From the Big Horn Radio Newscenter…

For August 5, 2008

To listen to today’s latest news update, click here.

The Sweetwater Lodge on the Shoshone National Forest was burned in the Gunbarrel Fire Sunday night. The lodge, which was owned by the Forest Service and uninhabited, had not been in operation for many years and had no motorized access. Fire management officer Mark Giacoletto said extreme fire behavior Sunday evening pushed the fire 4.5 miles in 3 hours. Firefighting resources had been prioritized to work on private operating and functioning structures in the western part of the North Fork corridor. The previous day, helicopters had dropped water on and around the lodge. Additionally, several campgrounds in the area were closed yesterday as a result of the smoke and the influx of fire crews. The Wapiti, Clearwater, Rex Hale, and Newton campgrounds as well as Fish Hawk Trail Head were closed to the public yesterday. According to Rebecca Aus, Shoshone National Forest Supervisor, more “Red Flag” weather conditions and an incoming wind event will further challenge containment efforts this week. The Gunbarrel Fire was started by lightning on July 26 and has burned 31,000 acres along the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

A grizzly bear fleeing the LeHardy fire in Yellowstone has roughed up a firefighter, but the man wasn't seriously hurt. Fire information officer Sandra Hare says firefighter Tony Allabastro was treated and released at a clinic on the park on Sunday. Hare says Allabastro is a member of the Lewis and Clark Hotshots from Great Falls, Mont. The crew is among those battling the 4,700-acre LeHardy Fire burning near Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone. Hare says Allabastro suffered some scratches on his back after the bear pounced on him. But Hare says officials believe that the bear wasn't being particularly aggressive. She says the animal apparently just wanted to get away from the fire.

An extensive effort to restore a Big Horn Basin stream to its historic channel that was funded in part by the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust got a visit from Gov. Dave Freudenthal and several members of the Wyoming Legislature on Saturday. The Governor was taken on a tour of the Kirby Creek watershed rehabilitation project located ten miles north of Thermopolis in Hot Springs County. Freudenthal praised the partnership between the state, Hot Springs County, the local Conservation District and private landowners. This phase of the watershed rehabilitation, known as the Lucy Moore project, restored 1,750 feet of Kirby Creek to its original channel. Representative Colin Simpson of Cody noted that the stream rehabilitation is bringing back the riparian areas and the wildlife habitat is improving steadily. As a result of the overall improvements to the Kirby Creek watershed, ponds and wetlands have returned and willows have once again begun to grow along the streambed. The Conservation District has coupled these efforts with the installation of solar water pumps that aid landowners in pumping water where no electric access exists and generators are not practical.

The Cody City Council this evening will be taking formal action to dissolve a partnership between local government officials that has been replaced by a new agreement. A resolution passed in 1997 created the Emergency Management Council, which was a group of city and county officials who were to work together on emergency planning. However, City Administrator Andy Whiteman says that the Homeland Security Act that was enacted a few years ago superceded the Council. A new agreement, which creates the Multi-Agency Coordination System, was approved by the City Council on July 15th. Whiteman noted that this new system is in essence a mutual aid agreement between the City and the County, and he says that a similar agreement between the City of Cody and the City of Powell has been discussed. At tonight’s meeting, the Council will finish the process that began on July 15th with the creation of the new Multi-Agency Coordination System.

The grizzly bear is the largest and most powerful land carnivore in North America, and Northwest Wyoming boasts the largest population of the bears in the contiguous United States. Grizzlies are the subject of the Draper Museum of Natural History’s Lunchtime Expedition today in the BBHC’s Coe Auditorium at 12:15. Biologist Mark Bruscino of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department presents Ecology of the Yellowstone Area Grizzly Bear and shares what has been learned after 40 years of study about this fascinating animal and its environment. Bruscino is currently the supervisor of the Bear Management Program for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, where he has worked for the past 27 years. Several magazines, including National Geographic and Smithsonian have featured Bruscino’s work, as have National Public Radio, public television’s “Nature,” and CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Fire crews are still mopping up a wildfire that burned 10,173 acres west of Red Lodge, but the containment is now estimated at 66 percent. The Cascade fire burned to within six miles of Red Lodge and within a quarter-mile of the Red Lodge Mountain Ski Resort, prompting mandatory evacuations and evacuation alerts for several subdivisions that have since been lifted. Fire information officer Mark Wurdeman says crews are continuing to mop up hotspots and secure fire lines.

The four candidates seeking the Republican nomination to run for Wyoming's seat in the U.S. House discussed subjects including energy development, the environment and the national economy in a televised debate. Candidates Mark Gordon, Cynthia Lummis, Bill Winney and Michael Holland met last night in Riverton for a debate at Central Wyoming College. The winner of the Aug. 19 primary will face Wilson businessman Gary Trauner, the only Democrat seeking his party's nomination to run for the seat. The winner of the general election will replace outgoing Republican Representative Barbara Cubin. Monday night's debate covered topics including drilling in the Wyoming Range, controlling the national deficit and various immigrant worker programs.

A debate between Democratic hopefuls for U.S. Senate covered topics ranging from the candidates' party credentials to a national energy policy and health care. Nick Carter, a defense attorney from Gillette, and Keith Goodenough, a Casper city councilman and former state legislator, are competing to run against Republican Sen. John Barrasso. Barrasso is unopposed in his party's primary. The winner of the general election in November will fill the remaining four years of the late Sen. Craig Thomas' term. Barrasso, a doctor from Casper and former state legislator, was appointed to the seat last year after Thomas' death. Monday's debate was held at Central Wyoming College in Riverton and was sponsored by Wyoming PBS, Wyoming Public Radio and the Wyoming Business Report.

The Wyoming Public Service Commission is joining the ranks of Wyoming officials warning residents to brace for high heating costs this winter. The commission says that natural gas prices will rise 50- to 70 percent this winter because of higher wholesale natural gas prices. Gov. Dave Freudenthal has already warned that such increases are likely this winter. The commission encourages people to reduce their gas consumption by installing more efficient heaters and other appliances. Windows and doors should also have weather stripping and residences should have adequate insulation.

New U.S. Geological Survey estimates have lowered the amount of recoverable coal in the nation's most prolific coalfield. The USGS is assessing coal reserves in the nation's largest coalfields. It started with the most productive one - the coalfield around Gillette in northeast Wyoming. The Gillette coalfield is part of the coal-rich Powder River Basin in northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana. The report estimates there are 77 billion short tons of recoverable coal in the Gillette field. That's down from the 108 billion short tons estimated in 2002 in generally the same area. Coal is the most reliable and affordable energy source in the United States. However, coal-fired power plants are considered a major cause of climate change by some. Researchers are trying to find cleaner ways to use coal.

The director of the Office of State Lands and Investments recommends that Wyoming approve a natural gas processing and carbon sequestration plant on state land in Sublette County. The state's five elected officials will vote on the recommendation on Thursday. Cimarex Energy Co. of Denver has proposed the $100 million plant. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department had opposed building on the site, which is critical winter range for elk. Lynne Boomgaarden is director of the Office of State Lands and Investments. She says Cimarex and the state game department have agreed to a list of stipulations including improving elk habitat.

A Cheyenne-based program to help youth deal with bullying in schools is making its mark nationally. The "Bullying Hurts" program is run by professional rodeo clown Marvin Nash and his wife. Their program emphasizes youth mentoring and nonviolence. It has been taught in some 300 schools in 37 states. The "Bullying Hurts" program trains high-school kids to mentor grade schoolers on how to deal with bullying in their schools and community. Nash is featured throughout in his clown outfit. The goal is that if kids can learn to handle bullying at a young age, they are less likely to explode into violent retaliation later. In addition, young bullies might come to realize their antics are hurtful and stop before they become too destructive. The program has gained the support of celebrities, including Charlie Daniels, Taylor Swift, Reba McEntire, and Trisha Yearwood.

Riverton police say they have taken two men into custody after the beating death of a 32-year-old man at a house party. The victim was identified as Ernest Paul Jenkins, of Riverton. The names of the suspects were not immediately released. Police Detective Sgt. Eric Murphy says an altercation took place in an apartment on the south side of town. A woman who lived at the apartment discovered the victim later and called police. Murphy says the victim died Thursday at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper.

The Casper Police Department is starting its own training program to cut the amount of time it will take to get new officers onto the streets. The first training class starts Monday. In the past, the department has sent its recruits to the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas. But the Douglas academy only has four training slots for Casper officers in each training class. The training classes are offered three times a year. Casper Police Chief Tom Pagel says it would have taken a year to get all 10 officers through the program in Douglas. But he says that by offering its own training, the department should be able to get all 10 on the streets in 31 weeks. He says that will bring the department up to its full strength of 98 officers.

Cheyenne police are investigating a report of a home invasion robbery over the weekend. Lt. Mark Munari of the Cheyenne Police Department says a woman living in an apartment on the city's north side reported that a man entered her home just before 5 a.m. on Sunday. Munari says the woman told officers that the man held her at gunpoint and bound her hands and feet with tape before stealing her purse. The woman was not injured. The man woman described the man as being of average size and weight with greenish-gray eyes. Munari says the department is taking the case seriously and has assigned detectives and officers from its major crimes unit.
You can contact our News Department to submit any noteworthy news items or feedback. E-mail us or call our 24-hour News Tip Hotline at 578-5019.