NEWS BRIEFS for Friday, May 15, 2020

UW trustees approve 20-year campus master plan


LARAMIE (WNE) — While much of the University of Wyoming’s focus is on its ability to open in the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the institution’s leadership is also looking ahead to a time when campus is not only open, but radically transformed.

A 20-year master plan approved by the Board of Trustees during its meeting Thursday lays out the structure of that transformation, which would require new construction and renovations of existing buildings and plazas.

“It’s really intended to help UW understand the condition of existing facilities, current and projected space needs, campus mobility, landscaping and infrastructure,” campus architect Matt Newman told the board. “All to help guide the physical development of the campus.”

Broadly, the plan seeks to make campus more cohesive, connecting various “precincts” — such as the research precinct to the north and athletic and cultural precincts to the east — while improving the livability, design or flow of those areas. The master plan was developed by architecture firm Sasaki, which has been working on it since January 2019.

The plan calls for $120 million for infrastructure improvements spread out over the next 20 years. That money would go to increasing shared social spaces and natural lighting in some of UW’s more austere buildings and extending the bike-friendly qualities of campus beyond the core area. The master plan also makes the argument for adding a residence hall wing to Knight Hall, and completely renovating Ross Hall into dorms, which was the building’s original, historic function.


Forest Service releases final environmental impact statement for Thunder Basin National Grassland, proposed amendment to management plan

GILLETTE (WNE) — The USDA Forest Service has released the final environmental impact statement and draft record of decision to amend the Thunder Basin National Grassland Land and Resource Management Plan.

The proposed amendment will address the management of black-tailed prairie dog colonies on National Forest System lands to allow federal land managers to respond to a variety of environmental and social conditions on the grassland, according to a press release.

The statement analyzes current management and compares five alternatives for future prairie dog colony management.

Issues raised during two public comment periods and addressed in the analysis include the viability of at-risk wildlife species, recovery of the endangered black-footed ferret, forage for permitted livestock, prairie dog encroachment onto private and state lands and social and economic issues.

The analysis presents current science and integrates lessons learned from prairie dog colony management on the Thunder Basin National Grassland and other federally managed prairie dog habitats.

The proposed action and action alternatives would establish prairie dog management zones along boundaries between National Forest System lands and private and state properties, allow broader application of tools for colony conservation and control, decrease the acres of prairie dog colonies managed for conservation, and maintain habitat for at-risk species.

The amendment is expected to be finalized later this year.


Eastern Wyoming College aims for May 18 reopening

TORRINGTON (WNE) – Eastern Wyoming College is on pace in its planning to reopen its doors – albeit on a limited basis – on Monday. Dr. Lesley Travers, EWC president, told trustees on Tuesday the college has prepared a COVID-19 response plan as part of the variance application submitted this week. 

All variances, allowed as Gov. Mark Gordon last month relaxed some of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Wyoming, must be approved by State Public Health Officer, Dr. Alexia Harrist. 

“We’ve applied for a variance to open May 18, next Monday, on some limited things,” Travers said. “We want to work with our welding and cosmetology students to ensure they graduate and get the board certifications they need.” 

At least in the cosmetology and barbering schools, Travers said – under the letter of regulations already approved by Gordon – a variance isn’t really necessary. Gordon’s order allowing barber shops and hair salons to reopen earlier this month also applies, under certain circumstances, to the EWC programs. 

“With welding, we’ll have to do something a little bit different,” Travers said. “When they’re in those welding booths, they’re already darn near six-feet apart.”

Dr. Heidi Edmunds, vice president for academic services at EWC, said the number of students who’ll need to return to complete coursework in the cosmetology and welding departments almost make concerns over the number limitations moot. 

In addition to limiting the number of students on campus at any one time, EWC will provide disposable masks and bandanas for personal protection, Travers said. There will also be signup sheets for everyone coming onto the campus.


Targhee's summer festival season canceled

JACKSON (WNE) – Dead heads will be disappointed today for the second time this year.

If it weren’t bad enough that Bob Weir and Wolf Bros show at Rendezvous Fest was cancelled back in March, now Dark Star Orchestra’s appearance at Targhee Fest this summer has been cancelled as well.

Today Grand Targhee Resort made what seems to have been an inevitable announcement. The 33rd annual Grand Targhee Bluegrass, 16th annual Targhee fest and 15th annual Targhee Music Camp will all be cancelled for summer 2020.

“It was a really hard decision for us,” said Grand Targhee Resort marketing director Jennie White. “We’re taking away something that the valley loves in order to keep the public safe and keep our employees safe.”

With artists like Phish and Dave Matthews Band rescheduling or canceling their summer dates, pressure has been mounting on music festivals to make a decision on whether to cancel summer 2020 gatherings. Grand Targhee Resort had already put off announcing pricing and a full line up for the festival far past the usual time in March, but the decision to cancel the festival outright didn’t come to a head until last week.

“Bands were canceling on us. We were just looking at what was going on in the world around us,” said White.

Although the festival season at Targhee is cancelled, the resort will still be open to mountain bikers for the summer. Opening day will be June 19 and season passes go on sale on June 1.