WYDOT to receive $20 million federal grant for I-80 winter safety improvements (posted 12/12/18)
Wyoming Department of Transportation
The Wyoming Department of Transportation will construct passing lanes, add truck parking and make other improvements on Interstate 80 in southeast and south-central Wyoming to make winter travel safer.
WYDOT will receive a $20 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant for an I-80 Winter Freight Improvement Project, which will add improvements along a 45-mile section of road between Laramie and Rawlins.
The project calls for the installation of truck passing lanes on 2 miles eastbound over Halleck Ridge and 3.53 miles westbound between Cooper Cove and Quealy Dome Road.
The project also includes installing Walcott Junction and Quealy Dome truck parking areas, which will each accommodate about 100 trucks. WYDOT will also install communication devices in that area, which will allow the department to provide traveler information messages to drivers and will supplement WYDOT’s Connected Vehicle Pilot Program.
WYDOT will use other state and federal funds in addition to the $20 million BUILD grant to complete the project. WYDOT anticipates starting the project as early as spring of 2020.
"Interstate 80 is vital to the state and national economies," said WYDOT Director Bill Panos. "The proposed project will benefit the regional transportation system by promoting more effective truck traffic movement. The project constructs additional lanes in areas where trucks slow down because of steeper grades, allowing cars and trucks to pass and reducing driver fatigue."
If the interstate closes, the additional truck parking will enable truck drivers to park safely while they wait for winter conditions to improve. If the interstate is open but conditions are poor, truck drivers can use the truck parking to wait out the storm.
The additional passing lanes will not only help with traffic flow, but they will also help prevent secondary crashes when the interstate reopens following a road closure.
"When the road reopens, additional crashes often occur because a high volume of waiting trucks and passenger vehicles flood the road, causing traffic congestion on slick roads," Panos said. "By constructing passing lanes where steep grades compound these traffic congestion problems, truck crashes and truck delays should decrease."
WYDOT’s freight plan shows that wintertime truck crashes on I-80 are about four times greater than during the summer months.
More than 2,600 traffic accidents, with 1,323 involving trucks, occurred along this 45-mile stretch of road from 2008-2017 at an estimated annual cost of about $52 million.
"Crashes often result in damage to the road," Panos said. "These improvements will not only save lives but will also reduce road damage and ensure traffic continues to flow smoothly in the area."
Formal legal opinion issued on gambling devices (posted 12/11/18)
Wyoming Skill Games determined to be illegal gambling devices under Wyoming law
Wyoming Attorney General’s Office
Today (Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018), Attorney General Peter K. Michael issued a formal opinion on the legality of the "Wyoming Skill Games," which are electronic terminals that have become increasingly common in businesses throughout Wyoming.
"At the request of law enforcement officials, I was asked to evaluate whether the electronic games manufactured by Banilla Games are illegal under Wyoming law," said Attorney General Peter K. Michael. "With the cooperation of the device distributors, I have examined how they operate. These machines are illegal gambling devices under Wyoming law. Those who play them are engaged in gambling, which is a crime in Wyoming, and those who provide the games are engaged in professional gambling, which is also a crime in Wyoming."
"Because gambling in Wyoming is a crime, not a civil violation, local law enforcement officials and prosecutors will need to determine the timing of the appropriate next steps if their communities have these machines," said Attorney General Michael.
The Attorney General’s opinion does not address the lawfulness of the "historic horse racing" terminals at certain pari-mutuel off-track betting locations in Wyoming. These terminals are permitted under separate Wyoming statutes. Similarly, the Attorney General’s opinion does not affect tribal gaming operations conducted on the Wind River Indian Reservation by the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho tribes.
A copy of the full opinion can be found at www.ag.wyo.gov.
Wyoming delegation applauds federal funding for Roosevelt Fire recovery (posted 12/9/18)
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Congresswoman Liz Cheney, all R-Wyo., applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approval of Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) funding to help in the Roosevelt Fire recovery effort.
The Roosevelt Fire in Sublette County was initially deemed ineligible for Emergency Watershed Protection Program funding. The Wyoming delegation sent a letter last month urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review the request.
"The Roosevelt Fire caused significant damage and losses, and it is critically important that the federal government provide all appropriate forms of assistance, in accordance with relevant rules, laws, and regulations," the Wyoming delegation wrote. "We urge you to review the request for EWP assistance as quickly as possible and provide any assistance appropriate so that plans to mitigate hazards caused by the Roosevelt Fire can be developed and executed as soon as possible."
More than $500,000 will be allocated from the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, which was created to provide aid in order to fix erosion and land destabilization that occurs from natural disaster. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the local communities will have to provide a small percentage of matching funds for the projects undertaken with these funds.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service in Wyoming said that if funding wasn’t provided to help recovery efforts, it would likely cost significantly more, at least $2.6 million, to fix additional damage that would occur later.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had already provided the state with a $425,000 mitigation grant to repair the fire damaged areas.
BLM proposes increased flexibility and access in Sage-Grouse plans (posted 12/6/18)
Proposed amendments would align conservation efforts at state and federal levels
Bureau of Land Management
CHEYENNE, WYOMING, Dec. 6, 2018 – In keeping with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s commitment to work closely with states to enhance conservation, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and proposed plan amendments addressing Greater Sage-Grouse conservation on public land in Wyoming.
The proposed plan amendments aim to better align BLM resource management plans with state plans for conserving sage-grouse populations, strike a regulatory balance and build greater trust among neighboring interests in Western communities. The proposed amendments and final EISs also addresses the issues remanded to the agency by a March 31, 2017, order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, which determined that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it finalized the 2015 Nevada plan.
"We have appreciated the opportunity to work with Governor Mead’s team on a carefully crafted amendment to the 2015 plans," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. "We know the successful conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse requires the shared stewardship vision of the states, private citizens, landowners and federal land management agencies including those within the Department of the Interior."
Bernhardt continued, "With today’s action we have leaned forward to address the various states’ issues, while appropriately ensuring that we will continue to be focused on meaningfully addressing the threats to the Greater Sage-Grouse and making efforts to improve its habitat."
The BLM developed the changes in collaboration with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, state wildlife managers, and other concerned organizations and individuals, largely through the Western Governors Association’s Sage-Grouse Task Force.
"Having better alignment between state and federal management for the bird is important to the species and the people of Wyoming," Gov. Mead said. "I thank the Department of the Interior, both locally and nationally, for working with Wyoming throughout this plan amendment process."
The proposed changes refine the previous management plans adopted in 2015. Under the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the BLM is required by law to work cooperatively with states on land-use plans and amendments.
"In Wyoming, we have the privilege of working with a variety of concerned stakeholders and communities living close to the land in managing some of the country’s largest intact sagebrush ecosystems," said BLM Wyoming State Director Mary Jo Rugwell. "We designed the proposed plan amendment to address the remaining concerns of our agency partners and the public. Our shared goals are the successful conservation of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat and ensuring multiple-use access to every American."
The proposed amendments in Wyoming would adopt the state’s Compensatory Mitigation Framework; clarify objectives for sage-grouse habitat where livestock grazing is also authorized; increase flexibility to grant waivers, exceptions or modifications in energy leasing; and remove the Sagebrush Focal Area designation from more than 1.9 million acres of habitat. The amendment process also offered an opportunity for the BLM to align its mitigation requirements under FLPMA with those established under Wyoming law.
The BLM has also published Final EISs for lands it manages in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada/northeastern California and Utah.
Publication of the Final EIS and proposed amendments in the December 7, 2018 Federal Register initiates a 30-day protest period, which will run through January 8, 2019. The Wyoming Governor also has 60 days to review the proposed amendments for consistency with state and local laws and regulations. The process will conclude with a Record of Decision (ROD) following resolution of any protests received during the 30-day review period.
Approval of the Final EIS Proposed Plan Amendment would require amendments to 10 current BLM resource management plans: Buffalo, Casper, Cody, Kemmerer, Lander, Newcastle, Pinedale, Rawlins, Green River and Worland.
Anyone who participated in the process for the Wyoming EIS and who has an interest that is or may be adversely affected by the proposed land use plan amendments in the Final EIS will have the opportunity to protest the proposed plan amendments.
The Final EIS is available online at https://goo.gl/22jKE2. Instructions for filing a protest with the Director of the BLM regarding the Proposed RMPA/Final EIS are found online at https://www.blm.gov/programs/planning-and-nepa/public-participation/filing-a-plan-protest. All protests must be in writing and mailed to the appropriate address or submitted electronically through the BLM ePlanning project website. To submit a protest electronically, go to the ePlanning project webpage https://goo.gl/22jKE2 and follow the instructions at the top of the home page.
If submitting a protest in hard copy, it must be mailed to one of the following addresses:
U.S. Postal Service Mail: BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210, P.O Box 71383, Washington, D.C. 20024-1383
Overnight Delivery: BLM Director (210), Attention: Protest Coordinator, WO-210,
20 M Street SE, Room 2134LM, Washington, D.C. 20003
Protests submitted electronically by any means other than the ePlanning project website will be invalid unless a protest is also submitted in hard copy. Protests submitted by fax will also be invalid unless also submitted either through ePlanning project website protest section or in hard copy.
Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personally identifiable information – may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask the BLM in your comment to withhold your personally identifiable information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.
Pinedale RV Dump Station grant request moves forward (posted 12/9/18)
Wyoming Business Council Business Ready Community funding request
The Wyoming Business Council Board of Directors recommended four Business Ready Community (BRC) funding requests and approved six Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) applications during its Dec. 6 meeting in Laramie.
The Town of Pinedale put in a request for a $179,062 BRC Community Development Enhancement grant to construct a dump and water filling station for recreational vehicles, tour buses and industrial tank trucks. The location will be marketed to tour bus companies that travel through Pinedale on the way to Jackson and Yellowstone, increasing tourist traffic in Pinedale and spurring economic growth in the immediate area. Funds will also be used to add a power box near the American Legion to replace the need for generators at events such as the Green River Rendezvous, brew fest and other gatherings.
The Wyoming Business Council Board of Directors recommended full funding for Pinedale’s request.
The Business Council board's recommendations will now move to the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) for final approval at its 8 a.m. meeting on January 17, 2019.
Click on this link for the full release about all the projects requesting funding in this round from the Wyoming Business Council: Business Council board recommends 10 projects for funding (Wyoming Business Council, Dec. 7, 2018)
Banking error causes double billing of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming accounts (posted 12/4/18)
Wyoming Department of Insurance
CHEYENNE, WYOMING - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming (BCBSWY) announced today (Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018) that between 7,000 and 7500 of its members have been over-charged due to an error by American National Bank (ANB). ANB has taken full responsibility and has acted quickly to reverse and credit members’ accounts for the incorrect duplicate charges.
The bank and BCBSWY anticipate that the impacted accounts will show the corrections as soon as later today, subject to the procedures of individual banks. BCBSWY contacted the Wyoming Department of Insurance immediately after the error was identified.
"We certainly understand the potential impact and concern that this can cause Wyoming consumers and I appreciate the speed with which ANB has addressed their error," said Insurance Commissioner Tom Glause.
ANB has indicated that immediate steps were taken to remedy the situation and members impacted by the situation should start receiving notification by Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. ANB has committed to taking care of overdraft fees or other charges as a result of the situation.
This banking error should not impact insurance coverage by BCBSWY.
Members are advised that if their account does not reflect this correction by the morning of December 5, 2018, contact BCBSWY or call American National Bank (ANB) at 307-634-2121.
Consumers can also contact the Department of Insurance at 307-777-7401 or toll free at 1-800-438-5768 if they have additional questions or concerns.
SCAM ALERT: ‘I’ve been in an accident and need bail money…’ (posted 12/4/18)
Wyoming Highway Patrol Scam Alert
Scammers spoof Caller ID to make phone call look legitimate
Wyoming Highway Patrol
The Wyoming Highway Patrol has recently been notified of a phone call scam circulating. Scammers are contacting the public stating a relative has been in a motor vehicle crash and arrested for driving while under the influence while stating the relative needs cash for bail and attorney fees. The phone number the callers are calling from are being replicated (spoofed numbers) to look like they are coming from a legitimate law enforcement office in Dubois, Wyoming, other parts of Wyoming, and surrounding states.
The Wyoming Highway Patrol would like to remind the public we have not, and will not request any payment over the phone. We encourage anyone who may have received questionable phone calls soliciting funds to contact your local law enforcement or government agency to verify the information you may have received.
G&F seeks information on mule deer poaching near Pinedale (posted 12/4/18)
The scavenged carcass of an illegally shot buck mule deer with the head removed south of Pinedale. Photo courtesy Wyoming Game & Fish Department.
Wyoming Game & Fish
PINEDALE, WYOMING – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is seeking any information regarding a buck and doe mule deer that were illegally shot south of Pinedale recently. Both were killed off the Big Sandy Elkhorn Road (Sublette County Road 23-118) a mile south of Buckskin Crossing near the Prospect Mountains in deer hunt area 130. All mule deer hunting in the area closed on October 31. The head of the buck mule deer was removed and meat from both deer was left in the field to waste.
Investigators believe the deer were killed over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend on November 23rd or November 24th. Jordan Kraft, South Pinedale Game Warden, states "this type of action shows a blatant disregard for wildlife and is a theft of the wildlife resource to law abiding citizens."
Anyone with possible information regarding either of these poaching incidents, or who was in the area and may have noted suspicious vehicles or activities, is encouraged to call the Pinedale Game and Fish office at 1-800-452-9107, the STOP POACHING hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP (1-877-943-3847) or South Pinedale Game Warden, Jordan Kraft, at 307-367-2470.
Callers may remain anonymous and any information leading to an arrest and conviction may result in a reward of up to $5,000.00. Warden Kraft urges the public to come forward with any relevant information.
Food Storage Order extended for human and bear safety (posted 12/4/18)
Bridger-Teton National Forest
JACKSON, WYOMING, December 4, 2018 – The food storage order has been temporarily expanded on the Bridger Teton National Forest in order to promote a safer environment for humans and bears. Forest visitors in the Blackrock, and Jackson Ranger Districts will see a wider regulatory boundary where the proper storing, processing, transporting, and camping with food or attractants, will be enforced. The order will be in effect from December 1, 2018 until January 15, 2019.
Extending the food order plays a key role in helping to alleviate possible negative interactions between humans and bears. It helps keep Forest visitor safe by mitigating encounters where a bear might be attracted to campgrounds, trailheads, picnic sites, and other areas frequented by people.
All food and other attractants (anything with an odor) that might invite the curiosity of bear to an area must be stored safely; making sure it is kept away from the reach of a bear during the night and daytime when the area is left unattended. Attended attractants means that a person is physically present within 100-feet and in direct sight of the food or carcass.
Human food (including canned food, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages), harvested game animals and parts, pet food, processed livestock feed and grains and personal hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste and deodorants must be stored in a manner unavailable to bears. This also includes garbage and empty food and beverage containers. Proper storage methods include placing food and other items in bear resistant containers or hard-sided vehicles or suspending them at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from any vertical support.
Flag Half Staff Notice – President George H.W. Bush (posted 12/1/18)
Flag Half Staff Notice
Governor Matthew H. Mead media release
Governor Matthew H. Mead, pursuant to President Donald Trump's Proclamation issued today (Saturday, December 1, 2018), has ordered both the U.S. and State of Wyoming flags be flown at half-staff statewide in honor and tribute to the memory of President George H.W. Bush for a period of 30 days from the day of his death. Former President George H.W. Bush died on Friday, November 30, 2018 at age 94.
Ski Season opens at White Pine (posted 11/30/18)
White Pine Ski Area
An overnight coating of 6" fresh powder at White Pine brought out skiers keen to cut the first tracks for the start of this winter season. Rock Springs resident, Kevin Buschmann left home early to ride the first chair as he simply stated, "I get Fridays off so I wanted to catch the first freshies of this season." Family members will be joining him on the mountain over the weekend.
Local Pinedale family, Tommy and Kelly Upp brought their daughters Reville (6) and Veronika (5) up for the first day. Both girls had their first lessons at White Pine at age 2, and planned to spend the day skiing off the lower lift. The parents knew it wouldn’t be long before their daughters would be capable of skiing down Bonneville from the top of the mountain.
White Pine opened the season with sufficient snow to open three runs off the top of the mountain. National Weather Service forecast (NOAA) predicts light snow over the weekend. White Pine will open up more runs as soon as Ski Patrol predicts there is adequate coverage and conditions are safe for all skiers.
This winter season, White Pine will open every Friday through Monday. Opening days are extended over the schools’ Holiday/Winter break and will be opening daily from Friday December 21st to Monday January 7th. Both lifts run from 9am to 4pm and the tubing hill is open from noon to 4pm.
For more information call 307-367-6606 or go online to www.whitepineski.com
Sublette County Nonprofits receive $18,000 in grant funding from WCF (posted 11/30/18)
Wyoming Community Foundation distributes $520,000 across the state of Wyoming
Wyoming Community Foundation
LARAMIE, WYOMING - At its most recent meeting, the Wyoming Community Foundation did what it does best: made grants to outstanding nonprofits across Wyoming. The organization, whose goal is to build a better Wyoming, reports it distributed $520,000 to 61 charitable organizations statewide, $18,000 of which will benefit Sublette County.
"We’re here to help strengthen our community," says Sublette Local Board Chair, Janet Bellis. "With support from generous local donors, we’re able to give funding to worthy and innovative nonprofit programs that are truly making a difference."
The Wyoming Community Foundation counts on donor support for grantmaking. The organization holds nearly 400 funds for families, individuals, businesses, and nonprofits. These funds are invested, and the returns are used to support charitable causes. In 2017, WYCF granted $6.3 million to charitable organizations across the state.
In the Sublette area, the Wyoming Community Foundation’s Local Board recently granted $18,000 to three area nonprofits:
• Pinedale Fine Arts Council
• Sublette County School District #9
• Wyoming Stage Stop Dog Sled Race – Pinedale Stage
"Nonprofit organizations are vital parts of our communities," says Bellis. "The Wyoming Community Foundation is honored to fund the work they are doing."
The Wyoming Community Foundation’s next grant application deadline is December 15th, 2018. Nonprofit organizations making a difference in their communities are encouraged to apply.
For more information about the Wyoming Community Foundation, the organizations it supports, or to set up a fund of your own, visit www.WYCF.org or call Anita McLaughlin at (307)721-8300.