Sep 30, 2015

Friday event to benefit child advocates, feature wide range of food and drink

Sampling buffalo wellington, Asian lettuce wraps and other dishes from around Park County is one way you can support local children's advocates on Friday evening.

The third annual "Taste of Park County" is a benefit for CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates for children — a nonprofit organization that serves Park, Big Horn, Washakie and Hot Springs counties.

Vendors will offer samples of their wares at Friday's Taste of Park County event, much as they did at the 2013 event, shown above. Cody News Co. file photo by Ilene Olson
Some 19 restaurants and vendors from Cody, Powell and Meeteetse will provide samples of foods and beverages at the 5:30-7:30 p.m. event in the Cody Auditorium.

“It truly is a Park County event,” said Ellen Klym, executive director for CASA of the Fifth Judicial District, which serves children in the Big Horn Basin.

“The restaurants are going above and beyond with all of their samples,” Klym said. “There is meat, soups, cheeses, bread, pizza, candy, beverages and desserts.”

While Taste of Park County showcases restaurants and other vendors for current and potential customers, it also shows that the business owners support CASA’s mission, she said.

Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Fifth Judicial District are volunteers appointed by district court judges in Cody and Worland to advocate for children who are victims of child abuse or neglect, said Klym.

In 2014, 24 volunteer advocates in the Big Horn Basin served 61 abused and neglected children and 48 families. The average time those children spent in foster care was reduced by approximately eight months.

Volunteers around the Big Horn Basin served 61 abused and neglected children last year, donating 6,800 hours, appearing in court 240 times and traveling 21,552 miles.

In total, the volunteers last year donated 6,800 hours, made 240 court appearances and traveled a total 21,552 miles, according to information provided by Klym.

CASA of the Fifth Judicial District began advocating for children in 2011. That year, volunteers advocated for 12 children. In 2012, that number increased to 21, then to 43 in 2013.

All of the money raised during Taste of Park County goes toward training volunteers, who must go through 30 hours of training and pass a background check. None of the money goes to administrative costs. (Klym's salary is paid through a VOCA grant from the Victims of Crimes division of the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office.)

Taste of Park County also aims to raise awareness of the need for volunteer advocates.

Nine new volunteers were trained last year, but more volunteers are needed, Klym said.

Klym said Judge Steven Cranfill, of the Fifth Judicial District Court in Cody, used to wait until an advocate was available before assigning a child to them.

“Now, he assigns a child, and we have to find a volunteer,” she said.

Klym said her goal is to never have a child on a waiting list for someone who will advocate for him or her.

“We have to built a sustainable program,” Klym said. “We’ve got to get enough volunteers that we never have to worry that a child is on a waiting list. I don’t ever want that to happen. ... Having somebody to wait for someone to speak for them in that court room.”

2013's Taste of Park County event drew a healthy crowd. Cody News Co. file photo by Ilene Olson
A new round of volunteer training begins Saturday, Oct. 8, at the CASA office in Cody. For more information, contact Klym at 307-587-4361.

As for those who attend Taste of Park County, Klym said they will not leave hungry.

“I don’t know if they’ll even get around to all of them,” she said. “I think they might fill up when they’re halfway through.”

Some of the sample items include chicken and mushroom Alfredo, buffalo wellington, crab and cream chili chowder, bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos, stuffed cornbread sliders, a chocolate fountain, Asian lettuce wraps and many more.

Items in a silent auction will include a four-day time share in Panama Beach, Florida, artwork, photos, jewelry and many more quality items, Klym said.

Tickets cost $20 each or $35 per couple and are available in advance in Cody at The Thistle, 1243 Rumsey Ave., and at Legends Bookstore, 1350 Sheridan Ave. Remaining tickets will be available at the door.

County planning to abandon remote South Fork road

Park County commissioners intend to stop maintaining a South Fork road that serves only a couple residences.

Commissioners are primarily looking to vacate Road 6JM to avoid having to replace an old and outdated bridge that spans the South Fork of the Shoshone River along the road.

The Park County Engineer’s Office — which figures only about 14 vehicles cross “Bridge FII” each day — has estimated that replacing the structure would cost the county between $1 and $1.3 million.

Noting that the low-traffic road mostly accesses one piece of property, “it would seem reasonable to assume that the majority of the general public probably would see the cost of replacing that bridge as unjustifiable, in my opinion,” assistant county engineer Jeremy Quist said at the commission’s Aug. 18 meeting.

If this bridge remains open to the public, the county says it will likely have to replace it at a cost of more than $1 million. Photo courtesy Park County

It’s up to commissioners to decide whether it’s in the public’s interest to vacate the road.

Road 6JM — about 20 miles out of Cody — winds north of the South Fork Highway (Road 6WX). It primarily serves the TE Ranch, but also provides access for several irrigation ditch users and it connects with a private road that leads to Hawks Hill Ranch. It also reaches a 162-acre “island” of state-owned land, where the TE Ranch grazes livestock.

Park County has never formally established 6JM as a county road and doesn’t claim ownership of it or the bridge, Quist said in an interview.

The county stopped maintaining parts of the road beyond the bridge in 2001, saying the structure wasn’t able to carry a county motor grader.

TE Ranch’s owners objected when the county cut back the maintenance and has some qualms about the county’s plan to now abandon the entirety of Road 6JM.

“TE Ranch Limited Partnership understands that public funding is tight and that Bridge FII has been given a low priority,” owners Charles Duncan III and Mary Anne Dingus wrote to the commission last month. “However, Bridge FII still serves a crucial function for the TE Ranch’s ongoing business, private homes and Castle Rock Ditch users in Park County. These are taxpaying entities that contribute to the economy.”

In spite of that, Duncan and Dingus said they would be OK with taking on the responsibility for the bridge and road if the county agrees to also abandon some old, undeveloped road easements that cross the ranch.

“Bridge FII still serves a crucial function for the TE Ranch’s ongoing business, private homes and Castle Rock Ditch users in Park County,” said the TE Ranch's owners.

Quist said the county would likely have to close or replace Bridge FII if it remains open to the public, but if it switches to private access, the TE Ranch would “have more freedom to rehabilitate the bridge than the county would.”

In 1990s, county commissioners had explored the idea of connecting Road 6JM with Road 6NS, which lies a couple miles to the northeast. That connection would have effectively created an alternate route up the South Fork, but the county was never able to get agreement from all the landowners.

Public comments on the county vacating Road 6JM are due by noon Monday. The county will consider any claims for damages at their Tuesday meeting.

 
The location of Bridge FII.

Sep 29, 2015

Cody police chief Perry Rockvam announces retirement

Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam has announced his retirement, effective at the end of October.

Rockvam notified Cody City Administrator Barry Cook of his plans on Monday and the city publicly announced Rockvam's retirement this (Tuesday) afternoon.

Rockvam has served the city of Cody for more than 20 years, including serving as chief of police for the last 11.

Perry Rockvam. Photo courtesy City of Cody
"He has had an outstanding career in law enforcement for over 30 years, and brought a high level of professionalism to the department," said a news release from the city.

Rockvam's retirement comes weeks after the resignation of Assistant Cody Police Chief George Menig, who announced his departure from the department in early August.

In Tuesday's release, administrator Cook said he respected and appreciated Rockvam's "leadership and dedication to not only the department but the whole community."

Rockvam will help the city start the process of selecting a new police chief, the release said.

"Barry (Cook), along with the City Council, wish him the very best in his future and thank him for all the support he has given to the City Administrator during his first year in that position," the city's release said. "He will be missed by many not only in the city but throughout the entire community."

Dueling signs on South Fork: County posts sign telling public to ignore landowners’ sign

A group of landowners near the Buffalo Bill Reservoir recently put up a sign telling the public to stay off their private road on the South Fork.

Believing the sign to be legally incorrect, Park County commissioners have posted one of their own, basically telling travelers to feel free to keep using it.

The county posted this sign in response to a sign from Shiloh Road landowners say the road is closed. Cody News Co. Photo by CJ Baker
Shiloh Road provides access to the southern end of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir off the Lower Southfork Road. Shiloh Road is private, meaning it’s maintained not by the county government, but by the people who own the dozen or so lots along it.

Over the past year, representatives from Shiloh Road’s homeowners association asked the commissioners, the Park County Parks and Recreation Board, Bureau of Reclamation and Buffalo Bill State Park officials for help with the gravel road’s maintenance. The homeowners said the public traffic was damaging their road and — while they wanted to keep it open to the public — they also wanted some help to cover the costs.

The homeowners’ requests yielded little.

Commissioners refused to take on the maintenance of another road. The county did offer to donate some gravel, but Shiloh Road homeowners representative Zach Toellner said they declined the offer because it felt like “just kind of a, ‘take this and fix your road.’”

The homeowners ultimately invested upwards of $10,000 of their own money to upgrade it, Toellner said. They then posted the sign — which reads, “PRIVATE ROAD No Public Access” — to protect the investment, Toellner said.

However, like most of the other subdivision roads in Park County, Shiloh Road was dedicated to the public when it was first developed. According to the county, that means the homeowners’ sign is meaningless and anyone is free to use the road until the landowners legally change its status.

Shiloh Road landowners posted these signs in an effort to protect their recently fixed-up road. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
“They own the road, so we really have no jurisdiction to make them take the sign down,” commission chairman Joe Tilden said at the commission’s Aug. 11 meeting. Tilden said the best the county could do was to notify the public that the road is still open.

His fellow commissioners unanimously agreed, though Commissioner Tim French wondered if one sign basically reading, “Stay out,” and another saying, “Go ahead,” might be confusing.

“It could be very confusing, but it could at least get somebody to make a phone call,” Tilden offered.

The county’s new sign reads, “Shilo (sic) Road Dedicated to use of General Public.” It plans to correct the misspelling of Shiloh.

Toellner said in an interview last month that the homeowners are beginning to look at formally making the road private and off-limits to the public, but he said they still would like to find a way to keep the public access.

“If the county commissioners are still willing to work with us, we’re all ears,” Toellner said, though he added, “It just doesn’t seem they’re very interested to have any skin in the game.”

Commissioners did not contact the Shiloh Road residents before putting up the county sign.


August unemployment rate down in U.S., Wyoming and Park County

Unemployment rates have dropped in the U.S., Wyoming and Park County over the last year.

National unemployment rates dropped from 6.3 percent in August 2014 to 5.2 percent in August of this year. That's nearly half of where the rates peaked in October 2009, at 10 percent.

In Wyoming, unemployment rates dropped from 3.9 percent to 3.5 percent between August 2014 and August 2015. In Park County, they dropped from 3.8 percent to 3.1 percent.

Park County was one of 16 counties were the unemployment rates decreased between August 2014 and August 2015. Unemployment went up in five other counties and stayed the same in two.


According to estimates from Research & Planning section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, 16,869 people were working in Park County last month about 400 more than were employed in August 2014.

Total non-farm employment in Wyoming rose from 299,900 in August 2014 to 301,600 in August 2015, a gain of 1,700 jobs (0.6 percent) and not a statistically significant change, according to the Department of Workforce Services.

Wyoming’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell very slightly from 4.1 percent in July to 4.0 percent in August, a drop that Workforce Services similarly describes as not statistically significant.



From July to August, most county unemployment rates followed their normal seasonal pattern and fell modestly, according to the Department of Workforce Services. Park County's rate fell from 3.2 to 3.1 percent.

Seasonally adjusted employment of Wyoming residents increased slightly, rising by an estimated 354 individuals (0.1 percent) from July to August. This level of over-the-month employment growth is a normal change, according to Workforce Services.


Wyoming's unemployment rate has stayed between 4 and 4.2 percent in each of the past nine months, Workforce Service says.

Sep 28, 2015

Guns, cash reportedly stolen in string of burglaries in Meeteetse

Park County sheriff's deputies are investigating eight burglaries that occurred Sunday night or Monday morning in Meeteetse.

The thief or thieves broke through the front door of the Meeteetse Visitors Center, where they stole cash, and swiped three firearms from two different vehicles, sheriff's office spokesman Lance Mathess said in a Monday afternoon news release. Five other vehicles were apparently entered and searched by the thieves, but it appeared nothing was taken from them, Mathess said. All the vehicles were unlocked.

Sheriff Scott Steward is cautioning residents to be alert, report any suspicious activity and to secure their residences and vehicles at all times.

Each of the burglaries took place in a one-block area around South Street, Water Avenue, Warren Street and Park Avenue (a.k.a. Wyo. Highway 290), Mathess said. The sheriff's office got the first report at around 7:30 a.m. Monday.

Anyone with information about the burglaries is asked to contact the Park County Communications Center at 307-527-8700. Mathess said all information will remain confidential.

Sep 25, 2015

Film series brings diverse movies to Cody area

The story of the unsung musicians who backed up major stars of the 1960s and 70s will kick off the six-part fall season of the Northwest Wyoming Film Series on Tuesday.

“The Wrecking Crew” is a documentary about the group who played for such singers as Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkees, The Byrds and The Beach Boys. It will be shown at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Big Horn Cinemas in Cody.


The next three movies will be “The Wolfpack,” “Timbuktu” and “Salt of the Earth,” with the final two movies announced later.

“We’re delighted once again to offer signature movies in a shared viewing experience for people who wish to see films other than those produced for a mass market,” said Richard Wilson, NWFS board member. “The board viewed an assortment of trailers before choosing the six films that will comprise the fall season. The series promises to provide variety and inspiration.”

The second movie, a documentary called “The Wolfpack,” follows the lives of six brothers who grew up confined to their apartment in New York City and who coped by watching and reenacting movies.

Wolfpack film poster by Source. Licensed under fair use via Wikipedia
In “Timbuktu,” a proud cattle herder and his family live tranquilly until the fundamentalist reign in the nearby, ancient city disrupts their peace.

“Salt of the Earth” follows the career of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado from his coverage of international incidents to his journey in search of Earth’s beauty.

Memberships for the fall series of six films and winter/spring season of eight films are available at $20 per person. Checks should be made out to NWFS and mailed to P.O. Box 1004, Cody, WY 82414.

Ticket prices at the door for each feature will be $6 for NWFS members and $10 for non-members. Memberships will also be sold in the theater lobby preceding the films.

Members will receive weekly emails about the upcoming films. Information about the series will also be available at www.bighorncinemas.net and on the NWFS, Northwest Wyoming Film Series Facebook group

NWFS formed in January 2012 and organized its first season that winter/spring in collaboration with Tony Beaverson of Big Horn Cinemas. The NWFS board members are Richard Wilson and Harriet Bloom-Wilson, Jan and Lee Hermann, Anne Young and Jim Nielson, and Peter and Buzzy Hassrick.

Cody items could be among Wyoming's top 10 historical artifacts

With your help, a couple items from Cody's olden days could make the list of Wyoming's top 10 historical artifacts.

A collection of tags worn by workers during construction of the Corbett Tunnel (which carries irrigation water west of Cody) and a 117-year-old instrument used to survey the original location of Cody are among 25 entries up for consideration in an online vote.

The Wyoming State Historical Society and the University of Wyoming Libraries picked the top 25 artifacts in celebration of Wyoming’s 125th year of statehood. They built the list after combing through documents, books, fossils, clothing, artwork and other items that were submitted by museums all across the state.

Each artifact showcases a unique aspect of Wyoming history and offers tremendous educational opportunities, the State Historical Society said in a news relase.

You can see the artifacts and vote for your top 10 here. Voting ends Wednesday.

These tags were worn by workers during construction of the Corbett Tunnel. Photos courtesy Wyoming State Historical Society
The 10 Corbett tags, dated 1906-08, were worn by workers during construction of the 3.3-mile Corbett Tunnel, part of the U.S. Shoshone Reclamation Project.

The Shoshone Irrigation Project was the first irrigation project completed in Wyoming, and one of the first in the United States. It resulted in a water-delivery system that would irrigate over 107,000 acres of semi-desert land in the northern Big Horn Basin, according to the entry. 

This was used to survey the town site of Cody in 1898.
The Shoshone project employed 1,500 workers who earned 30 cents per hour, the entry states. That’s approximately $7.25 per hour by today’s standards accoring to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator.

“Often battling extreme seasons and high water, these vigorous workers (became) the unsung heroes of the greening of Northwest Wyoming,” the online entry states. The state’s development was directly impacted by this brilliantly designed and engineered water delivery system. The land and its people still continue to thrive 106 years after its completion.”

Some of the other 25 entries include:

• The instrument used by Charles E. Hayden to survey the town site of Cody in 1898. 

• A branding iron for the OW Ranch.

• A sheepherder’s wagon.

• “Clovis Point” spearheads found with mammoth bones.

• Weekly ration tickets given to American Indian families on the Wind River Reservation.

The original painting for the Wyoming state flag.
• An 1890 speech by the Hon. Joseph M. Carey asking Congress to admit Wyoming as a state.

• A 147-year-old mill from South Pass.

• A handwoven horsehair bridle made by a prisoner at the Wyoming Territorial Prison.

• A missile shell marking FE Warren Air Force Base.

• Panels from a Chinese temple in Evanston

• Stereo views of the Oregon Trail

• An apatosaurus skeleton


• The original painting for the Wyoming state flag designed by Verna Keays in 1916 when she was 23 years old.

The top 10 artifacts will be announced later this fall.

For more information, contact Linda Fabian of the Wyoming State Historical Society at 307-322-3014 or linda@wyshs.org.

Judge declines to reduce sentence of man who kidnapped, raped Cody girl

A judge has declined to reduce the sentence of a Montana man who kidnapped and raped a 10-year-old girl in Cody in 2012.

Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Steven Cranfill ordered Jesse P. Speer, 42, to continue serving a sentence of life in prison — plus 30-50 years — for his crimes.

Last November, Speer’s court-appointed defense attorney, Travis Smith of Cody, had asked the judge to hold a hearing where he could argue for a lesser sentence.

On Aug. 28, some nine months later, Cranfill denied the request for a reduction without holding a hearing or receiving additional information.

Jesse Speer, before his 2013 sentencing. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
“The court believes the sentence Mr. Speer has received is reasonable under the circumstances and therefore (it) will not be modified or reduced,” Cranfill wrote, reciting boilerplate language that he typically uses when he denies a request for a lesser sentence.

Speer reportedly tricked the 10-year-old child into approaching his SUV outside the Park County Complex in October 2012; he forced her inside his vehicle at gunpoint when she hesitated. After the girl bloodied his nose, he tied her up, drove her to the Carter Mountain area, sexually assaulted her and abandoned her there. Hunters found her and brought her to safety hours after her kidnapping.

“You stripped away the innocence of youth and inflicted upon her four hours of darkness and depravity that no human should experience, let alone a 10-year-old girl,” Cranfill told Speer at his November 2013 sentencing.

The girl’s recollection of the crime, combined with surveillance camera footage and DNA evidence, all helped implicate Speer.

Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric hadn’t taken an official position on Speer’s request for a hearing because he had expected additional documents to be submitted, such as how Speer is doing in the penitentiary.

The prosecutor said he likes to see all the relevant information before taking a position, though “certainly when we went in and argued the sentence in the case, we felt that was an appropriate sentence,” Skoric said.

Cranfill imposed the life-plus-30-year sentence at Skoric’s recommendation.

Smith, Speer’s attorney, had asked the judge to impose a 30- to 50-year sentence. That would have given Speer the chance to one day be released on parole. For comparison, Smith had noted that a Casper man received a 44- to 50-year sentence for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 2-year-old. A Cody man technically got a lesser sentence than Speer (life in prison) for murdering his wife in 2011.

Smith declined to comment on his recently-rejected request for a reduced sentence for Speer.

Sep 24, 2015

Clark corn maze and pumpkin patch set to open Saturday

Over the summer, a corn field of a different sort grew in Clark. Unlike the straight, even lines in most local fields, these corn rows twist, turn and trail off in dead-ends. The disorderly rows were intentionally planted that way to confuse those who venture into the corn maze.

"A lot of people have said they can't wait,” said Bridget Gallagher of Clark.

The Gallaghers’ Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch open to the public on Saturday, providing a variety of autumn-themed activities for kids and adults.

From Cody, take the Belfry Highway to Edelweiss and turn left on Road 1AB. Follow the signs to the corn maze.

Bridget Gallagher is pictured in the maze last week. Cody News Co. photos by Tessa Schweigert

Gallagher said she and her husband, Cecil, wanted to create a place where kids of all ages could have fun. The couple has nine children, ranging in age from 5 to 19.

"As we're constructing this, that's what we've been thinking about — 'If we brought our family here, is it something everyone would have fun doing?'" she said. "That's hard to find."

Their older kids wanted to make sure it was a difficult maze, she said. Recently, two 20-year-olds who work with the Gallaghers tried to make their way through the maze.

"We sent them in, and they had nothing to guide them; they got lost for about an hour," she said with a laugh.

With columns of corn towering at 8-9 feet above the paths, it’s easy to see how you could get turned around in the maze.


"It's definitely not for people who are claustrophobic,” Gallagher said.

While maze maps won’t be available, there will be signs posted at several junctions where folks can answer agriculture-related questions. If you answer the question correctly, it will lead you on the right path.

"That will kind of be a guide, too, if someone gets lost. They can come back to a sign and know they were there before,” Gallagher said.

The maze only has one entrance and one exit.

In addition to the six-acre corn maze, families can enjoy hay rides, a hay bale maze for younger kids, a straw bale pyramid, concessions, pumpkin bowling and more. The two-acre pumpkin patch has around 1,200-1,500 sellable pumpkins, ranging in price from $1 to $12, depending on the size.
Corn mazes are unusual in this corner of northwest Wyoming, so folks often drove to mazes in Montana.

Before starting the maze, Gallagher gauged public interest to see if people would drive from Powell, Cody and other communities to a corn maze in Clark. Gallagher posed the question in a local Facebook classifieds page, and more than 200 people responded with “yes” in one day.

“There's been a lot of support from Powell and Cody,” Gallagher said.

Clark residents also are excited about the corn maze and pumpkin patch.

"It will be good for the community, to get some positive news going for Clark," Gallagher said.
The Gallaghers have talked about doing a corn maze for a few years.

"This year, the timing was just right and we were ready to do it,” she said.

The Gallaghers plan to have the maze open every weekend through Halloween, even in inclement weather.

"We're going to be here. It's kind of that time of year when you just have to go with the flow," she said. “It could be 80 degrees or 30 — you just never know.”

Surrounded by straw bales, the pumpkin bunker is keeping the orange orbs safe from deer that frequented the nearby pumpkin patch. The 2-acre patch in Clark contains hundreds of pumpkins.

In addition to being open to the public on weekends, the maze/pumpkin patch also is open for field trips, youth groups, homeschool groups and birthday parties from Tuesdays through Fridays. For more information, contact Gallagher at gallaghernaturalbeef@gmail.com.

Prosecutors drop charge against Cody woman in designer drug manufacturing case

Prosecutors have dropped their case against a Cody woman who’d been accused of helping her husband distribute designer drugs in 2012. The decision came after Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Robert Skar ruled that most of the evidence against Sara L. Meng, 27, was improperly obtained and inadmissible in court.

In late August, the Park County Attorney’s Office agreed to dismiss a felony charge alleging a role in the manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance.

One of Meng’s defense attorneys, Michael Messenger of Messenger & Overfield in Thermopolis, said they were “pleased that the state recognized that it was time to resolve the charge against Mrs. Meng.”

Messenger noted that Meng had been out on bond for nearly three-and-a-half years, “much the same as if she had been on probation, leading a worthy, productive and law-abiding life.”

Messenger said “she was primarily ignorant of the activities of her husband, who had previously plead guilty and stated that she had no knowledge (of) the matters for which she was charged.”

“She was primarily ignorant of the activities of her husband, who had previously plead guilty and stated that she had no knowledge (of) the matters for which she was charged,” said Michael Messenger, an attorney for Sara Meng.

Her husband, 29-year-old Nicholas A. Meng, had manufactured and distributed illicit party drugs and recruited high schoolers to help him.

Nick Meng admitted his guilt in late 2013 and received a six- to 10-year prison sentence on five felony drug charges. His sentence is not affected by Judge Skar’s ruling.

Nick and Sara Meng

Police in Utah caught on to Nick Meng’s scheme in early 2012, when he agreed to sell $4,500 worth of the party drugs ecstasy and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) to a buyer in the Salt Lake City area.

That would-be buyer was actually working with the Utah County Narcotics Task Force, and when Nick and Sara Meng arrived in Utah on Feb. 2, 2012, police arrested them. In the Mengs’ vehicle, authorities found roughly 1,000 pills of supposed ecstasy (they turned out to be caffeine pills) and a gallon of GHB.

“Sara Meng admitted to investigators that she knew the gallon of clear liquid in the back of the truck was GHB. Sara Meng also advised that she and Nicholas were going to the Salt Lake area to sell the pills and the GHB for a few thousand dollars,” Cody Police Detective Sgt. Jon Beck would later write in a court filing.

Beck got a warrant to search the Mengs' 22nd Street home from Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters and at the home, Cody police found needles, syringes, vials, a chemistry set, a pill press, annotated drug recipes, records of money transfers, roughly 90 grams of illegal or prescription-only steroids and 4.5 grams of GHB in powdered form. Beck later intercepted 500 grams of methylone (a drug similar to ecstasy) that had been shipped to Nick Meng from China.

Cody police also interviewed five young people they knew to have associated with the Mengs.

“Information obtained from the interviews indicated that (Sara) Meng had knowledge of the transactions and was present when (Nick) Meng was making deals over the phone and would get the methylone out and weigh the substance, getting specific quantities for customers,” Beck alleged in one filing.

“Information obtained from the interviews indicated that (Sara) Meng had knowledge of the transactions and was present when (Nick) Meng was making deals over the phone and would get the methylone out and weigh the substance, getting specific quantities for customers,” Cody Police Detective Sgt. Jon Beck wrote in one application for a search warrant.

Nick Meng reached a deal with prosecutors and wound up going to prison in December 2013, but Sara Meng pleaded not guilty and her case dragged on.

In late February — more than three years after the Mengs’ arrests — Sara Meng’s lawyers asked Judge Skar to suppress the evidence that was seized in the initial search of the Mengs’ home.

Defense attorneys Brandon Vilos and Messenger conceded that Beck’s application for a search warrant indicated that Nick Meng was selling illegal drugs. However, they argued Beck failed to offer any evidence connecting the crime to the Mengs’ home.

“The affiant (Beck) never suggests any reason why the premises would likely have the paraphernalia or illegal drugs that are described in ... the affidavit,” Vilos and Messenger wrote. “There is not even a conclusory statement suggesting that by virtue of the affiant’s experience and training, he believes the fruits of the crime will be found in the home.”
At a May hearing, Judge Skar suppressed the evidence seized at the Mengs' home in 2012.

Over the objections of Deputy Park County Prosecuting Attorney Sam Krone, Judge Skar agreed with the defense, effectively ruling that Judge Waters should not have approved the warrant.

“There is no nexus in the affidavit supporting the search warrant which connects the criminal activity alleged against the defendant to the residence to be searched,” Skar wrote in June.

“Personal (drug) use by Nicholas Meng was not a sufficient nexus; otherwise, the court would have to speculate and then must ask whether neighbors’ and relatives’ houses should be searched as well.”

Skar later suppressed additional evidence (including phone and computer records) that was obtained from additional searches that came about only because of the first, improper search.

Krone said that left little of the case — namely some statements gathered in interviews — still standing.

“We didn’t have enough to prosecute the case after the court suppressed the results of the warrants,” he said.

Krone added that Nick Meng “was always the main focus” of the investigation and “I’m really happy that we were able to acquire the conviction and get a sentence on him.”


“We didn’t have enough to prosecute the case after the court suppressed the results of the warrants,” said Sam Krone, a deputy Park County prosecutor.

Sara Meng did receive a misdemeanor conviction in Summit County, Utah, for her role in the failed delivery of the bogus ecstasy and GHB.

In addition to a brief stay in jail, she received a year-long sentence of unsupervised probation for attempted possession of a controlled substance or a counterfeit of a controlled substance. About a year of jail time and a $2,500 fine were suspended and dismissed when she successfully completed the probation, court records show.

Kourtney Kardashian visits Yellowstone National Park

Fall in Yellowstone National Park offers some unique opportunities to see a bear, an elk, a moose or ... a Kardashian?

On Wednesday night, reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian posted a photo on social media of her and her son looking out over a group of bison lounging in a Yellowstone valley. (To the celebrity's credit, she appeared to be a safe distance away from the buffalo.) Kardashian also added a video of a geyser.

Kourtney Kardashian's post about her Yellowstone visit made some versions of Twitter's front page.
Reactions to her posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook included a number of people praising the beauty of Yellowstone and Wyoming.

Kardashian indicated she was staying at the Lone Mountain Guest Ranch, a high-end dude ranch in Big Sky, Montana, that's about an hour from Yellowstone's west entrance.

The Kardashian family — including Kim, Khloe and Kourtney — visited Big Sky in February, drawing headlines when Khloe and Kim slid off an icy road and into a ditch. (They made the news again when it came out that the producers of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" tried to get a dog sled tour operator in Bozeman to offer his services for free in exchange for the publicity of being on the show.)

While Yellowstone drew more than 3.1 million visits between January and August, the park can't keep up with the Kardashians' popularity on social media. For example, @kourtneykardash boasts over 25.1 million followers on Instagram more than 350 times as many as @yellowstonenps, the park's official account.

Sep 23, 2015

'National treasure' Al Simpson honored at Wyoming attorneys' gathering

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson was honored by the Wyoming State Bar's outgoing president earlier this month as a “great Wyoming lawyer and a national treasure” and “a true rock star”.

Immediate Past President Brad Bonner of Cody presented Simpson with the “President’s Award” at the bar's annual gathering, held Sept. 9-11 in Jackson. Bonner picked Simpson because of the special impact Simpson has had on his life, his nearly six decades as a Wyoming lawyer and his extraordinary public service to the state and nation, among other reasons.

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson
“I'm very lucky to be able to present this award to a very dear friend who also has been my mentor for a professional lifetime,” Bonner said in his remarks.

He recalled getting seriously burned at a college kegger in 1986 — and getting an unexpected call from Simpson in Washington while he recovered.

“It was a pretty cool call to receive at a time when I could really use it,” Bonner said. “Somehow, he delivered the message that he could identify with a Park County boy drinking too much and getting in trouble.”

The then-Senate Minority Whip invited Bonner to join his staff a year later.

“I had a front-row seat to what it really meant to be a statesman,” said Bonner, a Powell native. “I saw first-hand the value of standing for principle when it matters, but also the critical importance of being able to reach across the aisle and find common ground.”

One of the lessons was the Simpson mantra that “‘Compromise’ is not a dirty word.”

“It was the best mediation training I’ve ever received,” Bonner said. “And how much do we yearn today for more who would represent us like that?”

Simpson is a partner in the law firm of Simpson, Kepler & Edwards, the Cody, Wyoming, division of Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. and has been a member of the bar since 1958.

Bonner, of Bonner Law Firm and Yellowstone Mediation, is currently one of Simpson’s neighbors in Cody.

Another Cody attorney, Jodie Thompson, was also recognized at the lawyers' gathering.

Cody attorney recognized for pro bono work

A Cody attorney was recently named a “champion of justice” for the many hours of uncompensated work she put in to represent a child’s interests in court.

At the Wyoming State Bar's Sept. 9-11 meeting in Jackson, Basin Authority Executive Director Jodie Thompson received a “Champion of Justice for Legal Services Award.”

Thompson had agreed to serve as a guardian ad litem in a domestic relations case, pro bono, and it
“proved to be a very difficult matter, spanning nearly four years,” the Wyoming State Bar explained in a news release announcing the award.

Jodie Thompson
“Thompson represented the best interests of the minor child throughout the lawsuit and committed considerable time and effort to the representation,” the release said.

Attorney Jay Vincent and Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Robert Skar, who were both involved with the lengthy case, nominated Thompson for the award.

Thompson said serving as a guardian ad litem and representing a child's best interests is a “pretty heavy duty,” where you have to try to look at every aspect of a child’s life.

“I think it’s particularly difficult, because you’re making a recommendation to the court that could effect that child for the rest of their life,” she said.

Thompson said the award was “incredibly nice” and she felt “very honored,” but “nobody does pro bono work seeking any attention or recognition for it.

“They do it because they want to help other people that can’t help themselves and that need legal counsel but can’t afford it,” she said.

She encouraged other attorneys to take on pro bono cases.

“There’s definitely a big need for it in Wyoming and I try to do my part,” she said.

Thompson’s other volunteer work includes helping other women through P.E.O. and helping out Cody’s schools and she says everyone can give something of themselves.

“This just happens to be what I can give,” she said.

Thompson has represented the state of Wyoming in child support issues since 1995.

Local attorneys were well-represented at the bar's gathering, with outgoing Wyoming State Bar president Brad Bonner of Cody also paying tribute to former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson.

Game and Fish busy relocating northwest Wyoming grizzlies

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is relocating grizzly bears regularly in this northwestern part of the state.

As of Sept. 16, Game and Fish captured and relocated more than 20 grizzly bears throughout northwest Wyoming so far this year, said Dan Thompson, Game and Fish statewide supervisor of the large carnivore management section in Lander.

In 2014, a total of 16 northwest Wyoming grizzlies were relocated, Thompson said.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is relocating grizzly bears on a fairly regular basis. Photographer Neale Blank snapped this bruin in May near Yellowstone National Park's Steamboat Point. Photo courtesy Neale Blank

Recent relocations include an adult female grizzly bear that was captured for killing livestock on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment west of Dubois last Wednesday. The bear was relocated to the Five Mile Creek drainage.

On Sept. 11, the Game and Fish captured and relocated an adult female grizzly with a cub for killing livestock on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment approximately 30 miles north/northwest of Pinedale. The bears were relocated in currently occupied grizzly bear habitat in the Clarks Fork River drainage, approximately 25 miles northwest of Cody.

Also Sept. 11, Game and Fish captured an adult male grizzly that was frequenting residential areas near Jackson. The bear was relocated in currently occupied grizzly bear habitat to the Five Mile Creek drainage, approximately 5 miles east of the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park, west of Cody.

“They’re playing bear roulette,” said grizzly advocate Chuck Neal of Cody.

Grizzly bear relocation is a management tool to minimize human-bear conflicts. The decision to relocate a bear and the site selection take into consideration the bear’s age, its sex and the type of conflict it was involved in, according to a statement from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department each time a bear was relocated.

Since grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the department consults with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the appropriate land management agency. Relocations are in accordance with federal laws and regulations, the statement said. When selecting a relocation site, Game and Fish makes every consideration to minimize potential conflicts with people and to maximize the likelihood of the bear’s survival, the department said.

The number and location of human-bear conflicts is influenced by the availability of unsecured attractants, natural food availability and abundance of bears and their distribution in relation to human use on the landscape, Thompson said.

Attractants include human food, horse feed, bird seed, etc., according to Game and Fish.

Bears can create conflicts after they have obtained food rewards. The department continues to stress the importance of keeping all attractants unavailable to bears. Reducing attractants reduces human-bear conflicts.

Livestock could be considered an attractant.

IS DELISTING THE ANSWER?
Buster Tolman, a Bennet Creek Ranch owner in Clark has lost cattle to grizzlies. Grizzlies will hunt elk, but elk can leave and livestock are easier to kill.  

Because they are legally hunted, black bears fear humans more and are less likely to kill stock, Tolman said.

“That’s the solution: to have a season on them (grizzlies),” he said.

The federal government owns grizzlies, but state government agencies, such as the Game and Fish Department, must manage grizzlies and pay ranchers for depredations, Tolman said.

“It shouldn’t be that way,” he said.

Perhaps the federal government should pay for livestock losses, Tolman said. Then taxpayers might get fed up paying taxes to cover livestock losses and pressure politicians to delist the animal.

“In the meantime, we have to suffer and pay the price,” Tolman said.

Neal opposes delisting.

The population must have the opportunity to expand, he said.  Relocating and keeping grizzlies confined to “currently occupied grizzly bear habitat” lacks vision, Neal said.

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) grizzlies are an island population. That is, they have no links with species in other parts of the West, which could be detrimental to a robust genetic pool. Grizzlies must be allowed to expand into places like central Idaho — the largest roadless area in the lower 48 states, Neal said. From there, grizzlies can connect with bears in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in western Montana.

There are hundreds of thousands of acres of quality habitat in Wyoming for grizzly expansion, such as the Wyoming and Wind River ranges where whitebark pine has not been so ravaged by pine beetles, Neal said.

A white bark pine cone. Photo courtesy Richard Sniezko, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
“They (grizzlies) can make it there easily if we just let them do it,” he said.

Whitebark pine nuts, extracted from the cones, are an important nutrition source for grizzlies and other wildlife such as squirrels and the Clark’s nutcracker.

Whitebark pine surveys on established transects — sample strips of land used to monitor the trees — indicated generally above-average cone production in 2014, according to an Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team report. Across some 21 transects, the average number of cones per tree was 20.

However, among some 190 trees that the team has monitored in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since 2002, fewer than 50 are still alive, the report says.

CARRYING CAPACITY
Are grizzlies outgrowing their designated habitat?

There are an estimated 757 total grizzlies in the GYE this year — the same as last year, Thompson said at a May meeting for the team’s Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee meeting in Cody.

Monitoring and data suggest the population is showing density-dependent effects indicating the grizzly population is at or above carrying capacity, Thompson said.


“What we have documented in the last decade as the densities have increased is lower survival in dependent young. The lower survival was more related to density dependence/carrying capacity effects than other factors,” says the Game and Fish's Dan Thompson.

The average number in a litter declined slightly in 2014 to a mean of 1.92 cubs, according to the team’s numbers crunched since 1983. The highest was 2.4 in 1992 and the lowest 1.69 in 1983.

The average litter is about two cubs, Thompson said. He has seen as many as four, but not very often.

“What we have documented in the last decade as the densities have increased is lower survival in dependent young. The lower survival was more related to density dependence/carrying capacity effects than other factors,” he said.

ROUTINE
“Game and Fish relocates grizzly bears as part of routine management operations,” Thompson said. Public safety is always of utmost importance, which is the reason the department responds immediately to human-bear and other large carnivore conflicts.

The public and federal and state grizzly bear managers have worked for decades to recover grizzly bears in Wyoming and in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. He thanked the public for all of their efforts and sacrifices to recover grizzly bears and for their patience and timely communication to report conflicts immediately so they can respond, Thompson said.

Sep 21, 2015

Local grizzly attack survivor featured by National Geographic

A South Fork rancher who was mauled by a grizzly bear 2013 — and who holds no ill will toward the animal — was recently featured by National Geographic.

While irrigating in June 2013, Nic Patrick hurried to the sound of his dog being attacked. He’d expected to find the dog battling a raccoon, but instead came upon a grizzly sow and her two cubs.

The sow attacked in a matter of seconds, inflicting arm and leg injuries and severe damage to Patrick’s face that required extensive reconstructive surgery. He recounted the attack and the lessons he learned in a National Geographic video that was posted online last week.


“I was really disappointed that I had set this up, because it was totally on me. I should have read the signs ... instead of just rushing into it,” Patrick says in the video. “It really wasn’t the bear’s fault. She wasn’t doing anything but what any good mother would do.”

The video accompanies a written National Geographic piece about how and why grizzly attacks happen.

A screenshot of National Geographic's video featuring Nic Patrick.
“Survival rates for bear attacks are high,” reads the subheading for the Sept. 18 article. “And those who have been mauled are often forgiving.”

The article, by writer Todd Wilkinson, quotes researcher Tom Smith of Brigham Young University as saying the vast majority of bear attacks are avoidable, but “humans have to take more responsibility.”

In a November 2013 interview with the Powell Tribune, Patrick said he wanted someone to learn something from his grizzly encounter.

“No matter what you’re doing, pay attention,” he said.

Shoshone forest planning controlled burns north of Cody

This fall, Shoshone National Forest managers plan to burn between 250 and 1,200 acres north of Cody to improve the forest's health.

There are two areas that forest managers plan to burn:
  • 100 to 700 acres near the junction of Wyo. Highway 296 and U.S. Highway 212. The fire is intended "to enhance wildlife habitat, promote aspen regeneration, and reduce hazardous fuels," the forest service said in a Monday news release.
  • 150 to 500 acres near Bald Ridge and Dead Indian Pass adjacent to Wyo. Highway 296. The fire will be used "to reduce hazardous fuels and enhance wildlife habitat," the forest service said.
Shoshone managers say that before starting the controlled burns, they'll post signs and notify adjacent land owners.

For more information about the projects, call the Wapiti Ranger District in Cody at 307-527-6921.

Sep 18, 2015

Video catches five bears roaming around North Fork cabin

Wildlife managers have been saying there’s a lot of bear activity up on the North Fork of the Shoshone River — and here's some convincing proof.

Kelly Christensen, a Powell doctor, recently shared a video taken by a surveillance camera at his North Fork cabin. The footage, captured in mid-August, shows no less than five bears scampering around Christensen's place.

Ok, we have enough bears now....in addition to these 5 the camera at the cabin also recorded a lone boar and a black bear. 7 bears in one place in 3 weeks is enough already.

Posted by Kelly Christensen on Saturday, August 29, 2015

Christensen's cabin is a couple miles west of the Clearwater Campground. In addition to the five bears shown in the clip, the camera also recorded a grizzly boar and a black bear roaming around the cabin within a span of a few weeks.

A screenshot from the Christensen's video shows four of the bruins.
“Maybe it’s just me, but seven bears in one front yard in three weeks seems like a lot of bears,” Christensen said in a message, quipping, “Doesn’t really make you want to step outside for a quick bathroom break just before heading to bed.”

He added that the scene could have happened anywhere in that general area.

“I hunt deer on the North Fork in the fall and it’s nearly impossible to walk up a ridge or creek that time of year and not see fresh grizzly tracks,” Christensen said.

Sep 16, 2015

Yellowstone’s Spruce Fire benefitting park's forest, officials say

Though it has grown and it isn't being contained, the Spruce Fire in Yellowstone National Park is benefiting the forest in its isolated location, park officials say.

The lightning-ignited fire, approximately 10 miles west of Fishing Bridge and 2 miles south of Hayden Valley, grew to 2,594 acres by noon on Monday, but recent precipitation has slowed it down.

The Spruce Fire, as seen from the air on Monday. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service



“We got a lot of rain,” Yellowstone spokeswoman Julena Campbell said Tuesday. “About 1/2 inch of rain over the fire last (Monday) night.”


At this point, the fire would have to increase dramatically before fire managers would become concerned, Campbell said.

The National Weather Service predicted rain this week, with possible snow on Thursday evening, Campbell said. Fire managers are not expecting the precipitation to actually douse the fire, which is burning in 200- to 400-year-old lodgepole pine trees, but they do expect it to dampen the activity, Campbell said.

The Spruce Fire is in a remote location of the park. There are no structures or hiking trails in its vicinity. Still, park managers are watching the fire closely and have taken preemptive measures. That includes removing small vegetation around facilities in the Yellowstone Lake area and developing a fire fighting plan should the fire threaten structures or people, Campbell said.

They have also been developing a model to predict what the fire will do in the next seven days, Campbell said.

Fire managers did order some equipment — water pumps and hose — but they later canceled the order because of the rain. Fire suppression is costly, and firefighters and equipment are busy fighting fires in California and elsewhere, so canceling the order allowed the equipment to be put to better use where it's needed, Campbell said.

Data from the Northern Rockies Coordination Center says a little more than a dozen personnel have been involved in monitoring the fire, at a cost of around $67,781 as of Wednesday morning.

NATURAL REGENERATION

The Spruce Fire is in a remote area and is being allowed to burn. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service
Spruce Fire is a natural resource fire, meaning, unless the fire threatens structures or people, park officials will allow it to burn, while closely monitoring its progress, Campbell said.

It is promoting a healthy ecosystem by burning in a typical "mosaic" (checkerboard) pattern, leaving different levels of burn severity and pockets of unburned vegetation in the backcountry, according to the National Park Service.

Allowing the fire to take its natural course will remove fuels — standing and fallen dead timber.
If fire moves through an area every 100 years or so, then fuels can’t accumulate. With a limited amount of fuels, fires tend to remain smaller and burn less intensely, Campbell said.

“If we suppress all fires and do not allow them to burn through regularly, then in effect, we create a large amount of dead, downed, dried out fuel,” Campbell said.

Campbell compared a campfire-sized stack of wood to a bonfire-sized pile. If a human or lightning ignites the bonfire-sized stack, it has a lot more fuel, can spread more rapidly and can easily climb into live tree tops and sometimes scorch the soil so deeply it is actually sterilized.

Less intense fires may remain at ground level and are not as apt climb into the tops of trees, Campbell said.  If fire reaches tree tops, it can "crown." In fire terminology, crowning is when a fire moves through the crowns of trees or shrubs more or less independently of the fire burning along the ground fire.  

The Spruce Fire is burning in a fire-adapted lodgepole pine forest, according to the park service. Lodgepole pine trees grow serotinous cones, where resin covering the cones acts as a seal preventing them from releasing seeds. Fire melts the glue-like resin, thus distributing the seeds. The fire adds decomposing material to the soil and opens the canopy to give seedlings sunshine to grow.

“That’s how the forest rejuvenates itself,” Campbell said, adding that, “This is a very natural process that is happening.”

The decision on how to manage each fire in the park is based on a number of factors, including current and predicted conditions, as well as potential values at risk.

Managers decided to suppress two other park fires in the last week: a human-caused fire in Mammoth Hot Springs on Sept. 10 and a lightning-caused fire near Yellowstone's northwest boundary on Sept. 12.

To learn more about fire management in Yellowstone, visit www.nps.gov/yell/learn/management/firemanagement.htm.

United Nations should support more Yellowstone area wilderness, international environmentalists say

A group of international environmentalists are calling on the United Nations to seek the protection of more wild places — including wildlife migration corridors around the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

The environmentalists’ paper — published in the journal “Conservation Letters” on Thursday — suggests the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) lobby for more protections for lands stretching from around Yellowstone National Park up the Rocky Mountains and into eastern Alaska.

The paper's authors included a map of this area between Yellowstone and the Yukon as an example of a possible "World Heritage Wilderness Complex." Courtesy graphic
UNESCO already plays a role in promoting the conservation of areas with exceptional cultural or natural qualities. It currently recognizes “World Heritage Sites” — areas like Yellowstone, Egypt’s pyramids or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef — deemed to have such outstanding value to humanity that they “belong to all peoples of the world.”

Such a designation can only be made at the request of the country that owns the site. Though UNESCO has a small amount of money available to aid World Heritage Sites, it’s effectively just a listing.

If UNESCO doesn’t like something going on in a World Heritage Site (such as proposed logging in Tasmania’s forests), they can list them as being “in danger” to try to bring international attention and pressure to the issue. However, countries have the final say on what happens at their sites — such as how the United States continues to have sole control of Yellowstone’s management.

The international conservation effort stems from a 1972 treaty known as the World Heritage Convention.

The new paper, titled “A Wilderness Approach under the World Heritage Convention,” says the UNESCO committee that oversees the convention should go beyond World Heritage Sites and create broader “World Heritage Wilderness Complexes.” The authors say the larger focus on areas “free from industrial infrastructure” would be be a logical extension of the World Heritage Committee’s current efforts and “show leadership in connectivity conservation practice.”
Antelope migration routes have shrunk around Yellowstone, the paper notes. Photo courtesy Jim Peaco, National Park Service

Among the paper’s authors are five experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the official advisor to UNESCO on World Heritage.

“The World Heritage Convention is a powerful international instrument and it can provide the leadership required for wilderness and large-landscape conservation,” said lead author Cyril Kormos, Vice Chair for IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, in a statement published on the IUCN website. “Protecting intact nature at large scales helps stabilize the climate and allow species to move and adapt to changes in the environment, so protecting them is a high-priority response to climate change.”

The paper lays out four possible examples of World Heritage Wilderness Complexes, one being a possible complex stretching from Lower Yellowstone to the Yukon area.

As an example of the need, the paper cites North America’s grizzly bears, which “require connectivity between protected areas to sustain viable populations.”

“The absence of large predators very often changes community composition, dynamics, and vegetation structure, eroding the site’s outstanding universal value,” the paper adds.

The authors go on to say migration routes are “often poorly or only partially protected by World Heritage and other conservation areas.” By way of example, it quotes prior research from the Wildlife Conservation Society finding that 75 percent of pronghorn antelope migration routes have been lost in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Yellowstone managers submit periodic reports to UNESCO about the park's status.
The paper suggests UNESCO could gradually expand or add buffers to existing World Heritage Sites and promote connectivity between them. Areas outside the heritage sites “would have specific protection policies to assure connectivity is maintained,” the group recommends.

The rough Yellowstone to Yukon “World Heritage Wilderness Complex” mapped out in the paper appears to draw in much of the Big Horn Basin, but the group warns that it’s a rough drawing.

Paper authors also include representatives from Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. The 11 writers hail from locales ranging from Berkeley, California, and Bozeman, Montana, to Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Canada and Brazil.

The authors wrote that their opinions don’t necessarily represent the views of the IUCN or the other organizations who made contributions.

The IUCN says it’s currently working on a compilation of possible new wilderness areas that should be added to the United Nations’ list.

The full paper is available at www.tinyurl.com/UNwilderness.

Is your child's car seat properly installed? Find out Saturday

Safety experts are urging parents to make sure their children's car seats are properly installed, as a part of Child Passenger Safety Week.

Safe Kids Park County is offering free car seat inspections from nationally certified technicians on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Denny Menholt Chevrolet in Cody.

Safe Kids Worldwide is also encouraging parents to register their car seats or check them online for any possible recalls.

“The single best way for parents to learn about a recall is to register their car seat with the manufacturer. Unfortunately, this important first step doesn’t happen nearly enough,” Lillian Brazelton, Safe Kids Park County coordinator, said in a news release.

As an example, more than 6 million car seats were recalled last year because of safety problems, but fewer than half were brought in for repairs, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says.
Hoping to figure out why so few recalled car seats are repaired, Safe Kids Worldwide recently conducted a study that found only 42 percent of parents filled out and returned the registration card with their child's car seat.

“That means that on average, six out of 10 parents risk not hearing about a car seat recall in the most timely and dependable manner – directly from the manufacturer,” Safe Kids Worldwide said in a news release.

“During Child Passenger Safety week, we want to remind all parents to register their car seats and take action when a recall occurs. This is a cost-free remedy the manufacturer provides — and must provide — to protect your child,” Brazelton said.

In addition to filling out and mailing in the registration card that comes with the car seat, you can also register at www.safecar.gov/parents and check to see if a seat's been recalled at http://bit.ly/recalledseats.

Powell kayakers rescued from Buffalo Bill Reservoir on Tuesday

A fast response from local search and rescue personnel may have saved the lives of a Powell couple on Tuesday, the Park County Sheriff's Office says.

The couple  Daniel P. Thomas, 34, and Jenny L. Thomas, 32  reportedly went into the Buffalo Bill Reservoir shortly before noon, when their kayaks overturned.

Witnesses later told the sheriff's office that Jenny Thomas flipped first and her kayak immediately sunk; the strong winds then toppled Daniel Thomas' craft, but it stayed afloat. The couple clung to the remaining kayak, but the wind pushed them south and further from the shore, Park County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lance Mathess wrote in a Tuesday evening news release.

The Buffalo Bill Reservoir, as seen from the dam. Cody News Co. file photo by Matt Naber
The Thomases had reportedly been kayaking about a half-mile west of the Buffalo Bill Dam and 200 yards from the reservoir's north shore.

"Both victims were dressed only in shorts and a t-shirt and neither was wearing a personal flotation device," Mathess said.

The sheriff's office was notified at 11:59 a.m. and search and rescue personnel, a deputy and a Buffalo Bill State Park Ranger were immediately dispatched.

"When rescue personnel arrived, both subjects had been in the water for over 20 minutes," Mathess said.

Members of the search and rescue team used an inflatable rescue craft to reach the Thomases around 12:40 p.m.

Once back on shore, they were treated for hypothermia at the scene by an ambulance crew from West Park Hospital.

"The deputy on scene stated that he believes the victims would have most certainly succumbed to hypothermia if it weren’t for the quick and immediate actions of the search and rescue personnel," Mathess wrote
.
Sheriff Scott Steward said recreationists should always wear flotation devices while on the water.

"The deputy on scene stated that he believes the victims would have most certainly succumbed to hypothermia if it weren’t for the quick and immediate actions of the search and rescue personnel," said Lance Mathess, a spokesman for the sheriff's office

The sheriff's office highlighted data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicating that, of the hundreds of people who die in boating accidents each year, around 90 percent were not wearing a personal flotation device.

"They are an essential safety measure regardless of your swimming abilities,” Steward said in the release.

Sep 13, 2015

Yellowstone's Spruce Fire swells to more than 1,100 acres

A wildfire burning in Yellowstone National Park's backcountry swelled from less than an acre to more than 1,160 acres between Wednesday and Saturday evening.

The lightning-caused Spruce Fire is about 10 miles west of Fishing Bridge and two miles south of Hayden Valley in a remote, central portion of the park, the National Park Service says.

The Spruce Fire, as seen Saturday from Dunraven Pass. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service
When park service personnel discovered the fire on Wednesday, they described it as about a tenth-of-an-acre and "creeping" through a wooded area.

However, warmer temperatures and lower humidity allowed the fire to grow to roughly 425 acres by 11 a.m. Saturday and those conditions plus some westerly winds helped it nearly triple to an estimated 1,164 acres some seven hours later, the park service said.

With conditions remaining dry, park officials expected the Spruce Fire to remain active, keep growing and to put out "a very visible smoke column" on Sunday.

"Although smoke from the fire is visible throughout the park and surrounding communities, no park facilities, structures, trails, or roads are threatened and there are no closures in place," the park service said in a Sunday morning news release.

The park service said the Spruce Fire "continues to play its natural role in the ecosystem and is being managed for its benefits to park resources."

Crews monitoring the fire by helicopter reported a typical mosaic pattern of burning in the lodgepole pine forest, with patchy burning inside the fire’s perimeter, isolated torching of single trees, and only a small amount of crowning when fire activity picked up on Saturday afternoon, the release said.

The fire can be seen from a webcam at the Mount Washburn Fire Lookout: www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm.

A wider angle view of the Spruce Fire from Dunraven Pass. Photo courtesy Neal Herbert, National Park Service

A much smaller fire, the 5L4 Fire on the Promontory Peninsula at the south end of Yellowstone Lake, was reported on Aug. 24, is currently 16 acres and not very active. Crews are also managing this fire for its benefits to park resources, the Park Service said. Backcountry campsites 5L3, 5L4, and 6A1 continue to be closed.

 The fire danger in Yellowstone National Park is currently listed as high. There are no fire restrictions in place, but campfires are only allowed in designated grills in park campgrounds, some picnic areas, and specific backcountry campsites.

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