NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, Mar. 26, 2020

Wyoming State Parks remain open

SHERIDAN  (WNE) — Wyoming’s state parks offer a variety of outdoor alternatives for solo adventurers and small family groups alike. Hiking and biking are popular activities at nearly all parks, while some offer fishing, boating, archery and other sports.

With plenty of wide-open spaces, individuals and families can explore on their own or establish a safe distance between themselves and others.

While parks are open, indoor spaces including visitor centers, headquarters and retail locations are closed to visitors. 

As a result of the continuing concern of the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended increased social distancing, therefore park staff and visitors are asked to limit group sizes to less than 10 and for people to stay a minimum of 6 feet apart. 

Additionally, park staff and visitors are encouraged to follow CDC guidelines for handwashing, sanitizing and hygiene.

“Time spent outside can be soothing and calming,” Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails Deputy Director Nick Neylon said in a press release. “Without the constant bombardment of news alerts and headlines, we get a chance to catch our breath and find some peace in nature.”

Those who enjoy a lighter outdoor recreation lifestyle will also find a place at Wyoming’s state parks. Bird and wildlife watching, nature photography, plein air painting, reading a book and enjoying a picnic lunch are popular pastimes.

The public is reminded that state parks staff members are taking the recommended precautions from the CDC and the Wyoming Department of Health to maintain clean and sanitary indoor public spaces, restrooms, etc.

To find the location of the Wyoming State Park nearest you, see



SkyWest suspends Delta YRA summer flights, United reduces

CODY (WNE) — SkyWest Airlines will be halting all of its Salt Lake City flights to and from Yellowstone Regional Airport until further notice.

That was the announcement made by YRA General Manager Bob Hooper late Wednesday afternoon, citing the unprecedented drop in airline travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The decline in airline traffic we are seeing is the most dramatic in the history of the aviation industry. The commercial airlines are making deep service cuts," Hooper said.

United Airlines will reduce to one daily flight to and from YRA to Denver for the months of April and May. It will add additional flights in June if conditions warrant.

SkyWest, a regional partner with Delta Airlines, was scheduled for an earlier start in May and later finish in September this summer.

Hooper said SkyWest will consider reinstating their service when conditions in the airline industry improve.

The decline in airline traffic is hampering the entire industry, with both international and regional airports facing significant reductions, and U.S. Airlines considering shutting down all passenger flights.

United will be loading a flight schedule change in the airline reservation systems this coming weekend.

If your flight will be affected by these changes, you will be notified by the vendor who you booked your travel plans with. 

"We hope this situation is short lived and the airlines can return to normal operations in the very near future," Hooper said.

For United flight change questions, call 800-864-8331.



State completes Moskee acquisition

SUNDANCE (WNE) — The State of Wyoming has completed a transaction to purchase a sizeable chunk of land within the Moskee, near the Grand Canyon area. The acquired land is estimated at around 4349 acres in size, around seven miles east of Sundance.

The now-state owned land is accessible via the Moskee road and varies from steep forested canyons to meadows populated with native grasses and forbs. An estimated 90% is forested and Cold Springs Creek runs through the property.

In 2018, the Office of State Lands and Investment (OSLI) Forestry Division was awarded $6 million via a Forest Legacy Program (FLP) grant towards the acquisition, which has been valued at $11,525,000. The use of this grant means that the BLC must administer the lands in a manner consistent with FLP objectives.

This means a multi-resource management plan must be created to protect and manage resources including soil, water, timber, wildlife, aesthetic quality and recreation. Only uses approved by FLP will be allowed, which means timber harvesting and livestock grazing are permissible, but commercial development and strip mining are not.

The acquisition was originally proposed by the Forestry Division due to the land being within one of the most productive timber areas in the state. The expectation is that the land will produce revenue through grazing and logging, according to Jessica Murkin, Real Estate Analyst for OSLI.



Northwest College refunding student payments

POWELL (WNE) — With campus facilities closed for the rest of the spring semester Northwest College is refunding its students an estimated $395,000 worth of prorated housing fees and meal plans. The college closed all campus locations, including student housing facilities, on March 15 as part of efforts to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

At a special Monday meeting, the NWC Board of Trustees voted unanimously to authorize the room and board refunds for the rest of the semester.

“We didn’t want anyone to be homeless as a result of the decision to close the residence halls,” said NWC President Stefani Hicswa.

The college is making arrangements for students who have nowhere safe to go — mostly international students — while the rest have moved out or are in the process of doing so. However, many students had paid for their food and housing through the entire semester and didn’t have any money left while waiting for refunds.

“The college was getting a number of calls and emails from students who needed the refunds urgently because they had been displaced and needed to be able to pay for housing and food,” NWC Board President Dusty Spomer said in an email.

The Wyoming Legislature recently voted to provide all seven community colleges with operational funding — including a one-time $600,000 appropriation for Northwest College.

The NWC resolution notes this funding could be used to cover the expense of the refunds, if NWC doesn’t receive an insurance claim or other federal or state support.