Management to quickly develop a plan for preventing future groundwater pollution in the Pinedale Anticline gas fields.

The BLM released a report this week that said groundwater contamination in the area was mostly not a result of natural gas production. But Bruce Pendery with the Wyoming Outdoor Council says regulators still need to be vigilant in preventing potential future problems.

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News
11:42 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Pinedale water contamination mostly unconnected to gas production, study finds

A new Bureau of Land Management report indicates that most of the groundwater contamination near Pinedale was not caused by the energy industry.

After petroleum products showed up in water wells in the Pinedale Anticline gas field in 2006, several agencies launched an investigation to figure out where the contamination was coming from. They concluded that some pollution occurred naturally, as gas seeped upward through geologic layers and into the groundwater. The report says other pollutants came from the process of drilling and installing water wells.

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News
11:00 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Converse County air quality monitoring in question

The Department of Environmental Quality says it’s not clear whether they will continue monitoring air quality in Converse County after this year.

DEQ began the monitoring about a year ago, because of public concern about emissions from oil and gas development. So far, their data does not indicate any violations of air quality standards but there have been several days with high pollution levels. The agency’s Cara Keslar says they’ll probably move the monitoring station to another location after they’ve collected a full year of data.

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Open Spaces
4:16 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

November 15th, 2013

UW Board of Trustees President talks about Dr. Sternberg’s resignation

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees announced UW President Bob Sternberg’s resignation on Thursday. The Trustees spent Thursday and Friday in meetings, but President of the Board David Bostrom sat down to talk with Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov about what comes next. Bostrom says the Trustees didn’t try to convince Dr. Sternberg to stay.

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Open Spaces
3:52 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Historian offers perspective on Sternberg resignation

Bob Sternberg
Credit trib.com

It’s not often that a president leaves a university as quickly as Bob Sternberg, but it has happened before at UW. Phil Roberts spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden. He says there are often times that people are just not the right fit for a particular position.

For more on UW President Bob Sternberg’s resignation, click here.

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Open Spaces
3:36 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Pollution spikes in Converse County spark concerns over oil and gas expansion

Energy development in Converse County has led to concerns about air quality.
Credit Willow Belden

Converse County is seeing an increasing amount of energy development, and some residents worry that air quality could suffer as a result. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and researchers from the University of Wyoming are now monitoring air quality in the area.

On the whole, they’ve found that the air is pretty clean. But they’ve also documented times when pollution levels have spiked. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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News
6:06 am
Fri November 15, 2013

NRCS seeks to reduce power consumption on farmland

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is trying to reduce energy consumption on farms in Laramie County.

Jim Pike is the district conservationist for the NRCS. He says many farms in the area have old, inefficient irrigation equipment that uses so much power it can overload the electrical grid.

“In 2012, the rural electric company had to bring portable, truck-mounted generators that were powered by diesel motors to generate additional electricity because they couldn’t keep up with it in their normal infrastructure,” Pike said.

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News
8:53 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

UW president resigns, no decisions yet on new search process

Dick McGinity has been named Interim President of the University of Wyoming.
Credit Willow Belden

University of Wyoming President Bob Sternberg has resigned, after less than five months in office.

He said in a statement that “as wonderful as the University of Wyoming is, it may not be the best fit for me as president.”

Sternberg had come under fire from members of the campus community after several deans and other top officials were replaced.

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Sternberg
5:31 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

University of Wyoming president resigns

Bob Sternberg

University of Wyoming President Bob Sternberg has resigned. The decision was announced in a press conference this evening. The Board of Trustees says the decision was Sternberg’s – that he was not asked to resign.

Sternberg had come under fire from members of the campus community, who were upset about the departures of several deans and other top officials.

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Open Spaces
4:05 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Sinclair’s struggles: A conversation with OSHA

A few weeks ago, the Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company got a $707,000 fine for safety violations. Wyoming’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, found that Sinclair had willfully violated various safety regulations and failed to fix hazards that could have resulted in death or serious physical harm.

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Open Spaces
3:38 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Upstarts: Company revolutionizes process for identifying unknown substances

The devices that Snowy Range Instruments makes are used to identify unknown substances
Credit Willow Belden

In our occasional “Upstarts” series, we’re going to visit a company called Snowy Range Instruments. It’s based in Laramie, and it makes devices that can identify mystery substances. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

WILLOW BELDEN: In a large warehouse-like room, Tony Eads sits hunched over a workbench. He’s holding a soldering iron, and working on the control board for a high-tech instrument. At this stage, the device looks kind of like what you might see if you took apart a computer: basically, a green board with a maze of tiny copper-colored components.

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Wyoming Stories
3:48 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Wyoming Stories Podcast #1

Stories about domestic abuse, burlesque dancing, Buffalo Bill’s chef, and learning to read.

Subscribe to the Wyoming Stories podcast here.

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Open Spaces
3:55 pm
Fri October 25, 2013

Thru hiking the Continental Divide Trail

Marc Koeplin
Credit Marc Koeplin

The Continental Divide Trail is a hiking path that runs from Canada to Mexico, along the great divide. It’s more than 3,000 miles long, and only a handful of people hike the whole thing in a single year. Marc Koeplin of Cheyenne is one of them.

He and his hiking partner finished the trail a few weeks ago, and joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden to talk about the trip. He says his first long-distance hike was the Appelachian Trail, which he did 12 years ago.

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Open Spaces
3:32 pm
Fri October 25, 2013

Wyoming Stories: Learning to see at age 38

Pat Logan and Dave Stratton
Credit StoryCorps

We’re going to hear now from a woman who was blind for the first 38 years of her life. At that point, a doctor told her he could make her see. After four surgeries, she finally gained her vision.

The woman’s name is Pat Logan, and we’ll hear a conversation she had with Dave Stratton, the chaplain for the Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly, in Cheyenne. The interview was recorded as part of StoryCorps, a project that records conversations between loved ones.

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Open Spaces
5:36 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Researchers seek to determine behavioral effects of contraception on coyotes

Marjie MacGregor is researching birth control for coyotes
Willow Belden

Last year, we reported on research that’s being done at the University of Wyoming regarding coyote contraception. The idea is to use birth control to reduce coyote numbers, and in particular, to keep coyotes from killing livestock. The project now has some preliminary results, and Marjie MacGregor, who’s leading the study, joins us now to talk about what they’ve found, and what’s next.

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Open Spaces
5:20 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Casper school seeks to make students bilingual

Kindergarteners in the dual language immersion program at Paradise Valley Elementary School spend half their day learning in Chinese.
Willow Belden

A school in Casper has started teaching some of its classes in Chinese. The idea is that the students in those classes will grow up bilingual. This is the first Chinese immersion program in a Wyoming school, but data from other states that have similar programs show a wide range of benefits. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Open Spaces
5:12 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Wyoming Stories: Myrtle Forney recalls a marriage marred by alcoholism and abuse (StoryCorps)

Myrtle Forney with her grandson, Nate Swinton’
Courtesy Story Corps

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we’re going to hear a story about abuse that stemmed from alcoholism. This interview was recorded as part of Story Corps, a project that records conversations between loved ones. In this case, 89-year-old Myrtle Forney talks with her grandson, Nate Swinton. After her first husband (Nate’s grandfather) passed away, she married another man, named Ken.

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Open Spaces
4:36 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

October 18th, 2013

Left to right, Tara Heaton, guide Fred Williams, and Crystal Mayfield pose with their antelope on the second day of the hunt.
Fred Williams
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News
6:53 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Communities near parks hope end of shutdown will mean uptick in business

Now that the government shutdown is over, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks have re-opened, and local communities are hoping business will pick up again.

Scott Balyo with the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce says the area saw a 25 to 30 percent drop in business while the parks were closed.

“The first couple of days of the shutdown, we probably saw a slight increase in business, because people were hopeful that it would be short lived,” Balyo said. “So we had people who were willing to stay in the area and wait and see if the park would reopen.”

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News
6:41 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

UW scientists to start studying behavior effects of coyote birth control

Scientists at the University of Wyoming are moving forward with research into coyote contraception. The goal is to control coyotes without killing them.

Researcher Marjie MacGregor says research has shown that coyotes without babies tend to leave livestock alone. So by controlling coyote reproduction, she hopes to be able to keep livestock safe.

MacGregor says the drug they’ve developed to sterilize male coyotes seems to work, at least in the short term. And they have not noticed any side effects.

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News
6:51 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Environmental groups worry Buffalo plan would allow development in non-reclaimable areas

Some environmental groups have concerns about a land use plan that the Bureau of Land Management has drafted for the Buffalo area.

Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council says until now, the BLM has placed restrictions on energy development in areas that can't  easily be reclaimed – for example, areas with steep slopes, or with fragile soil.

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Sinclair
7:00 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Explosion at Sinclair refinery causes second fire in two months

Sinclair Refinery, Wyoming
Credit Charles Willgren / Wikipedia

An explosion at the Sinclair Refinery near Rawlins on Friday night resulted in a fire.

The explosion occurred around 10 p.m. on Friday. No one was injured, and by 3 a.m. the fire was under control. The Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is investigating the incident. The cause is still unknown.

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News
6:40 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

Moratorium on new water permits extended

Wyoming will not issue any new permits for agricultural or other high-capacity water wells in the Ogallala Aquifer, until a hydrogeologic study of the area is completed.

The Ogallala supplies water to southeastern Wyoming and many other states, and State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says the water is being used up too quickly.

“We’ve continued to see declines in the water level,” Tyrrell said. “And at some point, if we don’t arrest that decline, we’re essentially going to pump ourselves right out of water.”

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Open Spaces
4:49 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

September 20th, 2013

Natural Gas producers are concerned about the future

More than 500 industry people gathered in Jackson this week for the 17th Annual Wyoming Oil and Gas Fair. Wyoming Public Radio’s energy and natural resources reporter, Stephanie Joyce was there, and she joins us now to talk about the event.

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Open Spaces
4:27 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Stigma of suicide hinders emotional recovery for survivors

September is suicide prevention awareness month. Wyoming consistently has one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation, and the state is working hard to change that.

One of the reasons that suicide prevention efforts are so important is because of what suicide does to the family and friends of the victim. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports that the grief survivors go through can be much more acute than other types of grief.

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