WyoFile https://www.wyofile.com Indepth News about Wyoming People, Places & Policy. Wyoming news. 2018-08-14T16:33:58Z hourly 1 2000-01-01T12:00+00:00 Election may determine future of sage grouse https://www.wyofile.com/election-may-determine-future-of-sage-grouse/ 2018-08-14T10:20:49Z Mead asks BLM to honor Wyoming’s regs requiring oil and gas companies to make up for habitat destruction as candidates support imperiled bird.

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Gov. Matt Mead has asked federal officials to honor Wyoming’s greater sage grouse management plan by allowing the state to require oil and gas companies to make up for destroyed habitat.

Mead made his comments Aug. 2 in a 26-page letter addressing changes that the Trump administration has proposed to federal sage grouse conservation plans. The Department of the Interior is altering plans that were forged in 2015 to keep the bird off the list of threatened or endangered species. In making revisions, the Interior Department asked for comments on whether “compensatory mitigation” — trading habitat protections or enhancements in one place for destruction or degradation somewhere else —  should still be required.

The question gained urgency when, nine days before the comment deadline, Brian Steed, a deputy director of the federal Bureau of Land Management, issued an instructional memorandum to immediately abolish compensatory mitigation. A caveat gives state governments the authority to require habitat replacement or enhancements. Mead said in his letter that the exception was made with Wyoming in mind.

Steed’s instructions and the state exception “was written to accommodate Wyoming’s [Greater Sage Grouse Compensatory Mitigation] Framework and review process,” the governor’s comment letter states.

When revising federal conservation plans in Wyoming for sage grouse, the BLM should “defer to the state’s assessment of how to apply avoidance, minimization and, if necessary, compensatory mitigation to address impacts to this State-managed species,” the governor’s letter states (see below).

This map, in which western states’ sizes are rendered according to their percentage of the world’s population of greater sage grouse, reveals the importance of Wyoming in the bird’s conservation. (WyoFile)

The chairman of Mead’s Sage Grouse Implementation Team, Bob Budd, clarified Mead’s position in an interview. Wyoming’s conservation strategy is to first avoid disturbance to, and destruction of, grouse habitat. Then the state would try to minimize impacts if they can’t be avoided. Finally, Wyoming makes developers compensate if avoidance and minimization are not possible, he said.

“There are prior-existing-rights situations where you can’t completely avoid impacts,” Budd said. Such would be the case, for example, where an energy company held a lease to drill on land subsequently deemed core sage grouse habitat. “That’s where compensatory mitigation comes in,” Budd said.

Mead’s letter is the latest step in a years-long dance between the state and federal governments — one that has required strong leadership and at times forceful advocacy on the part of Wyoming’s chief executives to protect the state’s interests. Next year, it will be time for a new governor to cut in.

Grouse fate lies with Wyoming’s future governor

An Endangered Species Act listing of the greater sage grouse could restrict everything from drilling to grazing, across the bird’s range. With 38 percent of the bird’s remaining habitat, Wyoming stands to be the most deeply affected by potential restrictions. The 2015 federal sage grouse conservation plans that the Trump administration is changing were modeled largely after Wyoming’s core area strategy and created the “regulatory certainty” required to keep the imperiled bird off the federal threatened or endangered species list. Removing safeguards from the federal plans wouldn’t necessarily soften Wyoming’s management strategy. But if populations fall elsewhere as other states opt out of protections, Wyoming could be left holding the proverbial bag.  

“We’ve always had a greater burden,” compared to other states, Budd said, “That’s just the reality. That’s why we’ve been so aggressive with our conservation strategy.”

That aggressive conservation strategy hinges on an executive order penned in 2008 by then-governor Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat. How Wyoming’s next governor interprets and enforces that order, and how he or she is able to work with federal authorities regarding sage grouse is likely to have enormous impact on the imperiled bird and the state’s future.

The Freudenthal order identified and mapped “core” sage grouse habitat areas and limited the amount of disturbance that would be permitted in those areas. Gov. Mead modified and continued the order — again with the stroke of a pen as allowed. Wyoming is a dual permitting state in which oil and gas operators must secure state, as well as federal, permission to drill on federal land. As such, Wyoming’s backstop executive order has the regulatory heft necessary to ensure protections.

But any new governor could rescind or modify the order with his or her signature. Republicans Bill Dahlin, Sam Galeotos, Mark Gordon and Harriet Hageman said they would continue the executive order, as did Democrats Mary Throne, Ken Casner and Michael Allen Green. Foster Friess, Rex Rammell, Taylor Haynes, and Rex Wilde have said they support grouse preservation without explicitly backing the executive order. Friess and Taylor are Republicans, Rammell is running as an independent and Wilde is a Democrat.

Wyoming’s sage grouse core-area map is an element of the governor’s executive order that protects grouse across the state. It can be altered or rescinded with the stroke of the governor’s pen, however, making grouse protection a political topic. (Wyoming Governor’s office)

Dahlin, Casner, Green, Galeotos and Hageman backed the order in interviews or correspondence with WyoFile while Throne did so at a forum hosted by the Wyoming Wildlife Federation in Casper on Thursday. Friess, Rammell and Haynes supported greater sage grouse in their remarks at the wildlife federation gathering.

“I stand the way we stand today,” Casner said in an email. “I’m not going to change anything.”

“I’d try to keep it in place,” Green wrote. “I’d do my best.”

“Sam [Galeotos] would not just keep it but he would want to work with the Governor’s office during the transition to ensure he has established long-term goals for state focused recovery efforts and that he continues those recovery effort[s],” spokeswoman Amy Edmonds wrote to WyoFile.

Hageman said adaptive management is an important element of the order. “I absolutely am committed to making sure we’re able to preserve our sage grouse so that they are not listed,” she said in a telephone interview. Her oversight would ensure Wyoming “can continue with oil and gas development as well as our ag industry while also preserving that species,” she said.

Dahlin said he, too, would continue the order unless “better science indicates a better strategy.” In that instance he would modify the order to improve it, he said in an email.

Throne, at the Wyoming Wildlife Federation forum, called the core area strategy and Sage Grouse Implementation Team “a good model,” that should be continued and enhanced. “The next governor is going to have to stand up for the plans that work for Wyoming,” she said. “I applaud Gov. Mead for saying ‘Hey, wait a minute. We’ve got this under control.’”

Gordon, also at the wildlife forum, said too many in the state have misimpressions about the order. The new governor “probably” needs to examine it for clarifications and modifications and needs to have an open mind, he said.

He said his ranch operates under a conservation agreement with assurances — an agreement that typically ensures ranchers follow best practices for grouse. In exchange, ranchers are promised they won’t be penalized by regulations in the future. Gordon wants the state to be similarly insulated so if somebody in Nevada doesn’t do the right thing, “we are not sunk,” he said.

Friess touted connections, including a text exchange he said he had with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “He affirmed he likes very much the plan we have in place,” Friess said at the wildlife forum. Wyoming must fight for control over land and wildlife, he wrote in an email. “The best way to do this, to Mead’s credit, is to create a bipartisan stakeholder group and work as a team to find the middle ground.”

Without addressing the executive order, Haynes said the bird “would be very safe under my administration.” Rammell would protect the sage grouse “under our terms, not theirs.” Wilde said he is an environmentalist and would study the order to see if it needed changing.

Will compensatory mitigation in Wyoming make a difference?

Compensatory mitigation has played a small role in Wyoming’s conservation strategy, SGIT director Budd said. While he couldn’t immediately provide numbers, he estimated several hundred acres, mostly oil and gas well pads, may have required conservation offsets.

In contrast, “the acres we’ve restored or put into conservation easements, it’s in the millions of acres,” he said. “Remember,” he said in a telephone interview, “compensatory mitigation is the third choice. The amount of compensatory mitigation required in Wyoming is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of acres we’re conserving.”

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Wyoming Sage Grouse Implementation Team chairman Bob Budd watch migrating antelope near Trappers’ Point in Sublette County in October, 2014. Budd has the difficult task of accommodating greater sage grouse and energy development in a state plan. Jewell will ultimately determine whether those efforts are sufficient to stave off federal endangered-species protection of the bird. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

Budd outlined Steed’s new instructions this way. Drillers may say, for example “I’m going to have an impact — I’ll pay cash.” But “that doesn’t have any direct benefit to the species,” he said.

“The instructional memorandum says you can’t do that,” Budd said. “It says you’re not going pay cash gladly tomorrow for a hamburger today. I think the federal government [says] you aren’t just going to go out and do these as a one-off.”  

SGIT member Brian Rutledge, Central Flyway conservation strategy and policy advisor for Audubon Rockies, sees a looming threat from Washington. “It will definitely help that Wyoming’s executive order stay in place,” he said in a telephone interview. The BLM has rules to protect greater sage grouse, but “now we are folding that tent up and storing it in the tent of the executive order,” he said. “Without the executive order, we have very little left for grouse in Wyoming.”

While sage grouse in Wyoming might be protected by the governor and the state’s aggressive management compromise, birds in many other western states “are largely dependent on mitigation,” Rutledge said. In prioritizing oil and gas the Trump administration has said it’s not their responsibility to make the corporations using public land responsible for using that landscape, Rutledge said.

In Steed’s new orders, the deputy director wrote that multiple use allows the landscape to be degraded. Rules only prohibit “unnecessary and undue” degradation.

“Preventing unnecessary or undue degradation does not mean preventing all adverse impacts upon the land,” Steed’s instructional memo reads. “[A] certain level of impairment may be necessary and due under a multiple use mandate.”

For Rutledge, “they have said they are not in the business of maintaining the integrity of that landscape,” he said in an interview. “That’s what compensatory mitigation does — maintains that integrity.”

Trump’s moves are calculated and organized, Rutledge said. “In issuing that instructional memorandum in the middle of a process of comment on changes to the plans … they have quite intentionally done, I think, a terrific job of muddying the water.

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“This is not an accident,” he said. Trump administration officials “worked as hard as they [could] to shut out public comment,” on environmental issues, he said. “You have seen their intent to undercut the Endangered Species Act with administrative rulings.

“This is not a series of silos, this is a distinct effort across those multiple fronts,” Rutledge said. “They have thrown everything at us but the kitchen sink  and I think I see it coming.

“If we have six more years of this administration and the bird is allowed to become totally endangered,” he said, “All the restrictions won’t be placed on where they are extirpated. Wyoming will bear the brunt of the listing because it holds a majority of the birds.”


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Hageman isn’t a stranger to state contracts https://www.wyofile.com/hageman-isnt-a-stranger-to-state-contracts/ 2018-08-14T10:18:17Z State legal contracts in the early 2000s helped gubernatorial candidate start a law firm, Hageman & Brighton, as she built her business and professional reputation.

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Cheyenne-based natural resources attorney Harriet Hageman has attacked one of her opponents in the Republican gubernatorial primary — businessman Sam Galeotos — over contracts between the state and Green House Data, a company whose board he chairs.

“Sam’s company happily accepts government subsidies and enjoys no-bid State contracts,” says a campaign-funded website where Hageman is critical of her competitors.

Former Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank, however, called those criticisms hypocritical given Hageman’s own history with state contracts.

Legal contracts with the state in the early 2000s helped Hageman start a law firm, Hageman & Brighton, as she built her business and her professional reputation. Hageman refers to those legal battles on the campaign trail  — against a Clinton administration roadless area conservation effort and with Nebraska over North Platte River water — as evidence of her fierce defense of Wyoming’s natural resources on the campaign trail.

Crank ended the law firm’s state contracts.

“Her attack on Galeotos for taking state contracts … I mean she had huge state contracts,” Crank said. “Some of the positions she’s taken in this race are just hypocritical to me.”

As the Republican gubernatorial candidates have put an increasing focus on fiscal responsibility and government transparency, service contracts that are awarded by the state without a competitive bidding process have taken fire from several candidates, including Hageman.

Hageman’s debate attacks on Galeotos have continued on her website wrongforwyoming.com, where she criticizes Green House Data for a $94,492 no-bid contract with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, and for contracts with the state’s technology agency. Those contracts, and the unusual and subsequently disavowed endorsement of Galeotos by the head of the state’s technology agency, was reported on by WyoFile in early July.

Candidate Sam Galeotos at a debate in Cheyenne on July 12, where Harriet Hageman criticized him for his company’s no-bid state contracts and investment in renewable energy credits. The candidate said he was “baffled” by the attacks from Hageman. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Hageman’s own contracts were not competitively bid either, she said, though she called that the nature of legal work. The Wyoming Attorney General’s office and the Department of Administration and Information, which signs off on no-bid contracts, did not provide a definitive answer in response to WyoFile inquiries on whether the firm received a bid waiver, as is the practice for sole source or no bid contracts today. Crank’s recollection is that they would not have been competitively bid.

“I believe the Hageman and Brighton contract was a sole-source contract and was not competitively bid,” he said.  

In an email, Hageman said legal services aren’t usually done on a “bid” or “no bid” basis.

“Neither the State nor other local governments are looking for the “cheapest” legal services,” Hageman said. “They are looking for the best attorneys available in order to make sure that they receive the best representation available in order to win the case.”

She was interviewed by the state for her work on the Clinton administration’s environmental rule, she said. “I assume that the State may very well have interviewed other attorneys to handle the lawsuit, but do not know for sure.”

A screenshot of an image from Harriet Hageman’s website, which criticizes rival candidate Sam Galeotos for his company Green House Data’s no-bid state contracts.

In an email to WyoFile, Hageman said she distinguished between fees and state grants, like the ones Green House Data has applied for and received at key points in its development.

“I started my own law firm, on my own dime, and at my own risk,” Hageman said. “I borrowed money to pay rent, to set up my computer system, to purchase a phone system, and to pay my employee. I then began providing legal services to my clients, one of whom was the State of Wyoming. My clients received legal services in exchange for paying my fees.”

Grants aside, Hageman’s defense of the contracts she took to serve the state’s needs isn’t too different from Galeotos’ own defense against Hageman’s attacks during debates and online: “To imply [Green House Data] behaved inappropriately by simply responding to the service needs from the state is ridiculous,” Galeotos wrote in an Aug. 1 campaign email defending himself.  

Hageman called her legal work more specialized than the type of services provided by Green House Data.  

“I am an expert in water and natural resource issues,” Hageman wrote. “There are few attorneys in Wyoming with my expertise. Digital services, in contrast, are generalized in terms of the product being purchased.” Hageman went on to say that technology companies provide uniform services to clients, “and are not providing a specialized service or expertise that is only available from one vendor.”

Crank remembers over half a million paid

Hageman and her eventual business partner, Kara Brighton, were initially hired as state employees by the AG’s office to work on a lawsuit between Wyoming and Nebraska over the North Platte River in the late 1990s, according to a report on her law firm in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, an agriculture industry publication. The case settled in May of 2000, Hageman said. In August, she and Brighton founded their law firm, she said. The firm opened its doors on Aug. 1, 2000, according to the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.

They began their business with a contract from their former supervisor — Thomas Davidson of the Natural Resources Division of the AG’s — to oversee the implementation of the settlement of the North Platte case.

Hageman signed the contract for the North Platte work on July 28, according to the contract.  

Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat, was elected in 2002. Crank took over the AG’s office in 2003. He and Freudenthal became concerned about the amount of money being spent on outside attorneys to fight Wyoming’s legal battles and sought to end the practice, Crank said. Between the North Platte case and a 2001 contract for the state’s fight against the Clinton environmental rule, Hageman may have made over half a million dollars in legal fees as she was just beginning in private practice, he said.

Hageman did not know what her firm was paid in total for work for Wyoming, she said, but said the fees they charged was less than most firms would have.

“I can’t speak to what Pat Crank may ‘recollect,’” she said.  

Exact records of payments from the a state to the Hageman and Brighton law firm are unavailable given the time that has passed, according to the state. In response to a records request, the Wyoming State Archives told WyoFile that payment records are destroyed on a seven year cycle. But two sets of contracts exist — one from 2000 for litigation over the North Platte river, and one from 2001, for legal services to be paid for out of Wyoming’s Federal Natural Resources Account.

The charges laid out in those contracts — $100 per hour for Hageman and $80 per hour for Brighton, align with Hageman’s recollection. The contracts also include a $45 per hour fee for a paralegal’s work.

The second contract, with roughly the same fee structure, was to fight the Clinton administration’s “roadless rule.” The rule would have put conservation protections in place over vast areas of federal lands. It threatened Wyoming’s various extractive industries, opponents said. Hageman was hired to try and stop its implementation.

The firm worked for the state for two and a half years on the two contracts, Hageman said. At the time, she said, she was engaged in other cases and left much of the work on the North Platte case to her partner, Kara Brighton, who left the firm in 2013 and is now a member of the Wyoming Public Service Commission.

Crank’s estimate could be high but is not unreasonable. To have charged the state half a million dollars over two and a half years at the contracted rates, both attorneys would have needed to work a combined 21 billable hours a week on the cases. Both attorneys had other clients at the time however, Hageman said. “We had numerous clients who hired us soon after we formed our law firm,” she wrote.

“It was far more cost effective for the State to pay an hourly rate than it would have been to keep Kara Brighton and I as employees,” Hageman said. “I in fact did very little work in relation to the [North Platte] settlement, instead working for other clients.”

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One document gives a clue to how much the state might have paid Hageman’s firm to fight the Roadless Rule. A conservation group opposing the state’s lawsuit contended that Hageman’s firm was paid at least $168,925 before Crank ended the contract, according to a January 2003 letter from the group to Crank. The letter was referenced in a 2009 High Country News article and obtained by WyoFile through a state records request.

The letter, written by an attorney for the Wyoming Outdoor Council, which supported the roadless rule, asked Crank to terminate the firm’s contract. “This will save the taxpayers a good deal of money that is currently being wasted on this case,” the letter, from WOC attorney Steve Jones said.

Hageman’s firm had been paid $69,195 to write an amicus brief — essentially a legal argument supporting another party’s lawsuit — to back the state of Idaho in its own lawsuit against the rule, Jones wrote. By January 2003, the law firm had also billed Wyoming $99,750 for work on its own lawsuit, according to the letter. “This is not a terribly complicated case and can easily be handled in house,” Jones wrote.

Personal crusade?

Like Hageman, Crank said he saw the Clinton administration’s rule as a potential threat to Wyoming’s extractive industries. But Hageman was using the lawsuit to go on a crusade against environmental groups on the state’s dime, he said.

“Hageman and Brighton had gone off on what I thought was a side tangent trying to challenge a number of environmental group’s impact on the Clinton administration,” he said. “There were a bunch of depositions scheduled for environmental [group] officials and I just never felt that was going to develop into something to push back on the Roadless Rule.” 

Cheyenne-based attorney Harriet Hageman speaks at a gubernatorial forum hosted by the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce. (courtesy photo/Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce)

Hageman disagreed.

“It was my work that allowed us to succeed in winning the Roadless Rule case,” Hageman wrote. Indeed, after Hageman was removed from the case by Crank, a federal judge issued an injunction against the rule, based in part on the grounds Hageman argued. Hageman went on to continue fighting the rule for other, nongovernmental entities, according to the High Country News report.

“I worked tirelessly on that lawsuit and was able to expose the shenanigans that went on with the Clinton administration and the environmental groups in drafting that rule,” Hageman told WyoFile.  

Crank and Freudenthal “were not committed to winning that case or defending the decision on appeal,” Hageman said.  

But Crank said the new Wyoming leadership expected the administration of George W. Bush, who had taken office two months before Hageman was hired to sue to stop the rule in 2001, would roll back the rule.

The Bush administration did decline to continue defending the rule in court, according to news reports. It has since gone through a complex series of twists and turns that continues in some manner today. State lawyers for Wyoming have continued to fight it.

Crank assigned further work on the North Platte settlement to in-house attorneys. Under his watch, he said, the AG’s office discontinued the practice of contracting important legal work out to private firms, preferring instead to build expertise within the agency’s lawyers.

Asked by WyoFile, Crank said he had not endorsed a candidate but favored State Treasurer Mark Gordon. 

The GOP primary has at times seemed to be a referendum on which candidate can bring the most disdain for government to the governor’s mansion. Galeotos, Foster Friess and Bill Dahlin are all running as businessmen and “political outsider” candidates. Hageman and Taylor Haynes talk about sharply reducing government size and removing government shackles on free enterprise to fix Wyoming’s economic woes. Even Gordon, after six years of service as treasurer, talks about “getting government out of the way.”

However, when it comes to legal work at least, Crank called it critical that the state have experts working for it, particularly in the AG’s office. Farming that work out stunted the growth of expertise in that branch of state government, he said.  

“You need to be prepared to constantly review federal rules and regulations and be prepared to have the staff on board to challenge regulations that would wreak harm on Wyoming’s industries or environment,” he said.  

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to indicate that Green House Data’s contract with the Department of Environmental Quality was not a per-month contract, but instead a one time fee, as WyoFile has previously reported-Ed.

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Guns in classrooms won’t keep schools safer https://www.wyofile.com/guns-in-classrooms-wont-keep-schools-safer/ 2018-08-14T10:15:37Z Firearms are “not part of the commission’s charge, per se.” But the Federal Commission on School Safety isn’t shy about arming teachers.

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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, chairman of a federal commission on school safety, doesn’t want to talk about gun control. Neither does her boss, President Donald Trump.

DeVos, who has spent most of her time in office working to dismantle the Department of Education, told a Senate panel in June that firearms are “not part of the commission’s charge, per se.” That’s right. The already impotent commission called for by President Trump in response to outrage over school shootings will not consider the defining element of school shootings — guns.

Guns are not an issue the commission wants to include in its agenda? That’s like convening a commision on sexually transmitted diseases but barring them from discussing condoms.  

DeVos didn’t show up to a meeting of the commission in Cheyenne last week. Neither did the three other principal members of the group: the attorney general and secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.

No one should be surprised that a commission created by the president to make schools safer is interested less in safety than in PR and pandering.

One of the first actions President Donald Trump pushed through Congress repealed a rule that would have made it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy guns.

The motive for such an asinine move was transparent: the rule was created during former President Barack Obama’s administration, so of course Trump had to get rid of it no matter how many lives it might have saved.

The president’s immediate reaction in February to the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school by a mentally disturbed former student who killed 17 was to arm teachers so they could supposedly defend their schools. It was straight out of the National Rifle Association’s playbook to distract from what the president and Congress should be doing and instead focus on the divisive issue of putting the burden on educators to stop invaders armed to the teeth with high-powered weapons.

Six months after Parkland and the much-needed national discussion it sparked about school violence, the Trump administration is content to put its dog-and-pony show on the road to places like Cheyenne so people can think the federal government is taking school safety seriously.

The commission is merely paying lip service to teachers, administrators, students and parents who want to see stricter laws and more mental health services so doctors and law enforcement can better recognize and stop some of society’s most dangerous people.

Trump and his commission would much rather continue to press the NRA’s simple-minded solution that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to put firearms in the hands of good guys — in this case teachers.

Never mind that inexperienced teachers — no matter how well-trained they may be with firearms — are hired to educate students, not stop an active-shooter. In trying to take out a killer, civilians suddenly put in charge of protecting everyone around them are likely to create more victims during a time of total chaos. No matter how willing or able the teacher may be, we as a society should never burden them with that responsibility.

Having multiple people shooting at each other would naturally confuse first responders who would have no idea who is the criminal.

Fourteen states allow armed teachers in all school districts; Wyoming and 15 others authorize each school district to decide on its own if it wants to let staff carry guns.

School districts in Cody and Evanston chose to allow teachers with concealed carry permits and specified firearms training to have guns at their schools. Others are considering the idea.

Johnson Junior High School Principal Brian Cox of Cheyenne memorably compared asking a teacher to take down a shooter to asking a plumber to cut your hair — that’s not their job, and you’re not going to like the outcome.

Instead of transforming teachers into modern-day versions of Wyatt Earp, Cox has a much better idea. “The time, energy and money to focus on [school safety] would be better spent on mental health issues and increasing the [number] of social workers and psychologists,” he said.

The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun, in other words, is to identify and treat him before he picks up a gun and becomes a bad guy. One might also frame his approach in terms of ounces of prevention vs. pounds of violent cure.

In an interview Cox told me he doesn’t think any school situation has ever been made safer by bringing in more guns. “It’s like putting fire on more fire — it’s a recipe for disaster,” the principal said.

Cox said that at the Parkland High School tragedy, “Even law enforcement froze up and couldn’t act. It could happen to teachers too, even if they are avid hunters. I’m very skeptical that some wouldn’t freeze up” and also become victims.

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An armed teacher might feel secure enough in his firearms training, experience and abilities that he or she would make the bad decision to leave the classroom to take on a shooter, he noted. Worse yet, he or she may feel obligated to do so once we’ve tasked teachers with defending students. If that transpired, Cox said, it would leave students vulnerable without an adult to try to keep them alive and lead them to safety. Staying with students behind locked doors is the proper response, he reasoned.

Students may find a teacher’s gun in a classroom no matter what measures are taken to secure them, he said, and guns can accidentally discharge. “Telling parents that their son or daughter was accidentally killed would be a very difficult call to make,” Cox said.

The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle reported that Vera Berger, a New Mexico high school student who traveled to Wyoming, told the commission it should consider guns “a primary threat to school safety,” even if they are in the hands of school staff or law enforcement.

Berger poignantly noted her generation has grown up in the wake of the massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School and has been waiting to no avail to see the government do something to make students more safe.

“We watched the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School unfold,” she recalled of the 2012 massacre of 20 elementary students and six teachers in Connecticut. “We were horrified. Ultimately we were hopeful because we knew that the tragedy would bring change.”

But in the six years since Sandy Hook, Berger said, “There have been 250 school shootings and little political action.”

It’s a national disgrace that Congress has failed to act, initially killing Obama’s call for stricter gun laws and now following Trump’s lead to ignore the problem except for expecting teachers to mow down any gunmen in sight.

Survivors of the Parkland shooting have protested and challenged adults to do something about gun violence. Students throughout the nation, including at several schools in Wyoming, have also held rallies and asked older generations to listen to their pleas for peace at schools, where they should be safe.

They deserve our protection, not just public condolences and telling survivors and families they are “in our thoughts and prayers.”

It’s not nearly enough. So many of our leaders are willing to buckle under pressure from gun-rights groups and others who fund their campaigns, then ask us to turn a blind eye to the sight of students and adults being carried out of schools in body bags.

Here’s how the school safety commission has responded to its task so far: Abbey Clements, a teacher and Sandy Hook survivor, spoke against arming teachers at its Washington, D.C., meeting.

The Los Angeles Times reported what Clements said, even though her words didn’t make it into the official transcript. “Sure, secure buildings,” the teacher said.

“But do not give kids clear backpacks, bulletproof backpacks, reading igloos that morph into bulletproof caves,” Clements stressed. “These are the things of a war zone and shouldn’t be in American public schools. It’s the guns, and this is on us to fix. …”

The newspaper said Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais — the same official who moderated the Cheyenne meeting — cut Clements off and asked her to “wrap it up, please.”

It’s the guns. Trump and his safety commission have done their best to keep the truth out of their conversation. They might as well wrap up their work — they knew the outcome before they heard a word from the rest of us.

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Friess gives, forgives and gets returns from faith, donations https://www.wyofile.com/friess-gives-forgives-and-gets-returns-from-faith-donations/ 2018-08-10T17:02:55Z Response to questions about an employee who faced sexual assault allegations offers insight into a faith-oriented megadonor who would be Wyoming’s governor.

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Foster Friess was running late on July 4. A parade in Gillette had run long, and the gubernatorial candidate was slow to reach Lander for the annual Rotary Club Buffalo Barbeque where some of his rivals for the Republican gubernatorial nomination were already mingling with voters.

Friess’ private plane touched down on the runway at Hunt Field Airport in Lander shortly after 1 pm. An imposing height even with his shoulders slightly hunched descending the stairs from the plane’s door, the white haired campaigner greeted a reporter with a warm smile and one of his trademark jokes.

“I always tell reporters you can ask me any question you want, and I can give you any answer I want,” he said.

Friess had arrived with his wife and a pair of aides, his frequent companions on the campaign trail. A driver waited with an SUV to ferry the team to the waiting cookout. 

Foster Friess’ plane on the runway in Lander. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Along the way the candidate answered questions about his life in conservative politics and his interest in the governor’s mansion — an aspiration that had surprised many in Wyoming. He pushed back on assertions by other candidates that he was “out of touch” or perhaps lacked empathy with hardscrabble Wyomingites by saying he believed a key plank of his platform — government transparency — was resonating with voters.

The interview first concluded, but then an aide called the reporter back. Friess had something to add.

The suggestion that he might lack empathy was “offensive” to him, Friess said. Counting on his fingers, he listed numerous disaster recovery efforts to which he had donated large sums of his personal wealth — million dollar donations to help victims of Hurricane Katrina and an earthquake in Tibet among them. Friess’ donation largesse has boosted causes from the arts to healthcare.

But disaster relief isn’t the only way Friess spends his money.

He’s spent broadly over the years to advance his political agenda. Now, during his first run for public office, the renowned financier is spending returns on some of those investments in Wyoming. An endorsement in Sunday’s Casper Star-Tribune from Donald Trump Jr. is the latest example of support from national conservative causes Friess has backed intersecting with his bid for the governor’s mansion.

When discussing his positions Friess points readily to his Christian faith, and touts “kindness,” civility and an end to “nastiness” as important parts of his political philosophy. His refusal to utter a negative word about his competitors has earned him the affectionate nickname of “Uncle Foster” among some of the candidates.

The politicians, PACs and causes Friess has given to, however, don’t always reflect that interest in civility. Some of those associations raise questions about Friess’ vision for Wyoming and whether his championing of kindness is also a request for fewer hard questions and more lenient scrutiny of behavior — including that of his inner-circle.

Friess has touted his connections to the business community, politicians in other states and the Trump administration as part of what he can give to Wyoming. Without deep experience with Wyoming’s current challenges, and seeking to overcome voters’ distrust of a wealthy Jackson resident, perhaps he’s had to.

In a recent text message to WyoFile, Friess wrote about facing “the prejudices that exist among people against those who live in Jackson or are rich… It has been amazing to me how some would assess the key criteria for governor is how long you have lived here in Wyoming or being a rancher.”

At a candidate forum in June, he referenced his text message exchanges with former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. Pruitt resigned in July in the face of ever-widening ethics scandals. Like Friess, Pruitt often cites his faith in explaining his public service and politics.

A Foster Friess campaign sign hangs on the boards as children take off during a foot race at Lander’s Pioneer Days Rodeo. Friess has struggled to overcome prejudices against him from Wyoming voters, and jabs from other candidates, for being from Jackson and wealthy, he told WyoFile in text messages. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

In July, Friess brought former Pennsylvania senator Ric Santorum, another politician who often cites his Christian beliefs, to the state to stump. Santorum was the recipient of large sums of Friess’ money during his 2012 campaign for the White House.

In a text message to WyoFile this week, Friess cited more endorsements, including one from conservative and Christian activist Ralph Reed and Chuck Norris, action star of the television show Walker, Texas Ranger.

Reed, too, has been dogged by ethical questions over a lengthy political career, most notably for his connections to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who went to federal prison for fraud and corruption. Today Reed is the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, an evangelical Christian group that backed Trump during the 2016 elections and plans to spend heavily in the upcoming midterm elections, according to a report in The Hill.

Since Trump secured the Republican nomination in 2016, Friess has backed the president broadly, despite his famed incivility. In a televised interview with CNBC last August, Friess was one of few to come to the president’s defense following Trump comments about a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that drew outrage from both sides of the aisle.

“He’s become a victim,” Friess said, “and he’s being bullied.”

On the campaign trail, Friess has been accompanied by a former Trump administration official whose success as a conservative political operative has been shadowed by accusations of sexual assault in college. Friess pointed to the consultant, Steven Munoz’s, past affiliation with Trump as evidence of his innocence and as reason for WyoFile to drop the story.  

“If the president Of the United states can put the issue behind him,” Friess said, “I would encourage you to follow the presidents [sic] lead and encourage you to do the same.”

Friess’ wealth has done more than buy a lot of television advertisements and name recognition across Wyoming. It has, in part, defined his candidacy, whether to his advantage in national politics or to his self-proclaimed disadvantage with some skeptical Wyoming voters.

An examination of Friess’ giving and the connections it has brought him along with how he has addressed inquiries about employing Munoz offers insight into the folksy, faith-oriented GOP megadonor who would be Wyoming’s governor.

Endorsed for character, faith and timely donations

Trump Jr., the author of an infamously candid response to a Russian businessman’s offer of Russian-government dirt on Hillary Clinton, isn’t known for his subtlety. In keeping with that trend, his endorsement of Friess in the Casper Star-Tribune this weekend touted timely donations to his father’s campaign among the Jackson businessman’s qualifications to lead the state.

Friess gave $100,000 to the Trump Victory PAC and another $33,400 to the Republican National Committee in October 2016, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission. Though Trump Jr. called Friess an “early adopter” of the candidate in his letter, filings show he started the election cycle giving instead to most of Trump’s opponents.

Friess gave money to the presidential campaigns of Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky. He also donated to governors and former governors seeking the Republican nod in that crowded primary — Chris Christie of New Jersey, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Jeb Bush of Florida and John Kasich of Ohio.

But, “Foster was right there when we needed him and helped open the door to other early adopters in the donor community,” Trump Jr. wrote in Sunday’s letter.  

The nod to Friess’ financial support is echoed in other endorsements. Friess is the only gubernatorial candidate in the nation currently endorsed by the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, a political action committee formed in 2013.

The PAC’s endorsement references his giving.

“When Tea Party Patriots was first launched, Foster was instrumental in helping us establish a firm financial foundation,” the endorsement quoted the group’s chairwoman as saying.

Funding social conservatism and controversy

At a late June debate in Sheridan, Wyoming PBS producer Craig Blumenshine asked Friess if Wyoming was inclusive enough of the LGBTQ community to diversify its economy in the modern age. He was also asked if he would support a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance that prohibits discrimination based off sexual orientation or gender identity. Blumenshine noted that a more local ordinance in Friess’ hometown had secured the support of the Teton County Republican Party. The ordinance has since been adopted by the Jackson Town Council.

“If you look at Wyoming how can you find a kinder, more inclusive group of people?” Friess asked, referencing the Wyoming Territory’s adoption of the women’s vote in 1869. He did not support the ordinance. Instead, he said, “I’m much in favor of the whole idea, of the approach of trying to accept each other in a spirit of kindness.”

Along with the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund endorsement, Friess’ website also lists an endorsement from a political action arm of the Family Research Council, a Washington D.C. group that opposes abortions and is “pro family.” The group’s president, Tony Perkins, is a Trump ally, according to Politico.

“Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed,” the group’s website says. “It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects.”

Friess’ endorsement comes from the group’s political arm, a PAC called FRC Action. Again, the endorsement cites Friess’ generosity.

“Throughout Foster Friess’ business career, he has used the resources with which God has blessed him to make a difference in the world,” said Jerry Boykin, the PAC’s vice president. “He recognizes the preciousness of life, that religious freedom is a sacred right, and that healthy families are the bedrock of any society. If elected Governor of Wyoming, we believe that Mr. Friess will fight for these cherished values at the Governor’s Mansion in Cheyenne.”

WyoFile did not find a direct donation from Friess to the Family Research Council or its PAC. But the Friess Family Foundation has been a consistent large donor to the National Christian Foundation, a nonprofit funding arm for Christian causes globally and nationally. NCF, in turn, has given millions to the Family Research Council. Friess’ foundation gave the National Christian Foundation at least $9 million from 2015-2017, according to tax filings.

The National Christian Foundation’s 990 tax return, which lists its grants, is thousands of pages long, demonstrating the broad reach of gifts like Friess’ foundation’s. In 2016, however, the group granted more than $2.2 million to the Family Resource Council for social, civic and public policy, according to the filings. That followed a gift of $1.29 million in 2015.

Foster Friess stands between candidates Bill Dahlin, on the left, and Taylor Haynes on the right at a July 12 debate. Friess’ refusal to utter a negative word about his competitors has earned him the affectionate nickname of “Uncle Foster” among some of the candidates. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Though Friess has spent heavily on his own campaign recently, he’s continued to distribute the largesse that helped build his profile in conservative circles. Since announcing his race in late April, he has spread more than $45,000 in individual donations to candidates in other states, including to three politicians known for divisive comments.

In June and July, Friess gave between $1,000 and $2,700 to Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Mark Green of Tennessee and Louie Gohmert of Texas.

King is known for wanting to eliminate the federal income tax, but also for a history of derogatory comments about immigrants.

Green was nominated by Trump to serve as the U.S. Secretary of the Army. He withdrew from the nomination process, citing attacks on his “life of public service and [his] Christian beliefs.” The criticism stemmed from Green’s categorization of transgenderism as a disease and transgender service members as “transvestites in uniform,” according to a CNN report.

Gohmert has compared homosexuality to bestiality and cosponsored a bill to question Obama’s citizenship, according to a report in the Texas Tribune.

Friess has also given $2,700 to U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for her reelection effort, and $2,500 to the Barrasso Fischer Victory Fund, a Senate fundraising committee.

In a text message, Friess said he was unaware of the statements attributed to the candidates above. “Remember I am a business guy not a political junker reading every blog and commentary,” he said. Google searches of the candidates’ names bring up easy references to their controversial statements.

Friess referred WyoFile to a video promoted by the Mutual Bank of Omaha. The video describes how two longtime ideological foes in Iowa — a gay rights activist and the director of a Christian “pro-family” organization — began meeting for coffee and became friends.

The video, Friess said, “will reveal my approach.”

In August of last year, Friess was promoting a “Return to Civility” initiative encouraging people to get a cup of coffee with someone they disagree with, according to a report accompanying the video on The Stream, a Christian news site.

A consultant with an impressive but troubled past

Friess has been giving to political candidates for decades. An October WyoFile report found he had donated $42,992 to Wyoming politics since 1992. He’s been even more generous outside the state. In 2012, he supported Santorum’s bid for the White House with more than $2 million in contributions. In July, Santorum joined Friess in Wyoming. The two derided Obamacare together at a Casper steakhouse, according to a report in the Casper Star-Tribune.

Through Santorum Friess came to know and employ Steven Munoz, a young but accomplished conservative political operative.

In May, 2017, the investigative news outlet ProPublica documented allegations that Munoz sexually assaulted or harassed five fellow students when attending The Citadel, a military college in Charleston South Carolina. In police statements accompanying the ProPublica report, the students accused Munoz of abusing his power as a superior in The Citadel’s rigid military-style student hierarchy to perpetrate and cover-up the sexual misconduct.

Munoz is not employed by the campaign but works for Friess in relation to his other policy initiatives, Friess told WyoFile. Previously John Spina, a spokesperson for Friess, had said Munoz plays an important role in managing the campaign and is with Friess’ “every minute of every day.”

Friess, however, walked back Munoz’s level of the involvement in the campaign. “I don’t know why it’s relevant to my campaign if he’s just [one of] a number of guys working on the campaign and doesn’t work for the campaign anyways,” Friess said of the ProPublica report.

Munoz has been on his personal payroll for years and largely works with him in relation to his policy initiatives on stopping school shootings and health care initiatives according to Friess. “He’s extremely well connected in Washington,” Friess said of Munoz. When WyoFile met Friess on the runway at Hunt Field on July 4, Munoz was with Friess and contributed to the interview.

At the time of ProPublica’s report, Munoz was employed by the state department, where he had received a political appointment in January, 2017. The appointment followed his work helping to organize Trump’s presidential inauguration ceremony. Munoz left the state department a few months after the article was published.

The accusations documented by ProPublica were not all new to the press. Some had first surfaced in South Carolina media reports in 2012, when Munoz was working on Santorum’s presidential campaign.

A police investigation requested by the school compiled statements from the five accusers. The students were willing to press charges, according to ProPublica. The police investigation was handed to a prosecutor, who declined to bring charges. The prosecutor said there was no probable cause “he committed a crime prosecutable in General Sessions Court,” according to a copy of her letter to police that was also published by ProPublica.

Andy Savage, a South Carolina attorney who has represented Munoz, denied the allegations in an interview with WyoFile, but said he believed the news reports led to Munoz’s departure from the State Department. “That’s what stirred everything up,” Savage said. “I understand what they were doing,” he said of ProPublica’s story. “They were saying the Trump administration wasn’t thoroughly screening their appointments, so the emphasis of that [story] was to badmouth the administration.”

The prosecutor’s decision not to charge aside, The Citadel maintains that the alleged assaults and harassment “likely occurred.” The school reached the conclusion in a 2014 investigation that included interviews with the students who alleged the assaults and harassment and with Munoz, according to the letter. There have been no changes to that conclusion since the letter was sent, a spokesperson for the school said.

Munoz declined to comment for this story, citing ongoing legal discussions with The Citadel. In addition to Savage, he has retained Phil Byler, a New York attorney who specializes in Title IX law. Title IX law deals with sexual assault investigations on campus, as well as the more traditionally known governance over gender in college sports. Byler told WyoFile The Citadel’s investigation was conducted without “due process.”

Foster Friess addresses a group at Teton Pines while hosting Utah Sen. Dan Liljenquist, foreground in 2011. Friess has spent millions of dollars supporting out-of-state candidates. The Center for Responsive Politics lists $42,992 in gifts to Wyoming politicians and parties, all Republican. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr/Jackson Hole News&Guide/WyoFile)

WyoFile inquired about Munoz because of the public’s interest in the hiring practices and judgement of someone who would be the state’s chief executive.

In his response, over phone interviews and text messages, Friess turned to the teachings of his faith, his trust in Munoz’s own faith and character and his respect for the judgement of conservatives like Santorum and Trump. Over phone interviews and text messages, Friess alternated between dismissing the accusations and focusing on his own practice of forgiveness. He repeatedly asked WyoFile not to write about Munoz to protect his employee from “denigration.”   

Friess has known about the allegations against Munoz since he first was introduced to him through Santorum, Friess said. He hired Munoz anyway. “It was a done deal,” Friess said. Friess cited his religious teachings and said that forgiving the past was part of his faith. “Every day we begin to start anew,” he said, “so it would be a completely hypocritical aspect of my faith if I don’t let everybody in my life start over.”

“How do we do better tomorrow, and how do we move past the mistakes we’ve made,” Friess characterized his philosophy in one phone interview. In another, he described how he might treat a young analyst in his investment firm who made a business error.

“My job isn’t to bury him in that hole,” Friess said. “It’s to reach down in that hole he’s in and pull him up, even if that means getting my hands a little muddy.”

If Friess was elected governor, Munoz would not be given a job in his administration, Friess said. Those posts would be reserved for people with Wyoming experience, he said.

Friess praised Munoz’s achievements, his relationship with Santorum — “he’s like a son to [him]” — and religious adherence. “I’m blessed to have him and impressed by his love of God,” Friess said.

In a series of text messages, Friess asked WyoFile to focus instead on the positives of Munoz’s life story.

“Think of what a far more interesting story to your readers that would also enhance your reputation as someone who can really spot newsworthy accomplishments of your fellow human beings,” he wrote. “Look at the real story about Steve … Of Cuban heritage … His father [a] truck driver … And forget what he might be accomplishing AS PART OF A LARGE TEAM AND AS MY PERSONAL EMPLOYEE in this governor’s race and go back a year or so to his most RECENT life experience.”

Munoz drove President Trump to the polling station where Trump voted as a candidate, Friess said. During his brief tenure with the State Department, Munoz assisted the president in his interactions with “numerous world leaders including responsibility for taking him to visit the pope in Rome and interfacing with the Japanese when their prime minister came to Mar-a-largo [sic].”

Friess dismissed the allegations against Munoz. He pointed to the prosecutor’s decision not to charge Munoz and said she had “decided to close the case.” Friess also alluded to security clearances Munoz needed for his work at the State Department, saying the agency would have reviewed and dismissed the charges during that practice. The State Department would neither confirm nor deny that Munoz received the necessary clearances or disclose the reason for his dismissal.

Like Savage, Friess called the allegations an overblown case of the “roughhousing” and hazing practices of a military school.

The statements given by the students allege more than roughhousing. In various statements students allege Munoz took advantage of roles in which he was given authority over them either through the school or through the structure of student hierarchies to touch them in unwanted and sexual ways and then warn them against complaining about it.

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Friess criticized WyoFile’s inquiry on the allegations against Munoz as divisive and part of national “nastiness” in the political realm.

“What the nation hates as you maybe know is the nastiness that spews out of the Maxine Waters and the … what I call the Kingdom of D.C., as magnified by the press,” Friess said. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, stirred controversy in June when she called on her supporters to create crowds and confront Trump administration officials when they see them in public. In response, President Trump via Twitter called her “an extraordinarily low IQ person.”

Friess prefers to focus on the positive, as he repeatedly said both in interviews and in his public comments.

“Let’s make Wyoming a beacon of positive thinking, uplifting others, and nurturing a culture of kindness in an environment and culture that has way too much nastiness in it,” Friess said in one text message.

In another text message, Friess directed WyoFile to the Bible verse Philippians 4:8:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”

The verse, Friess said, “could become a guide to our state.”

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Return of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout https://www.wyofile.com/return-of-the-yellowstone-cutthroat-trout/ 2018-08-10T10:15:11Z This summer marks a turning point in the suppression of invasive lake trout in Yellowstone National Park and the rebound of native cutthroat

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The water in Atlantic Creek in the remote Thorofare region of Yellowstone National Park was clear. So clear that Dave Sweet could see the fish before he even cast. They were everywhere: dozens of beautiful trout with distinctive red slashes under their jaws.

Sweet had journeyed for two days on horseback to the major spawning tributaries of Yellowstone Lake for those fish. Over the next few days he and his daughter would see thousands of Yellowstone cutthroat trout and catch some as long as 25 inches. But just as exciting were the younger, smaller fish. They, Sweet realized, mark a turning point in a battle to save a species.

Young cutts were a rare site even just a few years ago in the spawning streams in the Thorofare. Few lived long enough to make the trip. Most wound-up in the bellies of invasive Yellowstone Lake lake trout instead.

Lake trout were discovered in Yellowstone Lake in 1994, said Todd Koel, leader of the native fish conservation program in Yellowstone. Someone likely introduced the fish intentionally into the lake.

The park worked to suppress the invasive population as soon as it was discovered, but no one knew what its impacts would be, or how far it would spread.

The fish are voracious and efficient predators, Koel said. A single lake trout can eat about 50 cutthroats a year. They can live for 50 years and propagate at an exponential rate. Lakers wreaked havoc on the food web decimating a key prey population for bears that fed on the spawning cutthroats in shallow streams and osprey and eagles that relied on the fish that swim closer to the surface than lake trout. Grizzlies turned to other sources of protein, leading to at least one wry observation that still appears on bumper stickers: “Lake Trout Kill Elk.”

At times the efforts to save Yellowstone cutthroat trout seemed futile to some.

“I think everyone was wondering ‘when is this ever going to change?’” Koel said. “This summer it finally did.”

For the first time the boats netting lakers on Yellowstone Lake — one of the park’s lake trout removal methods — are catching fewer fish, despite a record six boats on the water, Koel said. Last year the boats removed almost 400,000 lake trout. As of early August they’d caught only 195,000 lake trout compared to 266,000 netted at the same time the year before. It’s nearly a 30 percent decrease.

“That’s a pretty staggering decline,” Koel said. “We’re pushing this the right way.”

Six boats are gill-netting lake trout on Yellowstone Lake this summer to try to crash the population of invasive fish. (National Park Service)

Since 1994, gill nets have removed almost 3 million lake trout from Yellowstone Lake. Most of those were taken in or after 2012 when the now-called Yellowstone Forever nonprofit committed $1 million a year to match the park’s $1 million annual suppression effort. It was a game-changing amount of money that allowed the Park Service to augment its gill netting efforts with commercial fishing boats from the great lakes and invest in technology to find other ways to attack the invasive fish.

Trout Unlimited helped raise money and built awareness of the issue from the outset, said Chris Wood, CEO and president of the nonprofit.

“This is an iconic fishery,” Wood said. “These are native fish that have been there for a millennia and we want to make sure they’ll stay there for another millennia.”

Money raised funded transponders that researchers attached to “Judas fish.” Once tagged with the electronic devices the big spawners were released and tracked to spawning grounds where managers could kill laker eggs.

At its height in 2012, the lake trout population was estimated to be about 950,000, Koel said. It was bleak. The Yellowstone cutthroat trout population had plummeted by more than 90 percent at that point, Wood said.

The lake trout population was estimated at 800,000 at the start of this year, an estimate that will shrink when the summer’s efforts are added to the data, Koel said.

But more importantly the Yellowstone cutthroat trout have begun to thrive again in the lake and its tributaries. Conservation is usually a game of loss, Wood said. The story of the Yellowstone cutthroat trout is one of hope and optimism.

“It is one of the best successes in the history of conservation,” Wood said. “It is a shining example on how to recover a native fish population.”

But the battle is far from over. For long-term success the park will need to continue efforts to suppress the lake trout, Wood said.

“The [cutthroats] are really coming back, but I think this is a moment where we really need to double down on our efforts and see if we can get those lake trout into a population crash,” Wood said.

Koel agreed there is more work to be done.

“For sure there is going to be effort that needs to happen to keep lake trout suppressed long-term,” Koel said. “Once we get the population down to a really a low level — and we are not there yet — there is still more work to do.”

It is likely impossible to ever fully eradicate lake trout from Yellowstone Lake. Efforts to eliminate non-native fish from bodies of water have only been successful in experiments and not yet in the wild, Koel said.

Six boats are gill-netting lake trout on Yellowstone Lake this summer to try to crash the population of invasive fish. (National Park Service)

“It will probably be netting for a long, long time and killing the eggs at the spawning sites, but hopefully the netting can be reduced and strategic,” Koel said.

The impact of fewer lake trout and more cutties is already being felt throughout the ecosystem. Koel traveled to Little Thumb Creek near Grant two summers ago to collect data on the fish and there were so many grizzly bears in the area feasting on spawning Yellowstone cutthroats that, Koel abandoned his efforts and left the stream to the bears.

As for Sweet, who has worked with Trout Unlimited for a decade to help the fish recover, he’s always been “guardedly optimistic” about the future of the fish.

“I was always a believer,” he said.

Sweet caught his first Yellowstone cutthroat trout in the 1970s on a trip to Yellowstone from his home, which was in Colorado at that time. It was followed by many trips in the intervening years to cast for the iconic fish. Sweet moved to Cody in 1988 and heard about the lake trout discovery in 1994. But he didn’t fully appreciate the significance of the invasive species establishing itself in Yellowstone Lake until 2007, when his daughter, a fisheries biologist, introduced him to a park employee working on suppression in the park.

Sweet ended up volunteering to gill net and then eventually chaired his local Trout Unlimited’s “Save the Yellowstone Cutthroat” committee.

“To me there was no more important issue in cold-water conservation than helping that population,” he said.

He remains optimistic, but is nervous about park Superintendent Dan Wenk leaving his post in the fall.

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Wenk was a passionate champion of restoring the Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Without him as an advocate, the progress made wouldn’t have happened, Sweet said.

Wenk’s replacement, Cameron Sholly, hasn’t indicated any changes in the lake trout suppression efforts, but change is unpredictable and Sholly’s priorities aren’t yet known.

The future may be uncertain but Sweet plans — if his body remains up for the arduous trip — to return to the Thorofare in a few years to see more of those “phenomenal fish.”

Some people wonder about the time and money that went into the effort and if it was a waste.

For Sweet, and many others, the fish he found in the Thorofare proved it was all worth it.

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Triple haul https://www.wyofile.com/triple-haul/ 2018-08-10T10:15:07Z A participant in a women’s fly fishing day gets double help while improving her double haul.

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Well over 100 women participated in a free women’s fly fishing day on the banks of the Snake River last weekend.

Hosted by World Cast Anglers, the event drew dozens of volunteers who coached women in all aspects of the sport. Guides and instructors, including some men, gave advice on everything from knot tying to casting to boat rigging. Several companies and organizations contributed staff hours and gear.

It was the second year of the event said Chris Simonds, outfitting manager for the company that’s headquartered in Victor, Idaho. The women gathered at the Snake River Sporting Club in the Snake River Canyon just upstream from Alpine.

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“Often times women can feel intimidated in a sport that’s traditionally been dominated by male participants,” Simonds said. “This is an opportunity for women to get together in a friendly environment where they can participate, learn from each other, make friends.”

In the photograph by participant Leine Stikkel, Leslie Steen gets help with her double haul from Kathleen Belk Doffermyre and Clairey Sasser Grubbs.

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YNP’s Wenk downplays role of bison conflict in ouster https://www.wyofile.com/ynps-wenk-downplays-role-of-bison-conflict-in-ouster/ 2018-08-09T21:55:37Z Yellowstone superintendent said he still feels his forced transfer — leading to his retirement — was punitive but has no proof such was actually the case.

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Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk on Thursday discounted speculation that a disagreement with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke over bison led to his removal from the Park Service’s flagship post.

In a telephone press conference Wenk said bison numbers and habitat in Yellowstone were the only subject of disagreement between him and Zinke, but that he and Zinke were discussing the topic professionally. “I believe we were working through that issue,” Wenk said.

Montana agricultural interests — a key constituency for Zinke, once a Montana congressman — see bison as a threat, despite a lack of scientific evidence that they can spread the bovine disease brucellosis to cattle in the wild. Montana resistance to a larger population led to an agreement in 2000 to limit the number of bison in the world’s first national park to between 3,000 and 3,500.

But the number had climbed to 5,500 when Zinke toured Yellowstone as a congressman in the fall of 2016, Wenk said. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt signed the bison plan when it was adopted 18 years ago, Wenk said.

“I’m sure he [Zinke, as the current secretary] feels fidelity to the numbers in that document,” Wenk said.

To meet the population goals some bison are trapped inside Yellowstone and shipped to slaughter. But bison generally don’t leave the park  — and cause worry among stock growers — unless there are more than 4,200, Wenk said. Seasonal environmental factors weigh on that annually, but, Wenk said, he believes the park can generally host more than 3,500 without issue.

“I think we’re dealing more with a social carrying capacity outside of the park,” rather than habitat limitation inside Yellowstone, he said.

“I’ve been told by the Washington office that [bison numbers] is not the reason for my removal,” he said.

That’s at odds with some media reports that held up bison as the linchpin in Wenk’s forced transfer. “Yellowstone chief says Zinke is pushing him out over bison spat,” read one headline. “Zinke Forced Me Out As ‘Punitive Action’ Over Bison Dispute,” read another. A third story said Zinke was “ousting Dan Wenk over bison.”

Bison numbers had climbed to 5,500

There were still some 5,500 bison in Yellowstone at the end of 2016, 2,000 more than the Interagency Bison Management Plan calls for.

Yellowstone is “‘managing for a decrease,” Wenk said. By 2017, the population was down 600 animals from 2016 and by the end of the summer it is expected to be 1,000 fewer than the 2016 count, he said. He expects the park will continue to manage for a stable to decreasing population after he is replaced, Wenk said.

But there’s only so much the park can do in terms of rounding bison up. Park border hunting also can only have so much effect on population size.

“I think there’s limits to how aggressive we can be,” he said.

Wenk walks on boardwalk at Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs. (National Park Service)

As a conservation advocate supervising a preserve surrounded by three red states, however, Wenk has had his share of friction with neighbors and said some people are glad to see him go.

Friction included worries regarding the effect of hunting on grizzly bears, and whether a trophy grizzly season outside Yellowstone would diminish park visitors’ opportunities to see bears.

He pointed to a letter from the board that oversees the senior executive service — a high tier of federal employees — that states his talents could be better used as director of the National Capital Region in Washington, D.C.

Read: Memos chart Yellowstone super’s fight to keep job

“I have no other reason,” for the transfer order other than the board’s letter, he said. “I have no other information.”

As a member of the Senior Executive Service, Wenk received an executive salary but agreed to reassignment for whatever reason and on an expedited schedule.

“I knew I could be moved,” Wenk said. He is currently the member of the service with the longest tenure in a position he said.

Wenk would not agree with a reporter’s proposition that his reassignment was part of a Trump administration “purge” of other National Park Service senior executives, some of whom have resigned rather than move.

“They made it very clear to me they wanted me to come back as director of the National Capital Region,” he said of administration officials. “I was certainly not being forced out of the National Park Service.”

Wenk made it known in 2016 that he would retire from his position as Yellowstone superintendent, he said. In other words, he would not be transferred. He eventually set that retirement date as early 2019.

So the transfer order caught him off-guard, he said. The prospect of moving to Washington was not in his cards.

“I was surprised,” he said of his reassignment, “and the decision [to resign] was relatively easy.”

He told reporters he regrets using the word “abused” to describe his transfer when news of it became public. But the transfer order still feels “a little punitive,” he said.

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“I didn’t think it was fair for me to go back,” to Washington, he said. Having it feel punitive and the action actually being punitive are two different things, he said.

Wenk will leave his post Sept. 29 after 43 years in the service. He is 66 years old.

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Barrasso widens money lead with out-of-state backing https://www.wyofile.com/barrasso-widens-money-lead-with-out-of-state-backing/ 2018-08-07T10:20:16Z As incumbent senator’s campaign generates millions, primary challenger Dave Dodson says the race is up for grabs.

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U.S. Sen. John Barrasso raised $2.7 million for his reelection campaign in the last three quarters, only 5.5 percent of which appears to come from Wyoming-based donors.

Wyoming individuals and political action committees donated $152,270 to Barrasso in the last quarter of 2017 and the first half of 2018, according to WyoFile calculations from FEC filings. Filings are current through June 30.

The 5.5 percent of Wyoming-based contributions marks an uptick in the portion of contributions from his home state compared to the beginning of the 2017-2018 election cycle. During the first three quarters of 2017, Barrasso appears to have raised only 2.2 percent of $2.9 million.

Barrasso’s fundraising from October 2017 through June 2018 outpaces his nearest opponent, Dave Dodson, by more than $1.6 million.

Barrasso raised $2,755,796 million during that period, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Dodson, a Teton County resident, raised $1,116,134 since launching his campaign in 2018.

Four other challengers in the Republican primary — John Holtz, Anthony L. Van Risseghem, Charlie Hardy and Roque ”Rocky” De La Fuente — do not appear in FEC reports for this election cycle, indicating they did not report any direct contributions before June 30.

Democrat Gary Trauner of Wilson is the sole candidate for the nomination of his party. He will meet the winner of the Republican primary in the general election race. He raised $578,405 between December, 2017 and June 30, 2018.

Barrasso had 382 contributions in the last three quarters from donors who listed Wyoming as their home, according to calculations from the FEC filings. Dodson’s six contributors ponied up $282,621 this year, including one $250 contribution from Wyoming.

The candidate donated $56,183 of his own money and loaned his campaign $800,000, FEC filings show. Dodson said first he would run as an independent, then decided to file as a Republican and challenge Barrasso in the GOP primary.

A tight race?

Last year Barrasso’s chief of staff Dan Kunsman said the senator had not begun focusing fundraising in Wyoming. “We expect to add significantly in 2018 to the more than 1,000 individual Wyoming donors since the last election,” he wrote WyoFile at the time. WyoFile did not receive a response to recent requests to Barrasso’s campaign for comment.

But Dodson said he believes the race is competitive. “We’ve done our own polling that confirm[s] this is a real race,” he wrote in an email. He said that internal polling followed an online Casper Star Tribune poll that put him ahead of the incumbent.

Dave Dodson has crisscrossed Wyoming in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. John Barrasso in the GOP primary election. A farm boy who went to Stanford with a wad of Red Man tobacco in his cheek, he now lectures for its business school. (Dodson campaign)

Dodson sees other indicators of a close race, including a Barrasso fundraising letter, a Twitter endorsement of Barrasso by President Trump, and radio ads attacking Dodson, the challenger said.

“He’s realized voters are tired of seeing him having his picture taken with Mitch McConnell,” Dodson said.

In the undated fundraising letter headlined “John Barrasso, US Senate,” the incumbent writes “I’m in the thick of a tough race. In a Republican-red state like Wyoming, where Donald Trump crushed Hillary Clinton by a 3:1 margin, you may find that statement surprising … but it’s true.” WyoFile was unable to confirm that the Senator’s campaign “Friends of John Barrasso” sent the letter (see document below).

A Barrasso donor discounted the letter’s language nevertheless. “Even if he’s ahead by 50 points, that’s not an unusual thing to do,” said Rob Wallace, a Beltway veteran who was, among other things, chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop. Candidates do not want their supporters to become complacent or take a race for granted, Wallace said.

Dodson interpreted Trump’s endorsement as a grasp at straws. It shows the race “slipping through [Barrasso’s] fingers and asking a favor from the White House,” Dodson said. The challenger said he would look forward to working with the president, if elected, “so he can have some legislation to sign.”

Radio attack ads that name him personally are another indication Dodson is in the running, he said. An incumbent wouldn’t mention an opponent’s name unless a contest was close, Dodson said.

“As a result of what we’ve seen in our internal polling and the actions of John Barrasso we’re stepping on the gas because we know this is a winnable race,” Dodson said.

Conservative track record

Barrasso has campaigned as a conservative and on the benefits of GOP tax cuts, according to a profile he completed for the Casper Star Tribune. He touted the GOP administration’s reduction of “excessive Obama-era rules and regulations that targeted Wyoming jobs,” and the repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act. “I helped lead efforts to repeal the individual mandate tax so that you aren’t forced to buy insurance you don’t want or can’t afford,” he wrote.

When he was appointed by Gov. Dave Freudenthal to fill the unexpired term of the late U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas, Barrasso shepherded two conservation bills launched by Thomas. The Wyoming Range Legacy Act put large amounts of the Wyoming Range off limits to oil and gas leasing. The Snake River Headwaters Legacy Act protected 387 miles of the Snake River and its tributaries in Wyoming from dam building and degradation.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, is frequently seen at the side of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at press briefings on Capitol Hill. (CSPAN)

Protecting the environment is not part of the conservative main course, however. After completing Thomas’s unfinished business, Barrasso turned right and has since earned the chairmanship of the GOP policy committee. His proximity to the center of influence is apparent in his frequent photograph and video appearances standing next to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as McConnell makes comments to the media.

But to Dodson, the incumbent is “among the least productive senators in America.” Barrasso has passed one bill he sponsored — to establish a federal courthouse in Jackson — Dodson said. Teton County has since purchased the building from the federal government.

Barrasso has legislation pending. One bill would revamp the Endangered Species Act. Another would allow Wyoming to drain more water out of Fontenelle Reservoir. He’s a co-sponsor of other legislation, too.

Dodson said 114 pieces of proposed Barrasso legislation have gone nowhere. In addition to Barrasso’s successful courthouse bill, two bills he co-sponsored to mint commemorative coins also became law, Dodson said. “After a decade of service, $2 million in salary, we have two commemorative coins and a courthouse in Wyoming,” Dodson said. “I think we deserve more.”

Meantime the Center for Responsive Politics lists Barrasso as the 14th wealthiest U.S. senator with an estimated net worth of $7.9 million.

Spending

Barrasso has spent $1.7 million on his campaign since the beginning of 2017, FEC data says. Friends of John Barrasso raised $4.9 million during that same period.

Dodson has spent $939,857 in operating expenses, FEC filings show.

A Stanford graduate and lecturer in management at the institution’s school of business, Dodson calls himself a “serial entrepreneur,” who has raised money for, bought and managed companies in diverse fields including alarm systems, auto parts and environmental services. He is a founding partner at Futaleufu Partners that runs Project Healthy Children in Honduras.

The son of a school teacher and sugar beet businessman, his youth was “an insulated life in a farming community” near Laporte Colorado, about 35 miles southwest of Cheyenne, Dodson said.

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“I’m not beholden to anybody,” Dodson said about his largely self-financed effort. He is running because of “love for my state, concern for my country.”

Barrasso’s years working as a medical doctor, a state legislator and volunteer prepared him to serve in Washington, he wrote in his Casper Star Tribune profile. “These experiences and jobs prepared me to contribute conservative ideas to the broad set of issues and challenges we face,” he wrote. “They taught me the important lessons of hard work and community that lead to solutions closest to the people. These jobs taught me to listen first.”


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GOP gubernatorial primary will be tight to the end https://www.wyofile.com/gop-gubernatorial-primary-will-be-tight-to-the-end/ 2018-08-07T10:15:02Z Without a clear front-runner two weeks before polls close, the six-way contest is still up for grabs

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The next governor of Wyoming will immediately have to face a “structural deficit” of up to $1 billion and confront Republican legislative leaders who have shown how combative they can be against chief executives from their own party.

With those two certain headaches and other problems waiting in the wings — like how to kick-start Wyoming’s minerals-based economy and whether to fund public education or keep stashing away money — the mystery isn’t who will win but why there are six Republicans who even want the job.

Oh, but they all do. It comes with a mansion, use of a state plane, a large staff and an impressive office in the Capitol Building, if the state ever finishes renovating it. Did I mention all the power a governor wields in the state? There’s that, too.

But with just two weeks to go before the Aug. 21 primary — the election to determine who’ll meet the presumptive Democratic nominee, former state legislator Mary Throne — there’s no clear Republican front-runner. Only one of the half-dozen GOP hopefuls, State Treasurer Mark Gordon, has ever won a statewide office.

What will determine who wins? There are several factors, beginning with money. Candidates Gordon, Sam Galeotos, Harriet Hageman and especially mega-rich Foster Friess have plenty to spend on this race as it goes down to the wire. Lack of campaign spending power won’t be an excuse for the losers from that group.

Sheridan businessman Bill Dahlin has some intriguing proposals that haven’t gained any traction, such as commercializing hemp products to help the agriculture industry. It makes sense, but that won’t keep him from being at the bottom of the pack on primary day.

Self styled constitutionalist and ultra-conservative rancher Dr. Taylor Haynes hasn’t spent on the level of his better funded competitors, but he’s kept his name in the public eye. A judge Friday decided he could stay in the race despite unanswered questions about his legal residency. A still looming potential disqualification would be a fatal liability for most candidates, but Haynes’ campaign is spinning the slow-motion scandal as a net positive — saying it has motivated and energized his base. Given the propensity for today’s electorate to fixate on “deep state” conspiracy theories, he may be right.  

In a crowded primary race it doesn’t take a high percentage of the total votes to win a party’s nomination. Facing four opponents, Rep. Barbara Cubin won her first GOP congressional primary in 1994 with only 36 percent of the vote, largely because she made sure her conservative base went to the polls.

The man this year’s candidates hope to succeed, two-term Gov. Matt Mead, won the seven-way primary in 2010 with less than 29 percent.

Like most Republicans the candidates in the 2018 primary all hate taxes, are anti-abortion and want to abolish “gun free zones” in defense of the Second Amendment. There’s not a lot of daylight between them on traditional party positions. When there have been, natural resources attorney Hageman of Cheyenne has been the one most eager to exploit them and criticize her main opponents.

She has knocked Gordon for allegedly spending too much state money on investment advisers, a charge the treasurer has denied. Hageman has accused Galeotos of being “ideologically obsessed with so-called green energy” and labeled him anti-coal. Galeotos, who seemed dumb-founded by such a ridiculous charge when so many states are leaders in renewable energy and leaving Wyoming behind, noted being green is simply “part of the modern-day world.”

Other attempts to stir controversy have popped up, including letters to editors charging that Gordon is a “Republican in name only,” also known as a RINO. The writers cite his previous donations to Democrats and service on the boards of environmental organizations with “extreme” agendas, like actually working to protect the environment.

In his unsuccessful congressional primary bid in 2008, winner Cynthia Lummis was able to make Gordon’s support for left-leaning causes a campaign issue that worked to her advantage. Never underestimate the ability of a determined Wyoming conservative politician to go further to the right than any like-minded opponent.

Galeotos’ business acumen was a good selling point with moderate voters early on, but he seems to have lost some steam by trying to tie his campaign to President Trump even though he has not received the president’s official endorsement. I asked University of Wyoming History Professor Emeritus Phil Roberts, who retired earlier this year, if he sees Galeotos’ support eroding.

“Galeotos made a huge mistake in introducing himself outside of Laramie County by comparing himself to Trump,” Roberts said. “Bad timing, beyond [being] a bad tactic.”

Roberts ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1998, so he has a unique perspective on what it takes to run a statewide race. But that was before serious candidates needed to have at least a million dollars in their campaign war chests to even think about running. The professor spent less than $10,000 and captured nearly 20 percent of the primary vote.

Roberts also observed that Galeotos is well-known in Cheyenne but not in other parts of Wyoming, which does not bode well for statewide success. He said while Friess has been a major donor in national political races and to conservative causes, his Wyoming profile has been low outside of his considerable philanthropic work with his wife.

“I think [Friess] is perceived both as an outsider — out of state, and as an insider — he’s Jackson rich,” Roberts said. “Neither is healthy at this point in the state’s history.”

Like Galeotos, Roberts said he sees no help coming Friess’ way by showing his strong support for the president.

“If it were not for what we’re seeing with Trump, I think Friess would have a good argument about being a ‘conservative businessman,’” Roberts added. “Wyoming voters already see what that means. I’d say anyone tying himself to Trump is all but finished.”

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Donald Trump Jr. endorsed Friess with an op-ed Sunday in the Casper Star Tribune.

Although Wyoming gave Trump a 46 percent margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, Roberts said he believes his support in the state is pretty soft because a vote for Trump was actually a vote against Clinton. It may be wishful thinking on the part of two old progressives, but I agree with him.

Does Hageman have a shot at being in the first head-to-head contest between two women for governor in the state’s history? She may have succeeded in staking out the position as the most conservative candidate in the race, but that’s not always been seen as an asset in Wyoming governors. Voters historically have elected conservative lawmakers and moderate governors to run the state.

This is a delicate subject to bring up, especially about the only woman candidate in the primary, but it’s an honest political concern and not meant as a gender jab. Roberts pointed out a trait that he believes could cost Hageman votes. Her often argumentative tone may be a plus in a courtroom, but it’s usually a negative for most candidates, men and women alike.

“People in Wyoming don’t like ‘mean,’” he explained. “I think it will weigh heavily against her in the end.”

That leaves Gordon, who I think will win. Roberts concurred, citing the treasurer’s regional name recognition and support in Laramie and Johnson counties. His key positive is that he holds a statewide office that requires him to know what’s in the state budget and exactly how it works. There may be only a few percentage points separating him, Galeotos, Hageman and Friess when it’s over but Gordon has the skills and demeanor to prevail.

Millions of words have been written about Trump’s masterful ability as a con artist to make people believe he’s a populist outsider representing blue-collar workers when he’s obviously a billionaire who doesn’t care about them at all. But I still think Wyoming voters aren’t easily fooled. I predict they will prefer a state chief executive with government experience over rivals whose business skills may not match the duties of the office.

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Judge will let Haynes finish primary campaign https://www.wyofile.com/judge-will-let-haynes-finish-primary-campaign/ 2018-08-04T14:59:40Z Questions over the gubernatorial candidate’s residency are too complicated to be settled by Aug. 21 and damage to election is already done, judge says.

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Voters will go to the polls Aug. 21 without knowing whether candidate Dr. Taylor Haynes meets constitutional residency requirements to be Wyoming’s next governor.

Judge Thomas Campbell on Friday rejected the Wyoming Attorney General and Secretary of State’s request to remove Haynes from the ballot, saying resolving the dispute over the candidate’s residency would take more time than was available before primary voting closes. Agreeing with court filings and arguments made Wednesday by Haynes’ attorney, Campbell said the state acted too late.

“Potential harm is already in play as voting on an absentee basis has been underway for weeks,” Campbell wrote in an order.

Removing Haynes from the race while the residency dispute was ongoing would be “an improper interference in the electoral process,” he wrote. Removing Haynes would have granted the Secretary of State and the Attorney General the result they seek — Haynes removal from the race — without ruling on the fundamental question behind their legal action — resolving the question of Haynes’ residency, the judge said.

Haynes did not agree to the state’s request for an accelerated legal process to reach a prompt ruling on the residency question. As such, the judge would not expedite the hearings beyond a pace that would occur in a normal lawsuit. Campbell’s ruling cancelled the trial date set for Aug. 7 and 8 and the judge is expected to set a new date.

The judge made no ruling on whether Haynes met the constitutional requirements of five years of unbroken residency in Wyoming to be governor. He observed, however, that “at this juncture, the affidavits and the parties’ assertions might be sufficient for the court to doubt the likelihood that the [state] will prevail.”

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In press releases within hours of one another, the Haynes campaign held up the ruling as vindication while the Secretary of State’s office bemoaned Haynes’ refusal to submit to a speedy resolution.

“The State had hoped for a definitive resolution of this matter for the sake of the voters, the candidates for governor, and for Dr. Haynes himself,” Secretary of State Ed Buchanan said in his statement. “I’m still hopeful that that the questions before the court will be heard in a timely manner. I am surprised that Dr. Haynes unequivocally would not agree to an expedited hearing as a way to guarantee the swift resolution of this matter before the primary election.”

Haynes’ campaign, meanwhile, said that after weeks of coverage about his eligibility, “the court has ruled in his favor and he will continue his campaign.”

The Haynes campaign release referred to Buchanan as “Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, former campaign manager for Harriet Hageman.” Hageman also is running for governor in the GOP primary. Buchanan was Hageman’s campaign manager, but resigned when he was appointed to the Secretary of State’s office by Gov. Matt Mead in May.

“This was a politically motivated action based on information they received from an unverified anonymous source,” the press release quoted Haynes as saying.

“We will continue pressing hard to get the word out that I am eligible to be Governor,” his statement read.

But the Secretary of State’s press release emphasized that the judge had not ruled on Haynes’ eligibility.

“The same two questions originally asked of the court … are left unanswered and unresolved in the ruling,” Buchanan’s statement said.

“Does Dr. Taylor Haynes meet the residency requirement to hold the office of governor under Article 4 Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Wyoming?” Is the first question. The second unanswered question remains whether the Secretary of State has the authority “to act upon issues relating to a candidate’s eligibility,” by removing an unqualified candidate from a race.

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