Dec 29, 2015

Cody to host Wyoming Senior Olympics Winter Games in February

You may not consider yourself ready for a competition that has Olympics in the title. You also may not consider yourself a senior.

But if you're 50 or older and like to swim, run, ski or play pickleball, then you might enjoy competing in the Wyoming Senior Olympics.

Skiers compete in the Nordic Skiing 5K/10K Classic during the 2015 Wyoming Senior Olympics Winter Games. Photo courtesy Amy Quick
"You only have to be 50, and so maybe the word 'senior' needs to change — 'active adult' may be more appropriate," said Amy Quick, recreation coordinator with the City of Cody who is helping organize the upcoming winter games.

For the second year, Cody will host the Wyoming Senior Olympics Winter Games Feb. 18-21. While athletes will come from across the Cowboy State and beyond, those in Cody and the Big Horn Basin don't have to travel very far on wintry roads.

"You have the home field advantage," Quick said. "We definitely would love to have more local participation."

Even for those who aren't competitive, it's an enjoyable experience, she said.

"It's a lot of fun," Quick said. "We hope people come out to experience that, and we want to advocate for people to stay active and healthy."

Swimmer encourages others to participate
For Karen Swanson of Powell, the 2015 Wyoming Senior Olympics in Cody was the first time she swam competitively.

"I had never done any kind of swim meet before," she said. "I just swim for fitness. It's a little bit easier on the joints."

Swanson works at the Powell Aquatic Center, and last year she saw a flier advertising the Wyoming Senior Olympics. A coworker encouraged her to join, as did her daughter, Shayna, who swam for the University of Wyoming.

"So I said, 'Oh, what the heck? You only live once — let's go for it,'" Swanson said. "It was fun."


Swanson competed in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke and 50-yard sidestroke.

"I wanted to keep things short, because I didn't really know what to expect," Swanson said.

As she prepared, Swanson's daughter gave her some pointers.

"I had never been off starting blocks before," she said.

But, being fresh on the blocks didn’t hold Swanson back as she won all of her events.
"I did better than I thought I would," she said.

At 59 years old, Swanson competed in an age bracket with some swimmers in their 60s.

"I'm going to be 60 this next time, so I might get a little more competition," she said.

Swanson said the other athletes were really nice, and she described the competition as low-key.

"There were some who were really into it, and others who can't swim as well, but they were still there and trying," she said.

One swimmer with a disability had a hard time getting through the water, "but she did it," Swanson said. "That's kind of what it's all about."

As the February competition approaches, Swanson hopes to participate again. She has a sore shoulder — not from swimming, but from working around her place — so her progress has been slower than she had hoped.

Swanson encourages swimmers and other athletes from the area to participate in the upcoming Wyoming Senior Olympics. The fact that local athletes only have to drive to Cody — and not across the state — also is a selling point.

"You have to be 50 and over, but I know there are some older people who swim laps here," she said. "It would be nice if they came over (to the Olympics), just to experience something different."

Indoor events will take place at the Paul Stock Aquatic and Recreation Center, and snow events will be held at the Sleeping Giant Ski Area and Pahaska Tepee/Park County Nordic Ski Association trails.

Registration for the Feb. 18-21 winter games is open. For those who register by Jan. 31, the registration fee is $32, which includes one event. Each additional event is $7. On Feb. 1, the fee goes up to $40, and still $7 per additional event.

"We have a bunch of other fun social events going on, too," Quick said.

The schedule includes a screening of the film "Unbranded" on the evening of Feb. 18, which is free to athletes and $5 for guests.

On the evening of Feb. 19, athletes and guests can enjoy a private tour of the Draper Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West with appetizers, followed by a performance by Dan Miller's Cowboy Music Revue. It's a $45 value that only costs $10 for athletes and $15 for guests, Quick said.

A celebration and banquet takes place on Feb. 20 at the VFW Hall in Cody, $10 for athletes and $15 for guests.
The upcoming 2016 winter games are open to athletes 50 and older.
Photo courtesy Amy Quick

"We do hope people take advantage of these socials," Quick said. "That's also an opportunity to showcase our community and what all goes on here."

The Wyoming Senior Olympics brings in people from all over the region.

"We had people from Montana and as far away as Texas and certainly from around Wyoming," Quick said. "We're just very fortunate we live here, and to be able to share that with people."

She said the winter games are great for the community, businesses and local organizations.

The city of Cody is working with Sleeping Giant, the Park County Nordic Ski Association, the Senior Center, chamber and Park County Travel Council, Quick said.

"It's a really great event with amazing people," she said.

For more information about the events or to register, visit www.wyseniorolympics.com, call 307-527-3487 or 307-587-0400 or email kellyb@cityofcody.com.

Dec 22, 2015

'Star Wars' themed campaign urges drivers to buckle up

If you see a sign saying "May the Force be with You" or "Avoid the Dark Side, Buckle Up," you're probably not in a galaxy far, far away but on a Wyoming highway.

Expect to see "Star Wars" themed safety messages on highways across the Cowboy State this holiday season.

Images courtesy WyDOT
Sponsored by the Wyoming Seat Belt Coalition, the digital messages encourage drivers to buckle up during the upcoming busy Christmas and New Year's Day travel periods in Wyoming.

The seat belt messages running on Wyoming Department of Transportation digital message signs across Wyoming include:
  • "Be a Rebel, Not a Clone. Buckle Up."
  • "Avoid the Dark Side. Buckle Up."
  • "The Force is Strong with You. Buckle Up."
  •  "May the Force be with You. Buckle Up."
The messages began running on Wyoming digital signs Monday, and will continue to run for at least a week. The four messages will rotate on each digital sign every six hours.

The traffic safety messaging effort will continue statewide, weather permitting. WyDOT said the messaging will be suspended if winter weather conditions warrant a return to alerts for weather or road conditions.

Cody woman uninjured after sideswiping backhoe and losing tire

A few inches farther to the left, and the story of a crash on Wyo. Highway 295 north of Powell on Friday could have ended very differently.

Thanks to those few inches, driver Heather Gambill, 28, of Cody, was uninjured in the 7 a.m. crash between the pickup she was driving and a parked backhoe.

Trooper Blain Mollett photographs damage to a WYDOT backhoe after a Friday morning crash along Wyo. Highway 295. Cody News Co. photo by Ilene Olson

Trooper Blain Mollett of the Wyoming Highway Patrol said Gambill fell asleep while driving a white 2008 Nissan Titan north on Wyo. Highway 295 at milepost 18, located near the intersection with Park County Lane 3 and just south of Polecat Bench and the Powell Municipal Airport.

The pickup drifted off the road to the left, crossing the southbound lane, then veered onto the left shoulder, where it sideswiped a New Holland backhoe owned by the Wyoming Department of Transportation that was parked near the right-of-way fence, Mollett said.

The left side of the pickup scraped along the side of the large rear tire of the backhoe, flattening the tire. The pickup continued forward along the right side of the backhoe, shattering a plastic fender on the backhoe. Then the pickup’s front driver’s-side wheel jammed into a small space between the backhoe’s front tire and bucket, where it stuck fast — while the pickup’s tire separated from the rim and flew off to the left of the backhoe.

The truck traveled forward more than 100 feet farther, where the wheel-less left-front end came to rest on a small, hard-packed snowbank, with the left side of the vehicle resting against the right-of-way fence.

Gambill was cited for failure to maintain a single lane of travel, Mollett said. The trooper said Gambill was wearing her seatbelt, and the pickup’s driver-side airbag deployed.

Three mobile homes are not a trailer park, commissioners say

Three mobile homes do not make a trailer park, Park County commissioners decided this month.

Overruling a neighbor’s objections, commissioners said planning and zoning staffers were right to let a landowner add a third rental trailer to his Lane 11 property earlier this year.

Neighbor Steve Herrmann unsuccessfully argued that county staffers were wrong. He said the county had let landowner Robert Taylor create a mobile home park — a type of land use that’s prohibited in that area south of Powell.

A photograph of the Lane 11 property, submitted to county officials by neighboring landowner Steve Herrmann.
The county’s rules say that having and renting out three trailers can qualify as a mobile home park, but commissioners say more recent additions to the regulations permit what Taylor has done.

“At the end of the day, ... I don’t want my property value to go down because I have a trailer park (nearby),” Herrmann told commissioners on Nov. 17. “I don’t want to have diminished enjoyment of my own property because of noise and activity, and all the things that you get with a trailer park.”

Herrmann said he’d had enough of things like barking dogs, grass fires from Roman candles, bottle rocket stems on his roof and blowing trash.

“It’s been years of this. It’s aggravating,” he said, asking the commission for any help they could give.

“We can’t regulate good neighbors,” responded Commissioner Tim French. “We’re just trying to see if our regs say A, B, C or D, and answer your questions.”

Commission Chairman Joe Tilden sympathized, saying if he was in Herrmann’s position, he’d probably be asking for help too.

“But the job that we have is to interpret the rules and regulations that we have in this county and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Tilden said.

“We can’t regulate good neighbors,” said Commissioner Tim French. “We’re just trying to see if our regs say A, B, C or D, and answer your questions.”

The county’s regulations are not very clear; Park County Planning Director Linda Gillett conceded to Herrmann in September that “this is not cut and dried.”

County rules say you have a mobile home park when you have three or more rented trailers on one “divided” piece of land with separate utilities.

Commissioners said Taylor’s eight-acre property is not “divided.” Further, they noted more recent and specific additions to their rules allow people to have as many as three homes — traditional or mobile — on properties that are five acres or larger.


It gets a little more complicated, because the newer rules also say that a landowner can only rent out two of their three homes. However, the county says one of Taylor’s trailers is exempt from the regulations and doesn’t count toward the two-rental limit because it was placed on the property before the county’s rules took effect in 1998.

What’s even more confusing is the fact that Taylor actually replaced that older, exempt trailer with a newer model this year. However, Gillett said it continues to be exempt from the rental restrictions because “you’re allowed to replace a structure if it’s similar in kind and use.”

Commissioners didn’t make their formal decision until Dec. 15, but they indicated at the Nov. 17 meeting that they wouldn’t be able to give Herrmann the decision he wanted.

“You got a blank neighbor — and fill in whatever word you want to fill in — and no matter what we do, that neighbor’s still going to be there,” said Commissioner Bucky Hall. “I don’t know what to offer you other than to offer to buy his property from him.”

Herrmann — who’s a special agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation — put together a thick packet of information for commissioners’ consideration, including historical photos of the property and a CD with recordings of his conversations with Gillett.

Gillett made a point of noting at a Dec. 1 meeting that Herrmann taped their discussions without her knowledge; Herrmann noted that, as a participant in the conversation, he had no legal requirement to notify her.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s legal,” Gillett countered. “There’s moral and ethical questions.”

Commissioner Lee Livingston later said he agreed with Gillett, suggesting the recording was “intrusive.”

Gillett said it felt like “something you would do with somebody who’s corrupt or criminal.”

Herrmann has the option of appealing the commissioners' decision to the District Court.

Dec 18, 2015

Commissioners not interested in discussing local Wilderness Study Areas

Count Park County commissioners as uninterested in a new effort to figure out whether any more Wyoming lands should be turned into wilderness.

Getting involved with the commissioner-led Wyoming Public Lands Initiative “would be a lot of work with almost a zero percent chance of a positive outcome,” said Park County Commission Chairman Joe Tilden on Tuesday.

Commissioners doubt they'd be able to get parts of the McCullough Peaks Wilderness Study Area returned to general management under the current political climate. Photo courtesy Wyoming BLM
“I think it’d just be an effort in futility, unless you guys just like to go to a lot of meetings,” Tilden later told his fellow commissioners.

The main goal of the Wyoming County Commissioner Association’s initiative is to have commissioners get together with different people interested in public lands (such as environmental groups, the energy industry and grazing interests) to try reaching a consensus about their county’s Wilderness Study Areas.

Study areas are patches of federal land that have been identified as being “wilderness-like.” The Wilderness Study Areas are managed with nearly all of the same restrictions as wilderness. The intent is to preserve the lands until Congress decides whether they should become official wilderness or be released back to general management.

“It’s going to be a lot of work for nothing,” said Commissioner Lee Livingston.

Wyoming has 45 study areas — two are in Park County. One is the High Lakes Wilderness Study Area, some 14,700 acres, located in the Beartooth Mountains inside the Shoshone National Forest. The other is the McCullough Peaks Wilderness Study Area, made up of 23,290 acres of Bureau of Land Management property in the peaks south of Powell; commissioners have long complained about the restrictions there.

With no action by Congress, the state’s study areas have stayed in the protective limbo for decades, drawing repeated complaints from commissioners across the Big Horn Basin.


The Wyoming County Commissioners Association launched the new public lands initiative as an effort to build a county-by-county consensus and make recommendations to Congress for each study area.

“The last time Congress passed a major lands bill specifically for Wyoming was more than 30 years ago,” Fremont County Commissioner Doug Thompson said in a statement from the association. “We believe it’s time for a new effort that tackles the temporary Wilderness Study Areas in Wyoming and faces head-on some of Wyoming’s most difficult land designation challenges.”

“This will be a long and sometimes difficult process, but if we don’t work together to make decisions about these lands, eventually someone else will do it for us,” added the association’s executive director, Pete Obermueller.

Park County commissioners said Tuesday that they aren’t interested in the process.

“It’s going to be a lot of work for nothing,” said Commissioner Lee Livingston.

The commission’s view was that environmental and other advocacy groups like the McCullough Peaks being a de facto wilderness area and won’t want to give up any of those protections.

Even if commissioners were able to reach a local consensus that some or all of the McCullough Peaks should be released to general management, Commissioner Loren Grosskopf questioned whether Wyoming’s Congressional delegation could get such a bill passed.

“I don’t see that happening — not with the present Congress,” Grosskopf said.

Commissioners said they may consider getting involved if a President and Congress with a different attitude is elected in November 2016.

Another push to delist grizzly bear looking likely

As the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decides whether to remove Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from federal protections next year, there are various perspectives from proponents and opponents.

Even if delisting procedures move forward without a hitch, it would be 2017 before the bears could be hunted in Wyoming.

Fish & Wildlife believes that the Yellowstone grizzly population is biologically recovered and are considering whether to move forward with a delisting proposal, said Serena Baker, Fish & Wildlife Mountain-Prairie Region 6 public affairs specialist in Lakewood, Colorado.

“We continue to work with states, tribes and other partners to ensure that a robust conservation plan is in place to maintain a recovered grizzly bear population in the absence of ESA (Endangered Species Act) protections,” Baker said.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is considering removing grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List. Photo courtesy Rennett Stowe
The estimated grizzly population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem increased from 136 in 1975 to 674-839 in 2014, according to the National Park Service.

A proposed delisting would only affect the Yellowstone grizzly bear population, Baker said. “Any proposed delisting would include opportunities for public comment and peer review prior to a final decision. We will only delist this population if we have a very high level of confidence that the population will remain recovered and never again need ESA protections.”

POLITICS?
“This decision is clearly driven by political expediency, not the sound science that has made the Endangered Species Act so successful,” said Bonnie Rice, Sierra Club Greater Yellowstone/Northern Rockies senior campaign representative in Bozeman, Montana.

Population growth has slowed in recent years inside the Demographic Management Area (DMA). In the 1990s, the population was growing at 4 to 7 percent yearly. In the last decade it has been 0.3 to 2 percent annual growth.

“Politics have no place in wildlife management,” Baker said. “The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service relies on the best available science in making decisions, including the potential delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear.”

Grizzlies are expanding outside the management area, indicating carrying capacity has been reached and there is a surplus of grizzlies, said Brian Nesvik, Wyoming Game and Fish Department chief of the Wildlife Division.

The management area is essentially grizzly habitat across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in northeast Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, Nesvik said.

DECADES-LONG RECOVERY
“It has taken 40 years of ESA protections and considerable investment to recover the grizzly population to where it is today,” Rice said. “Allowing the Yellowstone grizzly population to be reduced by over 100 bears would seriously undermine that progress and threaten true recovery, and is unacceptable.”


Nesvik said he doesn’t believe a total of 100 grizzlies would be killed annually in all three Demographic Management Area states (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho).

Even if 100 grizzlies were removed annually through hunting and other deaths, the population would continue to produce offspring, said Renny MacKay, Game and Fish communications director.

“Recovery is based on more than just the number of bears in the ecosystem,” said Baker. “It depends upon a combination of factors including quantity and quality of habitat, adequate regulatory mechanisms, and a good balance of male and female bears that are well-distributed throughout the ecosystem.”

The Yellowstone grizzly bear population suffers from increasingly fragmented and disconnected habitats, according to a report recently released by the Endangered Species Coalition. Without wildlife corridors, migration routes, and other connected habitat, grizzly bears cannot continue to reproduce, find food, disperse, and maintain enough diversity in their populations to survive into the future.

“Allowing the Yellowstone grizzly population to be reduced by over 100 bears would seriously undermine that progress and threaten true recovery, and is unacceptable,” said the Sierra Club's Bonnie Rice.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that declining population, loss of food sources, and isolation from other bears are threats to the long-term survival of the Yellowstone grizzly,” said Sylvia Fallon, Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist in Washington, D.C. “Yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is poised to remove these bears from the Endangered Species list, an action that would likely leave the population isolated forever.”

MORTALITY LIMITS
Fish & Wildlife considers 600 bears to be the lower limit at which there is no management and discretionary mortality is no longer allowable, Baker said.

“The goal would be to manage for approximately 674 grizzly bears to ensure a sustainable and resilient population that utilizes the entire available habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” Baker said. “We do not anticipate population numbers to dip down to 600 bears.”

The state of Wyoming has discussed mortality limits with Fish and Wildlife, Nesvik said; mortality limits are based on the population average from 2002-14 inside the management area.

• With 600-674 grizzlies, mortality limits would be 7.6 percent for adult females and 15 percent for adult males, MacKay said.

• At 675-747, mortality limits would be 9 percent for adult females and 20 percent for adult males, Nesvik said.

• With more than 747 grizzlies, it would be 10 percent for adult females and 22 percent for adult males, Nesvik said.

The above numbers only apply in the Demographic Management Area, Nesvik said. Grizzlies outside the area wouldn’t be counted.

“We do not anticipate population numbers to dip down to 600 bears,” said Serena Baker, a regional spokeswoman for U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

Assuming the delisting process happens, which takes one year, hunting in Wyoming wouldn’t begin until 2017, if OK’d by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. However, Nesvik said he doesn’t know if the commission would authorize hunting.

According to Section 4 of the ESA, downlisting or delisting the species may occur if threats have been determined to be eliminated or sufficiently reduced.

First, a proposed rule would need published in the Federal Register for review and comment by other federal agencies, state biologists and the public, as well as the advice of independent species experts.


After analyzing the comments, Fish and Wildlife would respond to them and announce its final decision in the Federal Register, either completing the final rule or withdrawing the action and maintaining the current species’ status.

The commission would have to weigh seasons, quotas and pubic input prior to making a decision, MacKay said.

Game and Fish management would probably recommend grizzly hunting to the commission. If there is a season, it’s unknown what the quota would be.

“Suffice it to say it would be a very conservative number,” Nesvik said.


State law requires licenses to be $600 for residents and $6,000 for non-residents, MacKay said. Hunters would probably be chosen through some sort of drawing, Nesvik said.

THE COST OF DELISTING
There’s no estimate on how much it would cost taxpayers if a decision to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bear were litigated, Baker said.

According to the Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region defended 23 lawsuits relating to the ESA filed by conservation groups between fiscal years 2009-12, at a cost of $1.87 million in attorney fees, Baker said.

Not all ESA lawsuits are filed by conservation groups. Private land owners, pro-development interests, and states are a few of the other entities.

“No group receives federal funding to file lawsuits,” Baker said. “The courts can award costs to a party who prevails against the federal government. The Department of Justice has authority for negotiating fee claims.”

TRACK RECORD
For the last 40 years, Wyoming hunters have contributed $40 million in license fees, or 80 percent of the funding for grizzly recovery efforts.

The Game and Fish says it can manage grizzlies.

“You can look at our track record with large carnivores and it’s pretty darn strong,” said Brian Nesvik of Wyoming Game and Fish.

There are more black bears and mountain lions now in Wyoming because of Game and Fish management efforts, MacKay said.

“You can look at our track record with large carnivores and it’s pretty darn strong,” Nesvik said.

Mike Hirsch of Powell killed the first wolf in Wyoming on opening day in 2012 after the canine was temporarily delisted. Human-bear conflicts would cease, if grizzlies feared being shot by hunters, he said.

“Lets hunt them,” Hirsch said. “I believe it’s our state’s right to manage them.”

Fallon, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, listed several things that she believes are necessary to protect grizzly bears.

“To remain viable, this population of grizzlies need a secure future with a diversity of food sources and an effective plan to help people and bears avoid conflicts,” she said. “And, above all, the bears need the freedom to roam so they can maintain genetic diversity by breeding with other grizzly bear populations found to the north and west.”

Renting from county now easier: Commission stops requiring proof of insurance from some groups

After getting an earful from the public, Park County commissioners are making it less difficult and more affordable to rent buildings at the fairgrounds.

No longer will individuals and non-profit organizations have to get $1 million of liability insurance coverage before renting county facilities, commissioners decided last month.

“I think we’re going down the right path, because a lot of people can't afford the insurance,” said Commissioner Tim French. “And they’re viewing it as a public facility that their tax dollars went towards.”

Millie Sheldon of Meeteetse arranges wooden figurines during the annual Kappa Kreative Krafts Fair at the Park County Fairgrounds' new exhibit hall last month. Commissioners are making it easier to rent out the building. Cody News Co. photo by Ilene Olson
For-profit events (such as those put on by businesses) will still need to get the $1 million of coverage; commissioners figure that most commercial ventures already have or can afford the insurance.

County officials originally assumed that getting the coverage was a fairly simple and inexpensive process for individuals and non-profits. However, in later checking with local insurance agents, Park County Events Coordinator Echo Renner found event coverage can be hard to get and can “easily” cost $300 a day. That’s particularly significant when you consider that renting, say, the fairgrounds’ Bicentennial Hall, is only $120 for non-commercial use.

Renner said the insurance requirement was “becoming a stumbling block” and preventing some people from renting.

Commissioners, who’d heard complaints of their own, unanimously voted to ease the policy Nov. 17.
“Personally, I think requiring it for individuals and nonprofits ... is an overkill,” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden. “I think it will hinder and restrict a lot of the use down there, which is what we don’t want.”


It's long been the fair’s official policy that renters need $1 million of insurance coverage, but Renner said it generally had not been enforced until this year. That’s when commissioners took greater control of the grounds’ management and started requiring it.

Commissioners reaffirmed that position as recently as their Oct. 6 meeting, when they declined a request to waive the requirement for a Stomp and Company clogging recital.

“Personally, I think that anybody that has a function over there needs to provide insurance,” Tilden said at that time.

“It’s always been that way,” Commissioner Lee Livingston had agreed. “It’s time that it was enacted."

Just a week later, however, Renner asked commissioners to reconsider, saying the policy was proving “prohibitive to people wanting to utilize the very facilities I’ve been hired to market for use.” That request culminated in last week’s decision.

A couple Park County Fair Board members welcomed the change.

“That was one thing that people were really irate about,” said Fair Board President Steve Martin of the insurance requirement.


During last month’s discussion, commissioners wondered if they really need to require insurance from anyone.
“That was one thing that people were really irate about,” said Fair Board President Steve Martin of the insurance requirement.
Tilden said it’s his understanding that, with the county’s own insurance, “when anybody is on county property, we’re covered.” He also quoted Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric as basically saying that the county is fine either way.

In the end, commissioners opted to keep requiring the additional coverage with for-profit events.

“We’re all going to get sued, but it’s just maybe one layer of protection that keeps us from having to spend money defending something stupid,” Livingston explained.

Commissioners indicated they may continue to tweak the insurance requirements, perhaps to differentiate between smaller for-profit events and bigger ones.

Dec 17, 2015

Wyoming farmers see possible good news, opportunities in new Trans-Pacific Partnership

Wyoming and American livestock and crop producers are gearing up for increased trade with Asian countries through the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

After seven years of negotiations, the agreement was finalized Oct. 5 to increase trade between 12 Pacific Rim countries: United States, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and Peru.

“We will be able to export more and the demand will go up,” said Arley George, treasurer for the Park County Farm Bureau Federation board. “That means the price will improve from a supplier standpoint.”

The implications for Wyoming’s farmers and ranchers were discussed with the American Farm Bureau Federation’s deputy chief economist, John Anderson, during the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Cody last month.

“It provides a lot of benefits, allows countries to get more of everything — but it does produce some winners and losers,” Anderson said.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has not yet taken an official position on the new trade agreement as it's still analyzing how the deal could impact American farmers, ranchers and citizens.

“In the end, it is going to be good for us, but we haven’t seen the final results,” said Park County Farm Bureau Federation member Scott George.

The U.S. International Trade Commission is reviewing the agreement now, then it will be sent to Congress to make a decision in May. But it is unlikely Congress will vote on it until after the presidential election, Anderson said.

“For years they have been preaching this Asian market,” said Park County Farm Bureau Federation member Keith Scheubel. “With them (Asian citizens) making more money, the first place they spend it is on better food, and that has helped. … If the markets will bear it, we can produce.”

By increasing exports, then American consumers could face higher prices in the store, Scott George said.

“In the end, it is going to be good for us, but we haven’t seen the final results,” said Park County Farm Bureau Federation member Scott George.

The American dollar has been regaining strength recently, which means it’s cheaper to buy imports in the U.S., and American-made products are more valuable overseas, Anderson said.

Wyoming’s top five agricultural exports are:
  • Beef and veal
  • Hides and skins
  • Feeds and fodder
  • Pork
  • Wheat
Agricultural exports account for 2,900 jobs in Wyoming with an annual value of about $389 million.

The countries shown in red are participants in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Image courtesy of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
“There is definitely stuff that is affected here in Park County,” said Park County Farm Bureau Federation board member Corey Forman. “It seemed to be that sugar and dairy are losing a bit right now.”

Beef and veal are big sellers in Japan. Under the new trade agreement that's anticipated to increase, as tariffs are set to drop from 50 percent to 9 percent. Nearly 80 percent of pork’s tariffs in Japan will also be dropped.

“Those are some real wins for the cattle industry,” Scott George said.

The Georges were one of two Wyoming ranching families featured in an international advertising campaign to increase beef demand in Japan earlier this year.

Many of the trade agreement’s changes will happen over the next five years and others are spaced out over 20 years, Anderson said.

Japan already had easy access to American wheat before the trade agreement. The few fees for those imports will come down as well.

“We are in great shape compared to other products, but there will be improvement,” Anderson said.

Mexico, Chile and Australia were already duty-free for American agricultural imports.


American consumers compete indirectly with the export market, Arley George said. He noted that some parts of livestock tend to go to different regions where they are considered delicacies -- such as tongues in Mexico.

“But then Japan wanted involved and it made it an interesting agreement for us,” Anderson said. “A lot of tariff lines got eliminated and all of the tariff lines are slowly coming down. For beef and pork, TPP is pretty attractive. The headlines on the meat side are pretty attractive.”

On the American side for imports, the barriers tend to be lower.

“We really don’t have much to give up and quite a bit to gain,” Anderson said.

Exporting into China is a bit more challenging.

The country's economy has slowed, but they remain a big market for pork, Anderson said. The Chinese economy has dropped from around 10 percent annual growth to around 6 percent annual, but it grew so large over the last decade that a 6 percent increase now is a bigger step than 10 percent was in previous years, Anderson said.

“That is a big issue,” Anderson said. “We want better access to China because they can take a lot of products.”

China does not take American beef, but it can be shipped to Hong Kong.

The Obama administration says the Trans-Pacific Partnership is good for the U.S.; the Farm Bureau has not yet taken a position on the agreement. Image courtesy of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Many commodities are decreasing in price, such as corn, wheat and sugar, Scheubel said.

“That is the thing with farming, it is volatile,” Scheubel said, noting that weather activity is no longer the only factor. “We watch Brazil and Argentina and their ag has exploded, and it affects our markets.”

Sugar beet prices dropped recently, going from about $75 per ton two years ago to about $30 per ton today, Scheubel said.

“The only thing saving this year is, it is almost a record year — just one point higher on sugar content is (equal to) two more tons of beets per acre,” Scheubel said.

Cattle numbers, meanwhile, are light, but beef production is higher than a year ago because there are more pounds on every animal and more market-ready animals to choose from, Anderson said. He said cattle are coming in bigger than before at 930 pounds on average for dressed weight. 


Pork is also 13 percent above where it was a year ago.

With that and the new trade agreement in mind, beef and pork production are anticipated to increase next year, Anderson said.

High cattle prices will eventually come down, but “it has been really nice,” Scheubel said.

He said there's been "huge" amounts of volatility in some parts of the cattle market.

In October, feeder cattle were $1.70 a pound, then rose to $1.95 a pound; that's a $200 difference per head.

“I don’t know who is driving this, but it has been really volatile,” Anderson said.

Current predictions for the next 12 months for fed cattle say to expect fluctuations from as low as $1.20 to as high as $1.35 per pound. Feeder cattle should remain at about $1.60.

“What goes up must come down, it has been really high,” Scheubel said, noting that high cattle prices are why the beef is more expensive at American stores. “It has been really nice.”

Drought conditions have helped drive the increase in beef prices. For instance, bred cattle could be bought for $700 three or four years ago, then it went up to $2,600. Now the price is about $2,200 a head, Scheubel said.

“It is still a decent price, it (just) went up so high,” Scheubel said.

County requires natural color for new Clark cell tower

The Clark area is getting a new cell phone tower — and Park County commissioners are requiring it to be an earthy color.

On Tuesday, commissioners approved a special use permit to allow Bridger Wireless to build a 199-foot-high cellular tower off of Wyo. Highway 294 (the Badger Basin Highway). The spot is about a quarter-mile east of the highway’s junction with Wyo. Highway 120, or, as Commissioner Bucky Hall put it, “it’s in the middle of nowhere.”

This nondescript spot is expected to be the site of a new cell phone tower. Photo courtesy Park County Planning and Zoning
Commissioners personally attested to the need for better service in that area.

“That’s terrible cell coverage out in there,” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden.

The board made its approval contingent on the tower being “earth-toned in color” to better blend in with the surroundings. The county typically requires wind turbines to be a natural color and Commissioner Tim French said it would be “a shame” if the new cell tower was not.

Commissioners Lee Livingston and Hall agreed and voted to require an earth tone.

Commissioner Loren Grosskopf opposed the requirement, mentioning the cost and wondering if all the other cell towers in Park County would have to be repainted.


Bridger Wireless didn’t have a representative at Tuesday’s meeting and therefore didn’t get to weigh in on the color scheme.

The Dallas-based company has considered building a cell tower in Park County before: In 2014, Bridger Wireless proposed putting one up between Powell and Cody, off of John Wayne Lane. However, the company withdrew the proposal after running into opposition from neighbors and learning that AT&T had already gotten permission to build a tower in that same area.

Only one citizen commented on the new Clark area tower at last month’s Park County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, and it wasn’t clear whether they supported or opposed the project, said assistant planner Kim Dillivan. He said the proposed tower, sited on property owned by Switchback Ranch LLC, will have no close neighbors.

Bridger Wireless’ business involves building towers and then leasing them to cellular providers. The company did not tell the county when the tower might be built or what providers might use it, Dillivan said.

Yellowstone starts winter season; East Entrance to open next week

Yellowstone National Park opened to the public for motorized over-snow travel as scheduled Tuesday morning.

Visitors can now travel the park’s interior roads on commercially guided snowmobiles and snow coaches from the North, West and South entrances. Visitors with permits can also participate in the Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program.

Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22, according to the National Park Service.

A bison and snowmobilers share the road at Fountain Flats in Yellowstone National Park back in January. File photo courtesy Diane Renkin, National Park Service

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Montana, outside the park’s Northeast Entrance is open to wheeled vehicles all year.

Old Faithful’s Geyser Grill, the Bear Den Gift Shop and the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center opened for the season on Tuesday. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open Sunday.

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, and facilities, will open Friday. The Yellowstone General Store, medical clinic, campground, post office and the Albright Visitor Center at Mammoth are open all year, as are the 24-hour gasoline pumps at Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Junction.

Communities surrounding Yellowstone are open year-round, and local businesses offer a wide range of winter recreation opportunities. The Park Service offers online information and assistance for planning a winter visit to Yellowstone.

Park staffers will continue to monitor road conditions and weather forecasts that can impact travel. Weather during the winter season is extremely unpredictable in Yellowstone and road closures or delays can occur with little or no warning. Visitors should come prepared, carry personal emergency survival equipment in their vehicles and dress appropriately for outside activities in extremely cold weather.

Dec 8, 2015

Black Hills Energy warns Cody customers of phone scam

Local Black Hills Energy customers are being warned to be on the lookout for a phone scam.

Some customers are reportedly getting phone calls in which someone fraudulently claims to be with Black Hill Energy and threatens to shut off the customer's gas service unless they immediately pay money.

In a Tuesday news release, Black Hills Energy asked any customers who suspect fraud to contact the Cody Police Department, which is aware of the scheme. Black Hills also asked their customers to contact the company at 888-890-5554 if they have concerns or questions about any of the company's employees.

"We can confirm the legitimacy of the claim and can also confirm bill payments, service work or a service call to any address," Black Hills Energy said in Tuesday's release. "That holds true for any utility. You can find the number to call on your monthly bill or the utility’s website."

The release noted that scammers can manipulate caller ID displays to make it look like their call is coming from a legitimate company.

"These scams often start with different stories and can involve any type of business," Black Hills Energy warned.

To avoid falling victim to fraud, Black Hills Energy suggested following these precautions:

  •  Do not provide your Social Security number, credit card numbers or bank account information to anyone who requests that information during an unsolicited phone call or an unannounced visit.
  • If someone calls claiming they represent your local utility provider and they demand immediate payment or personal information, hang up and call the customer service number on your utility bill. Do not give in to a high-pressure call seeking personal information.
  • Never allow anyone into your home for an unannounced visit to check your electrical wiring, cable or phone lines, natural gas pipes or your appliances unless you have scheduled an appointment or are aware of a confirmed problem.
  • Any time a utility employee arrives at your door, require the employee to produce proper identification, and do not hesitate to confirm the visit with the utility company via a phone call before permitting any access to your property.

Dec 7, 2015

Deep ruts lead to early closure of Elk Fork Road

The Elk Fork Road has closed about a month early.

The road, along the North Fork of the Shoshone River, usually shuts down for the season on Jan. 1. However, Shoshone National Forest officials decided to close it this week because of damage.

The Elk Fork Road passes through this area. Photo courtesy Shoshone National Forest
Shoshone officials said Monday that warm temperatures this fall helped create a series of deep ruts along what’s formally known as Forest Service Road 424. They said the ruts posed problems for both the forest’s resources and travelers.

The Elk Fork Road heads a couple miles south of U.S. Highway 14-16-20, first passing through the Elk Fork Campground. It's about 30 miles west of Cody.

Permanently closing the majority of the road is one of the ideas that's been suggested by the public as Shoshone managers revise their list of motorized trails. Forest officials have not yet taken a position on that proposal or the many others that have been put forward.

The next local meeting on the trail revision process, known as Travel Management, is set for Dec. 17 at the Cody library.

Man jailed for stealing 3,840 rounds of ammo from Wal-Mart

Shoplifting nearly $2,000 worth of ammunition from Wal-Mart in 2013 has landed a Cody man in jail.

Brandon A. Bash, 32, is currently serving a 90-day sentence for a misdemeanor count of disposing of stolen property. After that, he'll serve five years of supervised probation for felony shoplifting.

Brandon Bash
As a part of a deferred prosecution agreement offered to the first-time offender, the shoplifting charge will be dismissed if Bash successfully completes the probation.

Charging documents say Bash stole four boxes of ammunition during three trips to the store on Dec. 19 and 20, 2013. Bash was working for Coca-Cola at the time, which meant he was often in Wal-Mart to stock Coca-Cola products.

An affidavit from Cody Police Detective Ron Parduba that was filed in support of the charges says Bash apparently pretended he had a receipt for the ammunition on at least one of the trips out of the store.

Bash stole two boxes that each contained 1,200 rounds of 9mm ammo and two boxes that each held 720 rounds of 5.56x45mm ammo. The four boxes had a total value of $1,944.

Bash was caught when he tried trading the stolen ammunition for guns.

At Wyoming Tactical Supply, the store's owner agreed to give Bash an AR-15 rifle and $215 in cash for three boxes of ammo on Dec. 19, Parduba wrote.


However, the Cody store owner became suspicious the following day, when Bash traded some more ammo — labeled with a Wal-Mart sticker — for a .22 caliber rifle, Parduba wrote. The tactical supply owner contacted Wal-Mart, learned the ammo had been stolen, and called Cody police.

Bash was sentenced by District Court Judge Steven Cranfill on Oct. 21. He began serving his jail sentence on Nov. 23.

In addition to repaying Wal-Mart for the ammo, Bash must also pay $293.98 to Wyoming Tactical Supply and $415 in court fines and fees.

Bash must obey the law, keep a full-time job and is subject to random searches while on probation. Whether he can possess firearms during that time will be up to his probation agent.

Dec 4, 2015

Attorney reprimanded for making confidential information about Cody police officer public

A Jackson attorney has been reprimanded for accidentally releasing confidential information about a former Cody police officer.

John Robinson of Jamieson Robinson LLC is representing a North Dakota man who claims then-Assistant Cody Police Chief George Menig violated his civil rights during a 2010 search.

The first page of Judge Rankin's order, sanctioning Robinson.
Robinson filed a report from a police practices expert in September to support Juan P. Flores’ allegations against Menig. In addition to offering the opinion that Menig acted inappropriately, the report cited information from Menig’s personnel file. That included a description of how the city of Cody investigated and disciplined Menig in connection with the 2010 search of Flores.

In part because it was the first public recounting of the city’s internal (and confidential) investigation on the incident, the Powell Tribune/Cody News Company wrote about the expert’s report. Other media outlets then picked up the story.

The problem for those involved with the case, however, is the information from Menig’s personnel file was not supposed to become public; the city had provided the documents about the internal investigation under a protective order that required them to stay confidential.

After the stories were published, lawyers for the city of Cody and the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office (which is representing Menig) asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin to sanction Robinson for allowing the information to become public. They said Meing’s reputation and his chance at a fair trail had been harmed.

Judge Rankin reprimanded Robinson at a court hearing conducted over the phone last week.


“No facts suggest (Robinson) intentionally violated the protective order in an attempt to harm (Menig),” Rankin wrote in an order after the hearing. “However, the Court also acknowledges the potential harm and embarrassment created by the published articles as confidential information about (Menig) was made public.”

In limiting the punishment to an oral reprimand, Rankin described the prejudice to Menig as “slight.” The magistrate also said Robinson took “responsibility for his actions and acted immediately to rectify his mistake.”

Robinson had the document sealed after the Tribune’s Oct. 1 story was brought to his attention by one of Menig’s attorneys. Robinson also contacted the Tribune on Oct. 5 to ask that the paper not pass its copy of the document along to others or delete it.

In his Nov. 24 order, Magistrate Rankin reminded Robinson to follow the rules and said to be more cautious when filing documents in the future.

The expert’s report was available as a public court record for about 11 days.

National Geographic selects Wapiti photographer's image as a Top Shot

“There’s nothing quite like the first snow of the season to fill your eyes with wonder,” said photographer Sandy Sisti of Wapiti.

As snow gently fell in Yellowstone National Park this autumn, Sisti photographed a grizzly cub surveying the scene — a bear fittingly known by wildlife photographers as “Snow.”

"Wonder" Photo courtesy Sandy Sisti, www.wildatheartimages.com
“I know I was excited to see the snow falling and can almost imagine this little grizzly cub felt the same way as he watched his home transform into a winter wonderland,” Sisti wrote in a description of the photograph.

Sisti’s image of Snow, which she titled “Wonder,” drew the attention of National Geographic editors.

Out of thousands of images uploaded to Your Shot — an online National Geographic photo community — editors pick a dozen of the best images each day.

Last week, the editors picked Sisti's image as one of their 12 favorite photos and online voters named it their favorite.

“I felt incredibly honored and humbled to have one of my images selected as a Top Shot by National Geographic,” Sisti said Wednesday.

Sisti said the photograph is particularly special to her for many reasons.

Snow is a cub of the grizzly sow known as Raspberry, she said.

“I've been photographing Raspberry since she was a tiny cub growing up along the shore of Yellowstone Lake," Sisti said.

Sisti said she felt "incredibly honored and humbled" to earn the recognition from National Geographic.

Raspberry is now 8 years old, and Sisti said she was very excited to see the bear emerge with her first set of cubs this spring.

“Unfortunately, the smaller of the two cubs didn't make it, but this little fellow, known as ‘Snow’ because of his light coloration, seems to be thriving,” she said.


Sisti captured the image of Snow near Sylvan Lake just a few days before Yellowstone's East Entrance closed for the season, she said.

“Raspberry and Snow had been foraging near the roadside for most of October, but once the snow began to fall, the pair left the road and headed to their den,” Sisti said. “I was sorry to see them go, but look forward to seeing them again next year.”

Sisti lives in Wapiti and often photographs wildlife and scenic vistas in Yellowstone and the surrounding area. Earlier this year, she was featured in Outdoor Photographer, a leading publication for nature and wildlife photographers.

Sisti grew up in Long Island, New York, and made her first trip to Yellowstone in 1994. She quickly developed what she calls a “weird, crazy obsession" with America’s first national park. Sisti then searched for a job close to Yellowstone and moved to the area.

To view more of her images, visit www.wildatheartimages.com or follow her Facebook page, called Wild at Heart Images-Wildlife and Nature Photography.

Presidential contender Ben Carson to visit Cody?

A leading Republican presidential candidate — retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson — will visit Park County in the coming weeks or months, a local tea party leader predicts.

“They (Carson campaign officials) have acknowledged that they will come here to Cody, and I’m holding them to that,” Big Horn Basin TEA Party organizer Rob DiLorenzo said Tuesday on KODI-AM. “They have promised me they will do that.”

Ben Carson. Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via CC BY-SA 3.0
Carson is generally running second in national polls of the Republican field, behind real estate mogul Donald Trump. Campaign finance reports show Carson has been extremely popular among Wyoming’s political donors, raising some 2 1/2 times more money ($115,800) than any other presidential candidate through September.

In his appearance on KODI’s “Speak Your Piece,” DiLorenzo said Carson's campaign has told him the candidate might be able to visit the area as soon as the middle of this month — though it could also be early next year.

Carson’s campaign did not respond to an inquiry about the candidate’s schedule.

Bringing as many presidential candidates into the Big Horn Basin as possible is the TEA Party's main goal in 2016, DiLorenzo said.

“I think the people of Wyoming have an absolute right ... to hear from them firsthand, not to hear from them with a media filter,” DiLorenzo said on KODI, adding, “We’re not flyover country, and we shouldn’t be taken for granted by any political party or anyone.”

He said he asked for and got a pledge of support from the Wyoming Republican Party at a Nov. 14 meeting of the GOP’s leaders.


“The Republican party’s not making any efforts to bring these presidential candidates to Wyoming, but the Big Horn Basin TEA Party is, and we’ve had some success: We have Ben Carson coming,” DiLorenzo recalled telling the GOP’s state central committee.

A few Republican contenders have already made appearances in the state.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, visited Cheyenne and Casper in August, while U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, stopped by Cheyenne about a week later. (The Big Horn Basin TEA Party, meanwhile, hosted Cruz’s father Rafael at an Aug. 15 picnic in Emblem.)

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also spoke in Cheyenne last month in a campaign stop/fundraiser for the Wyoming Liberty Group, but he dropped out of the presidential race the next day.

Dec 3, 2015

Cody woman sentenced for embezzling from Walmart

A former Cody Wal-Mart employee is serving five years of probation for embezzling around $5,000 from the store.

Gail R. Barber, 41, stole the money between November 2014 and early January 2015, according to charging documents.

She pleaded guilty to felony theft at a Nov. 12 hearing in Park County's District Court. The sentence of supervised probation, imposed by District Court Judge Steven Cranfill, was a plea deal offered by the Park County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Charging documents say Barber stole most of the money by using her position at Wal-Mart to repeatedly issue fake refunds to herself. An affidavit from then-Cody Police Officer Chris Wallace says Barber would pull up a random customer’s receipt, then pick a couple items to “refund” — putting the refunded money on her personal Wal-Mart card.

She also pocketed some cash and made money orders, with the store's total losses coming to $5,010.20, court records say.

It was the loading money from her customer service station onto her personal card that threw up red flags with Wal-Mart. The store’s asset protection manager confronted Barber with various evidence of her scheme on Jan. 9. She confessed and Cody police arrested her.

“Barber stated that she had some financial issues with a vehicle and stated her vehicle was going to be repossessed if she did not pay $3,000 to get caught up on what she owed,” Wallace recounted.

Barber served three days in jail before posting bail. Two to four years of prison time were suspended as part of the deal.

While on probation, Barber must obey the law and her probation officer and stay away from Wal-Mart, among other conditions.

In addition to repaying the store, Barber must also pay $245 to the court and $150 to a woman for a separate incident that wasn’t charged.

Woman's bail set at $15,000 after allegedly hurting her child, attacking her parents and deputies

As Park County Sheriff’s deputies carried the yelling woman to a patrol vehicle on Saturday, she demanded to know her charges.

Melissa Briggs (a.k.a. Melissa Flores) was formally read all eight of them on Tuesday: a felony count of aggravated assault and battery, a felony count of child abuse, two felony counts of assaulting a peace officer, two misdemeanor counts of interference with a peace officer and two misdemeanor counts of domestic battery.

Melissa Briggs (a.k.a. Melissa Flores)
Briggs, 35, is alleged to have choked and kicked her 62-year-old mother, slammed her 10-year-old child’s wrist in a door, punched and kicked her 62-year-old father — who was on crutches as he recovered from a recent surgery — and then fought with deputies as they tried to arrest her Saturday evening.

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters set Briggs’ bond at $15,000 cash at her Tuesday appearance at the Park County Courthouse. She posted that amount and was released on Thursday.

The Sheriff's Office described Briggs as being from Cody, but she told the court on Tuesday that she lives in Lander. Briggs said she’d been working as a part-time para-educator at an elementary school in Riverton.

An affidavit from Park County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Chad McKinney filed in support of the charges suggests that Saturday’s incident began when Briggs’ 10-year-old daughter asked if she could call her other grandmother, who also lives in Cody.

Briggs — who’d reportedly been sneaking off to drink throughout the day — didn’t want her child to call the woman, Briggs’ mother later told McKinney.

When the girl tried leaving the room to use Briggs’ mother’s phone, Briggs slammed the door and it caught the child in the wrist, McKinney wrote of Briggs’ mother’s account. Briggs is then alleged to have got her mother on the floor and begun choking her.


Briggs’ father had been staying in bed as he recovered from surgery, but he intervened to get Briggs off of her mother; Briggs then began hitting him, the charging documents allege.

During the altercation, Briggs is alleged to have also kicked her mother in the stomach, pulled her hair and pushed on her throat with enough force that she struggled to breathe, according to the accounts from her parents to the Sheriff’s Office.

Briggs pushed, kicked and punched her father and threw a bowl, a cup and an apple during the altercation, McKinney wrote of the parents’ account.

The Sheriff’s Office was summoned to Briggs’ parents’ home on Sage Creek Road just east of Cody around 6 p.m. McKinney and the other responding deputy, Justin Kroeker, found Briggs’ father on top of her, trying to restrain her.

Briggs resisted being handcuffed, then refused to walk to the patrol vehicle, McKinney wrote. He and Kroeker carried Briggs to the vehicle, but she fought against going inside.

She twice kicked the door open, hitting Kroeker, and scratched McKinney’s right hand (causing it to bleed) and pinched the skin on his left forearm (leaving a bruise), McKinney wrote.

A preliminary hearing in the case is tentatively set for Friday.

(Editor's note: This version corrects Briggs' first name in the photo caption.)

Dec 2, 2015

Buffalo Bill Center of the West to host holiday open house on Saturday

Entertainers, raptors, cookies and Santa Claus will all be on hand for Saturday's annual holiday open house at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

The 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. event coincides with a full slate of celebrations and activities in Cody -- including the Christmas Stroll and Lighted Parade, the Festival of Trees and Old Trail Town Christmas.
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is getting into the holiday spirit with its annual open house. Courtesy photo

Although the holiday open house is free, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is encouraging all attendees to get into the spirit of the season by bringing a can of non-perishable food or a new, unwrapped toy to share. The center will pass the donations along to Cody Cupboard and Holiday Helpers for distribution to those in need throughout the community.

The center decks the halls for the occasion, and serves up cookies and treats made by staff and volunteers. Santa Claus will visit with children and look over their Christmas lists.

Two different spots in the center will feature live entertainment throughout the day. That includes school, family and community groups, as well as local performing arts organizations. Multiple programs will be offered, including holiday music by choruses, choirs and jazz bands and dances in a variety of styles.

The birds of the Draper Museum Raptor Experience, one of the center’s most popular programs, will help celebrate the holiday. Attendees can view the birds — golden eagle, great-horned owl, peregrine falcon, red tailed hawk, turkey vulture and American kestrel — and ask questions of their handlers in the center’s Draper Natural History Museum.

In addition,  the center’s Cody Firearms Museum will reopen two revamped galleries, one featuring the Browning Arms Company, and the other featuring the popular exhibition, “Journeying West: Distinctive Firearms from the Smithsonian.” Ashley Hlebinsky, firearms curator, will be on hand to talk about both displays with interested visitors.

Visit www.centerofthewest.org/event/holiday-open-house for the full schedule.

Nov 27, 2015

Bomb threat evacuates Cody Wal-Mart, others across country

A bogus bomb threat led police to search and temporarily evacuate the Cody Wal-Mart on Friday afternoon. Similar threats were reportedly made against Wal-Marts across the United States on "Black Friday," one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Cody police said that around 3:44 p.m., dispatchers with the Park County Sheriff's Office received "a recorded phone message from an unknown source indicating there was a bomb at the Cody Wal-Mart."

Officers from the Cody Police Department and the Park County Sheriff's Office responded to the store, evacuated the building and searched it. No explosives or suspicious devices were found, Cody police said in a Friday evening news release.

Cody police said similar messages were received by the Wal-Mart stores in Riverton, Rock Springs and Rawlins; media accounts say Wal-Marts in states ranging from South Dakota to Maryland were also targeted.

"At this time information is limited and will be released as it becomes available," Cody police said.

Nov 25, 2015

Illegal outfitting nets man more than $5,000 in penalties

A former North Dakota outfitter will pay more than $5,000 and lose some hunting privileges after pleading “guilty as can be” to guiding hunters in the Cody area without a license.

An apparently sarcastic Russell L. Stockie, 51, entered that plea and accepted the punishment at a Nov. 16 hearing in Park County Circuit Court.

Russell Stockie, after his June arrest
Prosecutors said Stockie, who did not have an outfitting license, charged five figures to take people on elk hunts; Stockie contended he’d never wanted to be paid for his help and that the two people he admitted to guiding had insisted on paying him thousands of dollars.

Either way, Wyoming law bars people from helping hunters take a big or trophy game animal “for hire or renumeration” unless they get a state license.

As a part of a plea deal approved by Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters, Stockie was ordered to pay $5,080 in fines and fees on the two misdemeanor counts of acting as an outfitter without a Wyoming outfitter’s license. The former Wapiti resident also was barred from hunting any big game animals in Wyoming until June 2018; the rest of his privileges remain intact.

“I’m assuming there won’t be any hunting, guiding, is that correct?” Waters asked.

“Not without a proper license, your honor,” said Stockie's defense attorney, Michael Messenger of Messenger and Overfield in Thermopolis.

Stockie said last week that he “never realized I was breaking a law” by keeping the money he received for helping the two elk hunters last year.

Stockie testified that a Kemmerer hunter he assisted in either October or November of 2014 covertly left $2,000 on his counter after the hunt. The was despite the fact that, “I told him 10 times I didn’t want any money and didn’t expect any,” Stockie said.


He said it was a similar situation in December 2014, when he helped a long-time friend from North Dakota harvest a bull elk and “he left some cash on the table.”

He testified he hadn’t asked for money and “matter of fact, I told him (the friend) 10 times not to leave any.”

Stockie’s account of just happening to get paid for his help stands in contrast to what other people told the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

In May, Stockie’s landlord told the Game and Fish that Stockie had guided several hunters over a span of about three years.

Stockie’s former boss at a Cody construction company similarly said Stockie had been guiding out-of-state hunters for money for years. For example, Stockie borrowed $5,000 from his then-boss in the summer of 2014 and pledged to repay it “after he received payment from the hunters he was guiding” later in the year, North Cody Game Warden Travis Crane wrote of the boss’ account in an affidavit used to support the charges.

The former boss told Game and Fish that Stockie paid back the $5,000, in cash, on Dec. 3, 2014. The boss recalled Stockie saying that the money had come from his friend from North Dakota and another man, who’d paid him $10,000 in $100 bills.

Stockie testified last week that he didn’t remember how much his friend had paid him; he did not mention the second man.

As part of the deal reached with the Park County Attorney’s Office, a third count of illegal outfitting (relating to a Colorado hunter Stockie allegedly guided in September or October 2014) was dismissed. The prosecution also agreed not to pursue any other charges from the investigation.
Stockie indicated he was grudgingly accepting the deal and would have preferred to plead his case to a jury.

“If I could have a jury trial, I’d be there right now,” said Stockie, who participated in the hearing by phone.

Because illegal outfitting charges don’t carry the possibility of any jail time, he was only entitled to a bench trial, before a judge.

“If I could have a jury trial, I’d be there right now,” Stockie said by phone.

Although jail couldn’t be imposed as a punishment, Stockie did serve three days in jail for the offenses. That’s because the county attorney’s office had him arrested on the allegations in June, apparently out of concern he might leave the area. Stockie would have stayed in jail longer, but he was able to post a $10,000 cash bond shortly after his initial court appearance.

Part of the reason Stockie’s bond was set so high was because this was not his first Game and Fish-related offense. Stockie ended up with a federal felony conviction in 2002 after officials learned his outfitting business in North Dakota was letting clients take more pheasants than allowed, among other violations. He lost worldwide hunting, guiding and outfitting licenses for three years, the Minot Daily News reported at the time.

To become an outfitter in Wyoming, you must pay a $1,600 application fee and $600 a year, provide proof of insurance and pass a state quiz and inspection, among other requirements.

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