Field reps to hold office hours

DeAnna Kay, Denise Ebzery, and Matt Jones, Field Representatives for U.S. Senators Michael Enzi and John Barrasso and Congressman Cynthia Lummis are scheduled to hold “Office Hours” Thurs., July 25 in Pine Haven, Hulett and Sundance at the following times and places: Pine Haven Town Hall – 9-9:30 a.m., Sundance Town Hall – 11 a.m.-noon, Hulett Town Hall – 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Area residents are encouraged to come to discuss issues or views, questions or concerns regarding the federal government. These comments and concerns will be relayed to Senator Enzi, Senator Barrasso and Congressman Lummis.
If residents are unable to attend at that time, but would like information or assistance, please contact these offices: Senator Enzi’s Gillette office – 307-682-6268, Senator Barrasso’s Sheridan office – 307-672-6456, Congressman Lummis’ Sheridan office – 307-673-4608.

Trouble brewing? City debates malt permits

By Sarah Pridgeon

July City Council

By Sarah Pridgeon

Become an X-Stream angler

Chances are, if you go on a fishing trip to Wyoming’s high country waters this summer you will be in close proximity to any number of trout streams that abound in the state’s mountainous areas. And chances are even better that in some of those streams will be stretches where the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has sought instream flow water rights to help keep water flowing.
Thanks to a law created in 1986, Wyoming has pursued flow protections on more than 130 stream segments throughout the state. Last year, Game and Fish implemented the X-Stream Angler Program to raise awareness of the state’s efforts to protect flows on fisheries for the public and places where the state’s instream flow law has been used.
Qualifying for X-Stream angler recognition is simple. Due to the proximity of instream flow segments in a number of areas, anglers could probably accomplish the X-Stream angler criteria in a day or two on a single fishing trip. Runoff is mostly over due to moderate snowpack in much of the state and recent warm weather. Most streams are in good fishing condition.
To become an X-Stream angler, simply fish three instream segments, submit a photo of the angler fishing the segment and send in an application. Information about the X-Stream Angler Program, including the list of instream segments, information about each stream how to get there, and the application form is available at Anglers who fish three segments will receive a poplin baseball cap with the program logo. Anglers who fish seven of the stream segments will receive an upscale oil-cloth cap.
“We started the program to increase the awareness of Wyoming’s instream flow law and to encourage anglers to visit some of the streams where we’ve sought instream flow water rights on their behalf,” said Tom Annear, water management supervisor for Game and Fish.
There is no deadline to fish the streams and submit the application, but there is a limited supply of caps, so anglers are encouraged to start fishing soon.
“Securing needed flow on these streams under the state’s existing water law is one of the most cost-effective ways to maintain important habitat for native cutthroat trout and other fish, and to provide angling opportunities for future generations,” Annear said.
Anglers can call Annear at 307-777-4555 for additional information on a particular water. Information is also available in the early summer issue of Wyoming Wildlife News, available at license agents or Game and Fish offices across the state.

Devils Tower to review prescribed burns

By Sarah Pridgeon
The question of whether controlled burns should continue to take place on the front side of Devils Tower will be debated this coming winter. Tower Superintendent Reed Robinson addressed the situation with the County Commissioners, inviting input to plan for the future.
In May, high winds caused a 300-acre prescribed fire at the front of the tower to escape control, sparking controversy over its impact on the appearance of the landmark. Ogden Driskill summarized the problem with burns at the tower as one of aesthetics: when visitors now arrive, he said, they are greeted by dead and burned trees rather than a lush pine forest.
“Regardless of who it is, whether it’s Senator Driskill or any other citizen in the county, I’d be willing to sit down and discuss the specific issues, because I don’t know what they are other than what I heard that day,” said Robinson, explaining that Driskill’s input and some anecdotal comments on Facebook are the only feedback he has had.
Robinson told the commissioners that he met with Driskill, Fire Warden Gari Gill and a State Forester just days after the burn. He believes there is more to be discussed than anecdotes and would like to know specifically what can be done to find common ground.
“I don’t want to say compromise, because when you say compromise that means nobody’s happy,” he said. “I think there is some way to reach common ground and in my opinion we’ve got plenty of time.”
Gill noted that the Belle Fourche Unit within which the front of the tower falls is a tough unit to burn. In his opinion, the view of the tower that greets visitors as they drive towards it is the main value of the monument.
“I had the pleasure of meeting with Reed on a couple of occasions and I’ve seen his vision for the park. It’s probably the best I’ve seen it,” he said.
“The biggest value we have is people driving into there and seeing the beauty of it and we lose a little bit each time. I think that is where Mr. Driskill has felt more than a little upset.”
Prescribed burns are used on the Belle Fourche Unit as part of its fire management plan, which calls for dead fuels to be removed to encourage native prairie grasses and forbs to grow. The area in front of the tower is burned on a 12 to 15 year cycle.
“We all believe in the same thing: prescribed burn is a good program if it’s managed correctly. I think there’s times when we try to get things done in too big of a hurry,” said Gill.
“I can’t say enough about prescribed burning because it’s been used for ages to do a multitude of things but, like Reed, I think we need to sit down and put forward a plan for the future.”
Robinson suggested that representatives from the tower, county and state sit down this winter to plan for the future. The environmental conditions at the time of the May burn, he said, seemed perfect due to the late spring and high precipitation.
“Based on the science that I was listening to, it was an optimum time to burn. Another week later, it wouldn’t have been. I definitely stand by the plan that I signed,” he explained.
“I signed that plan with full knowledge of the advice from science, weather and my background. I have no regrets at all. I wish that there was less acrimony about it but I can’t go back on my decision, I thought it was the right decision at the time.”
However, he added, that doesn’t mean the management plan can’t change. He stressed that, as a recent arrival to Wyoming, he has a duty to listen to and understand the community and understands that he is accountable to landowners, county officials, his peers within other agencies, the 25 tribes and others.
“I can’t be running around making decisions unilaterally,” he said.
Robinson pointed to one particular lesson from May’s prescribed burn that will already alter the park’s management plan in the future.
“There is a strong education component I think we can bump up regardless of what we do, because I think there was some acrimony in the public about why the park was burning during a county burn ban. We don’t necessarily have to recognize that,” he explained.
“We have some opportunity here – any situation like this is an opportunity to do things better. This is the second time probably that a superintendent has spoken to a group like this regarding the same burn unit and there’s no sense in a superintendent 15 years from now standing here again answering the same questions.”

Commissioners consider benefits of Dry Creek Subdivision

By Sarah Pridgeon
The County Commissioners have approved the preliminary plat for the Dry Creek Subdivision, though road construction concerns still need to be addressed for the final plat and its overall benefits were called into question.
The new lots will be adjacent to the D. Stewart Carlson subdivision, five miles from Moorcroft. Existing residents expressed concerns about the impact on roads at last month’s session and approval was delayed for Tim Lyons of Growth and Development and Todd Rand, engineer on behalf of the county, to review updates to the plat.
Commissioner Jeanne Whalen questioned what benefit the subdivision will have for current and future residents, a paramount concern for the commissioners that is outlined on the first page of the county’s subdivision resolution.
“I’d like to know how the subdivision is going to promote convenience, order and prosperity. As far as what you have on the plat, there’s no public disposal garbage, no public sewer system, no public maintenance of the streets and what you would call your subdivision bylaws are ancient,” Whalen said.
“How is your subdivision, since you’re not going to offer any of this to people buying, going to promote the general welfare of the current and future residents of this county?”
Developer Randy Levanen responded that it will increase tax revenue for the county, but Whalen wondered if the increase would offset the extra demand on county services such as road maintenance. She suggested the subdivisions need an improvement district to ensure the area is properly maintained; without this, she explained, residents may come to the county expecting these services despite what it says on the plat.
“It should be your responsibility. I would really like to see the developers have better covenants so that more of the burden falls on you than on the county,” she added.
Rand found in his engineering report that many initial concerns had been addressed, but several remain. He recommended certain issues be highlighted on the plat or in disclosure statements for potential residents.
For example, he suggested including precautions for septic tanks. A Natural Resource District report identified the nearby Trail Creek as a direct tributary into the Belle Fourche River in a segment that already has high counts of fecal coliform and E. coli.
CCNRD stressed that landowners will need to sensibly position water wells and septic systems so as to avoid impacting human health and water quality. The district also noted that the lots are located on soils that are unfavorable to septic tank absorption fields and generally require major soil reclamation, special design and expensive installation.
Rand recommended that a copy of the entire report be made available to any prospective lot purchaser, along with limitations on water flow.
The preliminary traffic report showed that the new lots will not stretch the capacity of the gravel access road but a second access must be placed at the north line of the lot of at least 18 feet in width. The commissioners noted that they will take precautions later in the process to ensure the roads are built to standard.
The commissioners approved the preliminary plat contingent upon the developer meeting the conditions of the engineer. A final review will be scheduled once the final plat has been submitted.

WDE report stirs impeachment debate

By Sarah Pridgeon