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MARCH 25 NEWS Briefs via WNE

Company wants to bring hail mitigation techniques to Cheyenne

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A North Dakota company wants to bring its cloud-seeding technology to Cheyenne in an effort to mitigate hail damage from storms.

According to Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr, Fargo-based Weather Modification Inc. seeks to base aircraft and storm teams at Cheyenne Regional Airport, starting with the 2020 spring storm season. The company hopes to use seeding techniques to decrease the size of hailstones in order to reduce damage to crops and property.

The company currently conducts cloud-seeding operations over the Snowy Range for the city's Board of Public Utilities to order to increase snowpack.

A representative from Weather Modification was not immediately available for comment Friday. But according to the company's website, cloud seeding, also known as weather modification, is the use of seeding crystals that enhance a cloud's ability to produce precipitation.

In this case, crews would use aerial glaciogenic seeding techniques to induce excess supercooled liquid water that could potentially become hail to freeze into larger numbers of small particles, rather than much smaller numbers of large particles.

"It damages crops out in the county," Orr said. "Even in the city, we have significant damage with our police cars and fleet - and everyone's roofs."

Orr said a team from Weather Modification, as well as representatives from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where the company conducts hail mitigation activities, are scheduled to make a presentation in Cheyenne during the first week of April.

The program would cost around $1.6 million a season, but Orr said plans do not call for the city to bear the cost alone.


Regulatory changes raise questions about sage grouse

SHERIDAN — A federal agency finalized a long-debated set of revisions regarding sage grouse management last week, sparking concerns about the changes interfering with Wyoming’s conservation efforts.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced revisions to federal sage grouse management plans that created more exemptions for development on lands crucial to the sage grouse’s habitat and eliminated some of the obligations developers would have to those environments.

Wyoming is home to the largest sage grouse population in the world, but the population of the iconic species has dwindled in recent years, which has led to a robust conservation campaign.

Wyoming Game and Fish’s Sheridan Region Wildlife Management Coordinator Dan Thiele, who is a member of the Northeast Wyoming Sage Grouse Working Group, said sage grouse management plans stem primarily from a 2015 executive order, signed by former Governor Dave Freudenthal, that called for the state to balance energy development with sage grouse conservation efforts to prevent the grouse from becoming listed as an endangered species.

Thiele said that order facilitated cooperation between a diverse range of interests — from conservationists to oil and gas developers — on sage grouse management.

Opinion is split over whether the latest federal revisions to sage grouse management will upset that compromise.

In a statement published by the Bureau of Land Management last week, Gov. Mark Gordon said the changes to the sage grouse management plan were modest and respected the state’s authority to oversee management of the species.

Some conservationists, however, insist that the latest federal revisions pose a threat to Wyoming’s sage grouse. Bighorn Audubon Society President Jackie Canterbury said the changes will make swaths of land crucial to sage grouse vulnerable.


Diamond Lake damage concerns biologists

LARAMIE (WNE) — Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologists are concerned resource damage at a popular fishery near Laramie could jeopardize future access.

Diamond Lake Public Access Area sits about 40 miles west of Laramie and a few miles north of Interstate 80 via Cooper Cove Road. This winter, wildlife managers have seen littering, shooting debris, off-road travel and damage to resources and parking barriers.

The land and water at Diamond Lake, also known as Bosler Reservoir, are owned by Wheatland Irrigation District, and public access is allowed only through an agreement with Game and Fish.

Laramie Region fisheries biologist Chance Kirkeeng said continued future access depends on maintaining a good relationship with the district.

“It’s private land, and that’s the biggest worry,” he said. “If those folks ever got upset about what was happening out there, we could lose that fishery in the blink of an eye.”

According to fisheries supervisor Bobby Compton, Diamond Lake has historically been a very popular fishery. But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the lake started to dry up as water was used elsewhere.

Game and Fish is planning to spend $750,000 over the next 10 years to purchase water. The agency has also spent about $400,000 on a water pipeline, boat dock, outhouse repairs and a snow fence.

The agency began stocking the reservoir with rainbow trout in 2016, adding cutthroat and brook trout in 2017.

Kirkeeng said the 284-acre lake is now about two-thirds full. Last summer, biologists found brook trout at 14 inches, cutthroat at 17 inches and rainbows at 19 inches.


Barrasso, Enzi back wolf de-listing bill

JACKSON (WNE) — Wyoming’s Congressional delegates are signing onto a bill to delist wolves in other states to fend off future lawsuits over wolves in this state.

Although Wyoming already manages wolves inside the state, Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi have both signed on to a bipartisan bill introduced last week with a primary purpose of delisting wolves in the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Wyoming’s inclusion in the bill is solely to ensure that the 2012 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisting rule for wolves in Wyoming “shall not be subject to judicial review,” the bill states.

“Wyoming has successfully recovered the gray wolf and demonstrated its ability to manage the species,” Mike Danylak, a spokesman for Barrasso, said in an email. “The legislation creates certainty for the people of Wyoming by prohibiting further judicial review of the delisting determination.”

Wolf management in Montana and Idaho is already exempted from litigation because of a 2011 rider that then-Montana Sen. Jon Tester tacked onto a congressional spending bill. The Wyoming delegation has tried repeatedly to follow suit.

An appeals court decision in early 2017 returned the approximately 300 wolves that call the Equality State home to Wyoming Game and Fish Department jurisdiction. Canis lupus was in state control from 2012 to 2014, and then for three years were the only wolves in the Northern Rockies that were federally protected.