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
4:36 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

Study says sage grouse have very limited tolerance for development

A study by the U.S. Geological Survey looks at the ecological conditions that sage grouse need in order to survive, and the amount of human disturbance they can tolerate. We’re joined now by Steve Knick, one of the report’s authors. He says the goal was to determine the basic requirements that sage grouse have.

Click here to view the full report.

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Open Spaces
4:12 pm
Fri April 19, 2013

April 19th, 2013

Wyoming's Senators Help Defeat Gun Control
After weeks of intense lobbying on Capitol Hill gun control advocates suffered a stinging defeat this week…in part because of opposition from Wyoming’s two Republican senators. Matt Laslo reports from Washington. 

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Open Spaces
3:59 pm
Fri April 19, 2013

Wyoming develops state-wide suicide prevention initiative

Wyoming has one of the highest rates of suicide in the country … nearly twice the national average. Until recently, efforts at preventing suicide were left up to individual counties. But now, the state is trying a new tactic which they hope will save more lives. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Open Spaces
3:56 pm
Fri April 19, 2013

Losing two sons to suicide: A conversation with BJ Ayers

We’re joined now by BJ Ayers. Not one, but two of her sons killed themselves … and since then, she’s dedicated her life to trying to prevent suicide. She started the Grace for Two Brothers foundation and is now the suicide prevention coordinator for southeast Wyoming. Her son Brett was 19 when he died in 2005.

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News
9:07 am
Fri April 5, 2013

Study shows more are in favor of Fracking than opposed

A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that more Americans are in favor of fracking than are opposed to it. Forty-eight percent of respondents said they’d like to see an increased use of fracking, while 38 percent said they wouldn’t.

The Pew Center’s Leah Christian says opinions varied by region, but that could be because of prevailing political views in different parts of the country.

“The two regions where we saw the most support – the Midwest and the South – for fracking, those are also more Republican regions of the country,” Christian said.

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News
4:49 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

State engineer seeks input on handling apparent water shortage

The state engineer’s office says in parts of Laramie and Goshen Counties, demand for water appears to exceed supply.

State Engineer Pat Tyrrell says groundwater and surface water are connected in that area, so people who draw down the water in their wells are affecting water in streams, which means less water flows into the Hawk Spring Reservoir. He says there hasn’t been enough water to go around for quite some time.

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Open Spaces
3:53 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

Wild horse “ecosanctuary” to allow horses to roam free off public lands

Every year, the Bureau of Land Management removes thousands of horses from public land in Wyoming. They ship most of the horses to long-term holding facilities in the Midwest. But that’s expensive … and they’re running out of space. So now the BLM has partnered with ranchers to create a so-called horse “ecosanctuary” right here in the Cowboy State. It’s the first of its kind in the nation. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

AMBI: Ecosanctuary

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News
6:59 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

DEQ engine emissions study shows significant non-compliance

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is wrapping up an engine emissions study it started in May of 2011. The study looks at emissions from engines around the state, like generators running on oil and gas fields, to find out if those emissions are in compliance with air quality laws.

DEQ Air Quality Engineer Jon Walker says operators have traditionally been in charge of monitoring their own engines, but he says that’s not a good system.   

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News
5:50 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Game and Fish plans to remove brook trout to restore native fish

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department plans to remove non-native fish from a stream in the Bighorn National Forest, in order to restore a native fish that has nearly died out.

The agency would use a chemical to kill off brook trout and then re-stock the stream with Yellowstone cut-throat trout, which are native to Wyoming.

Assistant Fisheries Management Coordinator Mark Smith says cut-throats have not been able to compete with brook trout, which were introduced to the state in the 1930s. He says nearly 90 percent of the cut-throats in the Bighorns have died off already.

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News
5:40 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

DEQ ponders new rules to tackle Sublette County ozone

Credit Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

The Department of Environmental Quality is considering new regulations for the energy industry in Sublette County, in order to address the ozone problem there.

Ozone is a component in smog and can lead to health problems. In Sublette County, it’s caused by emissions from the oil and gas industry.

DEQ’s air quality administrator, Steve Dietrich, says one area they want to focus on is older production equipment that predates the current emissions rules. 

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Open Spaces
3:54 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

March 15th, 2013

Emissions from drilling rigs and other production equipment can cause ozone to form.
Credit Willow Belden

DEQ releases ozone strategy for Sublette County
The Department of Environmental Quality has released a plan for tackling the ozone problem in Sublette County. Emissions from the energy industry there have combined to form a type of pollution called ozone, which can be a health hazard. Ozone levels have been so high that they violate federal standards, and the Environmental Protection Agency has given Wyoming three years to fix the problem.

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Open Spaces
3:34 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

DEQ releases ozone strategy for Sublette County

Emissions from drilling rigs and other production equipment can cause ozone to form.
Credit Willow Belden

BOB BECK: The Department of Environmental Quality has released a plan for tackling the ozone problem in Sublette County. Emissions from the energy industry there have combined to form a type of pollution called ozone, which can be a health hazard. Ozone levels have been so high that they violate federal standards, and the Environmental Protection Agency has given Wyoming three years to fix the problem.

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Open Spaces
3:27 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

NRCS seeks to save Ogallala Aquifer by convincing farmers to abandon water rights

The irrigation pivots at Mike Poelma's farm are defunct, now that he has given up his water rights and switched to dryland agriculture.
Credit Willow Belden

A small corner of southeast Wyoming sits over the Ogallala Aquifer. The Ogallala is a huge aquifer that stretches from Wyoming and Nebraska all the way to Texas. It’s a key source of water for agriculture, but it’s being depleted faster than it can recharge. So the Natural Resources Conservation Service is trying to help save it. Here in Wyoming, they’re doing that by encouraging farmers to give up their water rights. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden reports.

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Open Spaces
3:22 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

One college student shares her experience with an extreme case of domestic violence

When we talk about domestic violence, we usually focus on the perpetrators and the victims. But children in abusive families are also deeply affected. We’re joined now by Haylee Reay. She’s a sophomore at UW, and her father killed her mother.

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News
6:32 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Advocates say massive gas project could harm wild horses

Wild horse advocates say a proposed natural gas project in south-central Wyoming could negatively affect herds in the area.

The Continental Divide-Creston project would drill 9,000 new wells near Wamsutter, and Suzanne Roy with the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign says much of the land is home to wild horses.

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News
6:49 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Game and Fish proposes cuts to close budget gap

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing sweeping cuts to make up for an $8- to $10 million budget shortfall.

Game and Fish plans to reduce fish stocking by 20 percent, cancel its annual hunting and fishing expo, and cut educational programming for kids. Spokesman Eric Keszler says they’ll also reduce funding for research by about 50 percent, which he says would be a blow to wildlife managers.

“Research is a very important part of managing wildlife,” Keszler said. “Understanding how wildlife uses the habitat and things like that are very important.”

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Open Spaces
5:08 pm
Fri March 8, 2013

March 8th, 2013

UW Economist Anne Alexander discusses the potential effects of the federal sequester on Wyoming
One thing everyone is trying to get a grip on is how the federal sequester will impact Wyoming.  Anne Alexander is an economist at the University of Wyoming.  She joined Bob Beck in the studio to discuss this.

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Open Spaces
4:08 pm
Fri March 8, 2013

PBS documentary links railroad construction to the formation of Wyoming

A documentary about the construction of the transcontinental railroad is set to air on Wyoming PBS this weekend. The film will show how the building of the railroad shaped Wyoming into the place it is today. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with the film’s producer, Tom Manning. He says before the railroad was built, there was no Wyoming. The film, “End of Track,” premieres on PBS on March 10th at 7 p.m.

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News
6:33 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

Torrington ethanol plant pays $49K in environmental fines

An ethanol plant in Torrington has agreed to pay $49,000 in fines for violations regarding hazardous chemicals.

David Cobb with the Environmental Protection Agency says Wyoming Ethanol did not tell the public it was using large quantities of ammonia, and did not have adequate risk management plans for handling flammable mixtures. Both are violations of federal law.

Cobb says the chemicals in question are dangerous.

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News
6:29 pm
Thu March 7, 2013

No charges filed in grizzly killing

The U.S. Attorney’s office has decided not to file criminal charges against hunters who killed a grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park last year.

The hunters were participating in the annual elk reduction program when they shot the bear. But Park Spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs says investigators determined that they acted in self defense after the grizzly charged them. She says the hunters did the right thing after the bear died.

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PBS Trains
9:13 am
Mon March 4, 2013

Documentary traces railroad construction, and Wyoming’s origin

A new documentary shows how the construction of the transcontinental railroad helped shape Wyoming into the place it is today.

Producer Tom Manning says the railroad is the reason that towns like Cheyenne, Laramie and Rock Springs exist.

“Without the transcontinental railroad going across Wyoming, of course, there would be no Wyoming,” Manning said. “You know, it was really quite a vast emptiness out there.”

The film will premiere on Wyoming PBS on Sunday, March 10th at 7 p.m.

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News
1:09 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

Bob Beck reviews the Wyoming Legislative Session

The Wyoming legislative session ended this week.  Wyoming Public Radio News Director Bob Beck joined me to talk about it.

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News
8:12 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Cheyenne homeless program reduces recidivism, but not homelessness

The Cheyenne Police Department has wrapped up a program that was intended to help the homeless get access to shelter and other services, and keep them out of jail.

The Homeless Empowerment Action Team, or HEAT, consisted of police officers and Robin Zimmer, the director of the COMEA homeless shelter. They went around town, informed homeless people of laws about loitering and panhandling, and told them about available social services.

But most individuals declined shelter or other help. Zimmer says that’s because many were alcoholics, and the only shelter in town is dry.

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Open Spaces
5:45 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

February 15th, 2013

Increased coal exports overseas bring up questions of royalty payments
Coal producers in the U.S. are looking to markets abroad to make up for decreasing demand at home. But a recent investigation by Thomson Reuters news service suggests there might be royalty underpayments on those shipments. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that royalty question is still unresolved.

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Arts
4:58 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Gov. Mead to present arts awards Friday

The Governor’s Arts Awards will be presented this Friday. The awards honor some of the state’s best artists, but Arts Council Manager Rita Basom says when picking winners, they look at more than just the quality of someone’s work.

“You’re also looking at what they have brought to the state of Wyoming,” Basom said. “Not just the fact that they do very high-quality work, but that they are bringing attention to the state, serving the state in various ways.”

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Found Footage
4:55 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Found Footage Festival showcases thrift store videos

The Found Footage Festival, which is a collection of film clips acquired by donation or found at thrift stores around the country, is coming to Wyoming this week.

Curator Nick Prueher says many of the films are old instructional videos, like how to train your ferret, or how to learn Japanese.

“They’re all really silly, and I guess the litmus test for us is whether they’re unintentionally funny,” Prueher said. “Whatever the video was trying to do, it has to fail at in some entertaining way.”

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Flame Resistant
4:58 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

OSHA implements new rules to protect rig workers

New rules from Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, require workers to wear flame-resistant clothing near wellbore holes, and require emergency shut-down devices on diesel engines used on drill rigs.

OSHA’s John Ysebaert says flame-resistant clothing has made a big difference for worker’s safety during two recent incidents. One was a fire at the Sinclair Oil refinery.

“There were injuries, but it absolutely saved lives and … reduced those injuries,”Ysebaert said.

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Groundwater Testing
4:55 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Groundwater testing could become a pre-drilling requirement

Credit FuelFix

Governor Matt Mead is considering requiring companies to test for groundwater contamination before drilling for oil or gas.

The new requirement would be part of the Mead’s energy strategy for the state. The goal is to make it easier to determine whether contaminated water was the result of energy production.

Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council says the proposed requirement is long overdue.

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