NEWS BRIEFS for Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Cheyenne City Council votes to cut own stipends to benefit those affected by COVID-19

CHEYENNE (WNE) – The coronavirus’ impact on the economy has hit the city hard, forcing Cheyenne leaders to lay off employees and severely cut expenditures.

To stand in solidarity with city employees, the Cheyenne City Council voted Monday to allow councilmen to take voluntary 13% cuts to their monthly stipends, which is the aggregate amount of budget cuts across all city departments.

“That’s the message we want to send to the people of Cheyenne – we’re with you. We’re all in this together,” Councilman Ken Esquibel said.

The money will go directly to the Greater Cheyenne COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, which aims to prevent evictions or financial hardships for Cheyenne residents.

Each month, the councilmen receive $1,000. So the $130 each councilman would have made would go directly to helping residents harmed by COVID-19 each month. The resolution expires Dec. 31, and allows councilmen to opt out if they so choose.

“I think this is an important message that we send,” Council President Mark Rinne said. “As we all know, we’ve had to (reduction in force) 17 employees. We’ve experienced severe cutbacks across all departments with the budget. I like the fact that we’re trying to take a position saying, ‘We understand, and we’re going to try to do something on our part, too.’”

Originally, the resolution included the mayor in the governing body, but Esquibel proposed an amendment at the Finance Committee meeting last week excluding the mayoral salary.

Esquibel’s amendments also created a sunset clause and redirected the money to the resident relief fund. As initially proposed, the money would have gone back into the city’s general fund.


Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office: weapons found belong to triple homicide suspect

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Three firearms believed to belong to triple homicide suspect Dana Beartusk were found by a Montana road near Kirby Monday morning, according to Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Levi Dominguez, after an individual called the SCSO and reported discovering a gun on the side of the road.

All three handguns were turned over to the Wyoming State Crime Lab for further processing, which will include collection of fingerprint evidence, Dominguez said.

The individual who called SCSO identified themselves to law enforcement, but SCSO is not releasing a name.

Beartusk pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in 4th Judicial District Court April 30.

A search for at least one firearm began the night of March 29, after law enforcement responded to a report that Beartusk allegedly shot three people in Big Horn and discovered Angelina Beartusk, Seana Fisher and Mochdaveyano “Blackhawk” Fisher deceased by gunshot wounds to the head in the style of execution. The same evening, Beartusk was apprehended in Montana by the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office.

Dominguez declined to release information about the circumstances of the discovery — including type of firearms, whether they were registered, how far off the road the weapons were found and whether they were buried — to avoid hindering prosecution and pending results from the crime lab.

SCSO believes all three guns belong to Beartusk based on interviews conducted during the course of the investigation, Dominguez said.


Coalition seeks injunction before Upper Green grazing

PINEDALE (WNE) – One of two conservation coalitions that filed March 31 lawsuits against federal agencies for renewing livestock grazing permits in the Upper Green now hopes to suspend any grizzly kills that might occur this summer. 

On May 8, Western Watersheds Project, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection added a motion for a preliminary injunction to its court challenge. 

They seek to halt “threatened” grizzly bear killings for livestock conflicts and stop ranchers from moving cattle past Kendall Warm Springs’ “endangered” dace until their larger suit is resolved. 

It states the injunction should not interfere with permitted livestock grazing. 

The original suit challenges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2019 Biological Opinion that allows up to 72 Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzlies to be removed from the Upper Green over a decade for livestock conflicts. The Forest Service used that FWS statement when renewing its10-year grazing permits in the Upper Green’s six allotments. 

Noting turnout for permitted summer grazing will be on June 14, this motion points out that FWS killed three bears in the Upper Green in 2019. These were adult males, three of 27 known grizzly mortalities in the GYE demographic monitoring area. 

At the same time, six grizzlies were captured in Sublette County and relocated, according to Wyoming Game and Fish. 

It also seeks to prohibit permitted ranchers from moving “thousands” of cattle past Kendall Warm Springs, the only known home of the endangered Kendall Warm Springs dace. The fenced-off warm springs is 328 feet long. It argues that FWS and Forest Service are not authorized under the Endangered Species Act to allow “take” of dace.


Lake trout numbers decline in Yellowstone

CODY (WNE) – Victory on Yellowstone Lake is within grasp.

Recent numbers show the battle is being won when it comes to Yellowstone cutthroat trout recovery in Yellowstone Lake, due to the decline of the invasive lake trout species.

“Nowhere else has seen the kind of adult lake trout collapse at the rate that has been achieved on Yellowstone Lake, not on the Great Lakes, not on Lake Pend Oreille (in Idaho),” said Dr. Michael Hansen, a recently retired biologist for the Great Lakes Science Center of the United States Geological Survey, and a longtime member of the Science Review Panel for the fisheries of Yellowstone National Park.

Dave Sweet, Yellowstone Lake special project manager for Wyoming Trout Unlimited, said lake trout data supports this analysis. This data was discussed during a series of science review panel meetings on the cutthroat’s recovery held in early April. 

Intensive gill netting efforts have reduced adult lake trout – predators that prey the most on the cutthroats – to 10% of their peak population from just eight years ago. Now, the adult lake trout population is hovering around 10,000, representing only about 2% of the lake’s total trout population. Ten years ago that number was near 60,000.

Total numbers are still only estimates and projections, as no census exists for fish. Findings are reported about one year after collection.

Sweet said there is no accurate data existing on the current cutthroat population, but he said since 2010 when they were at roughly 250,000-300,000, their population has only been trending upward.