NEWS BRIEFS for Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020


From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Yellowstone visitation down in 2019

CODY (WNE) — While visitation to Yellowstone National Park still exceeded 4 million in 2019 that was the lowest number of attendees since 2014.

The final total for last year was 4,020,287 compared to 2018’s 4,114,999. That was a 2.3 percent decline.

In 2014, attendance was 3,513,486, then there was a huge jump in 2015 when the total surpassed 4 million for the first time. That year’s record was 4,097,710 and visitation has not dipped below 4 million since.

The one-year record of 4,257,177 was established in 2016 during the celebration of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

In 2017, when attendance was 4,116,525 the eclipse of the sun brought extra people to Wyoming and Yellowstone.

The number of people entering Yellowstone through the East Gate from Cody also was lower in 2019, with 6,473 checking in during October compared to 6,280 in 2018, a year of heavy construction at Fishing Bridge. In 2015, for the same month it was 11,609 in 2015.

The East Gate typically closes during the first week in November and has no entry for vehicles in December, so October is the last full month of the year when people regularly travel through.

“It’s hard to speculate why numbers are slightly down,” a Park Service spokesman said of the overall 2019 total. “But there were weather related road closures in February, September and October. Some roads were closed for 10 days in October. This may have contributed to the decrease.”

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Guernsey police chief steps down, says she was forced out

GUERNSEY (WNE) — Guernsey Police Chief Terri VanDam has resigned the position that she held since January 2019.

In a letter dated Jan. 15, VanDam stated she was resigning involuntarily and by “force” from Mayor Nicholas Paustian and members of the town council.

She stated her reasons for the resignation, which included retaliation against her for being a whistleblower, unethical acts and conduct by town employees and corruption of public officials.

She added that she has no reprimands in her position. 

“I have an accomplishment list that speaks for itself and shows the tenacity and passion that I put into my work,” she stated.

Just two weeks ago, VanDam reported to council members that the department’s call volume declined in 2019 compared to the previous year.

In the letter, she accused the town of failing to protect its employees and violating federal harassment laws.

She stated that the town “has created a hostile work environment for all workers and has repeatedly retaliated against employees.”

“I have dedicated five years of my life in this career field in Guernsey to promote positive changes that would allow for our youth to grow up in a community that is drug free and crime resistant,” she stated in the letter. “Those changes are still going to happen whether I am in an official position of not.”

Attempts to contact Paustian for comment were not immediately successful.

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Exxon plans carbon capture project near Kemmerer

PINEDALE (WNE) — ExxonMobil Corporation filed an application on Jan. 13 with the Wyoming Industrial Siting Council to construct and operate the LaBarge Carbon Capture Project approximately 33 miles northeast of Kemmerer beginning in August. 

The company plans to build a fully operational carbon-capture, sales and disposal project adding equipment at the Shute Creek Gas Plant in Lincoln County, and at the CO2 Sales Facility in Sweetwater County, constructing a CO2 disposal well in Lincoln County and building a 9-mile CO2 pipeline in Lincoln County. 

The Shute Creek Gas Plant and CO2 Sales Facility are on ExxonMobil property and the CO2 disposal well and pipeline will be located on Bureau of Land Management property. Construction is anticipated to begin the third quarter of 2020 and be completed by the end of 2022. Construction manpower is anticipated to peak at an estimated 388 workers in August and September 2021. 

A hearing regarding the application is scheduled for April 9 in Kemmerer. 

Monthly average employment for construction jobs is expected to peak at 388. The project, once completed, is expected to have 11 permanent full-time jobs. 

The application states the primary local economic benefits with the new business activity are increased employee compensation, purchases made by the new business and taxes paid to local governments. 

The project is expected to generate $18 million in new taxes from 2024 to 2048 for Lincoln County and $9.78 million for Sweetwater County.

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Ucross wins grant for Native American residencies

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Ucross, an artist residency program and creative laboratory for the arts, recently announced that it has been awarded $30,000 from the National Endowment for the Art’s Art Works program to support residencies for Native American visual artists and writers.

The grant award, which was funded through the NEA’s Artist Communities program, will allow Ucross to expand its successful fellowships for Native American visual artists, now in its third year, to include Native American writers.

“As governor and a former board member of the Ucross Foundation, I’d like to congratulate Ucross for securing this funding from the NEA,” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said. “It’s well-deserved recognition. I’ve heard over and over from artists whose masterpieces were inspired by their time at Ucross and its historic Wyoming ranch, which has become a leading artist-in-residence program in the country — Ucross is a special place.”

“We are honored to be awarded this grant,” Ucross President Sharon Dynak said. “We’re especially proud of our work to expand residency opportunities for Native American artists and writers. NEA’s support is a boost of confidence in this initiative, as well as recognition from the NEA that our residency program is exceptional.”

Specifically, the grant funding will support three residencies for Native American writers and/or visual artists in 2020. Each resident will receive uninterrupted time, living accommodations and studio space on the 20,000-acre Ucross ranch. In addition, each artist will receive a stipend.

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Wyoming This Weekend, Jan. 24-26

By the Wyoming News Exchange

Wyoming’s towns offer a wide variety of activities for those looking for something different and fun to do this weekend. 

Encampment’s 34th Annual Sierra Madre Winter Carnival, held Friday and Saturday, will feature snowman painting, a treasure hunt, sled races and human saucer bowling — not to mention the annual snowmobile race and snow golf.  The event is capped off on Saturday with Casino Night at the Opera House.  Those handy in the kitchen can vie for cash prizes in the bread, chili or cake cook-off.  See https://www.wyomingcarboncounty.com/events/9-sierra-madre-winter-carnival for more information. 

The Soupenanny and Hootenanny Saturday in Dubois — a soup and bread cook-off — will feature cash prizes for the best bakers and chili makers, samples for all and live musical entertainment. Donations go to Needs of Dubois. See https://windriver.org/event/soupenanny-hootenanny/.

Don your kilt, grab your sporran and celebrate the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns in Rock Springs on Saturday.  Held at Western Wyoming Community College, Scottish Burns Night will include poetry reading, music and dancing, in addition to some samples of Scottish delicacies.  (Mmmm!  Haggis!) Admission is free. For more information, visit www.westernwyoming.edu/about/media/press-releases/scottish-burns-night.php.

Hankering for some wild game meat?  Head to the 8th Annual Beast Feast at the Park County Fairgrounds in Powell on Saturday, where you’ll find vendors of Western art and hunting and fishing gear, games, seminars on hunting, game appetizers and a shooting gallery.  Dinner is free, but reservations are required. (Call 307-250-3866.) See https://business.powellchamber.org/events/details/8th-annual-beast-feast-2020-23648.

The Cowboy State Games are slated for this weekend at the CAM-PLEX in Gillette, where the winners of the indoor softball and pickleball tournaments will qualify for the National Congress of State Games. See https://www.cam-plex.com/events/2020/cowboy-state-games for more information. 

And finally, for something completely different, there’s Drag Bingo at the Radisson Hotel in Cheyenne on Saturday night.  For mature audiences, the evening’s festivities include four games of bingo, a comedy show and performances by the Glitter Drag Troupe (https://www.cheyenne.org/event/drag-bingo/14625).

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