Yellowstone reopens as shutdown ends

CODY (WNE) — Visitors to Yellowstone National Park resumed paying entrance fees Sunday after 35 days of free admission during the partial shutdown of the federal government.

Other operations and services reopened Monday.

With the enactment of the continuing resolution to fund the federal government Friday, the park started resuming regular operations.

“Employees are happy to return to work serving the American people and welcoming visitors to Yellowstone,” the park announced in a release.

Sunday, visitor centers normally open at this time of year reopened by 11 a.m. They include the Albright Visitor Center, Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, Canyon Visitor Education Center lobby and the ranger-staffed desk at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center. With visitor centers open, the public will again be able to obtain backcountry permits.

On Monday, a majority of furloughed staff returned and opened the remaining park functions. Employees will begin to process the backlog of applications for special use permits, film permits, commercial use authorizations and research permits.

By midday the public was also able to obtain permits for the non-commercially guided snowmobile access program. The public affairs office also reopened Monday.

House approves veteran’s facility in Buffalo

SHERIDAN (WNE) — The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill that would authorize the construction of a skilled veterans nursing facility in the state on third reading Thursday with Buffalo as the proposed location.

The decision came after a long debate during which amendments to build the facility in Casper and Sheridan were defeated. With the House’s passage of the bill, it will cross over to the Senate, where it will need to pass on three readings and will be subject to amendments.

The state Legislature’s Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee chose Buffalo as the site for the proposed facility during its interim meetings, however the House portion of that committee recommended changing the location to Casper after testimony from medical professionals from Buffalo raised concerns that the city would struggle to staff the facility.

Rep. Richard Tass, R-Buffalo, pushed back against that concern while speaking against the amendment that would have moved the proposed facility to Casper.

He pointed out that Buffalo has several nearby locations that could provide a workforce for the facility.

“We have access to three junior colleges to the north and there is nothing to say that the junior college from (Casper) won’t help staff our facility,” Tass said.

After the amendment to change the location to Casper was defeated, Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, proposed an amendment to select Sheridan as the facility’s location.

Western also raised concerns about Buffalo’s ability to staff the facility and argued that the established veterans affairs services in Sheridan, combined with the nursing programs available through Sheridan College, would ensure the Sheridan facility has a skilled workforce.

Western’s amendment was defeated on a voice vote.

Man gets probation in meth conspiracy case

CHEYENNE (WNE) – A Cheyenne man was sentenced to probation Monday after admitting to conspiring to sell methamphetamine with his son and wife.

Jesse J. Iddings said he wants to combat his addiction and get his life back on track after being charged with selling meth in Cheyenne.

His wife, Janelle Iddings, is facing charges in federal court of conspiracy to deliver 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine resulting in death and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

She was initially discovered by authorities when they found Shaun Gilkey dead in Converse County of a suspected meth overdose.

When they searched his phone, special agents from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation said it contained messages between him and Janelle Iddings about Gilkey getting drugs from her, according to initial charging documents filed in Laramie County District Court.

She is still awaiting trial in federal court.

Janelle and Jesse Iddings’ son, Ryder Iddings, also admitted in Laramie County District Court to being part of a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Ryder Iddings is still awaiting sentencing.

Last year, Jesse Iddings admitted to being a “middleman” in the case.

“I am guilty of buying and doing drugs, and I’m guilty of pointing the direction for other people to buy and find drugs,” he told the judge, according to a court transcript.

Two other people were also charged in connection with the distribution case.

Lamont Sturgis was indicted in federal court, along with Janelle Iddings, for the death of Gilkey and other meth-related crimes.

Cheney moves again to protect Devils Tower name

WORLAND (WNE) — Wyoming U.S. Representative Liz Cheney announced on Monday a plan to reintroduce legislation to codify the name of Devils Tower National Monument.

The move would follow several previous attempts to set the name in stone.

In 2014, a proposal was submitted to the Unites States Board on Geographic Names on behalf of the Lakota tribe to change the name of the monument to “Bear Lodge”, in accordance with Native American tradition.

Prior to 1901, the unique feature was referred to as “Bear Lodge” or Mato Teepee” on contemporary maps, and only in 1875 did an Army colonel translate the name as “Bad God’s Tower,” which became “Devils Tower” when the monument was proclaimed in 1906.

According to the United States Department of the Interior, neither the National Parks Service or the United States Board on Geographic Names have the legal ability to change the name, which can only be done by an act of Congress, or the President of the United States.

In 2017, Sen. Mike Enzi attempted to retain the name with Senate Bill 70, and Rep. Cheney did the same with House Resolution 401. Both pieces of legislation failed, as at the time, both the Unites States Board on Geographic Names and Wyoming Board of Geographic Names restricted any name changes until January 3, 2019.

On Monday, Cheney noted that “The name Devils Tower is over a century old and represents one of the most well-known, beloved geological features in the nation. The bill I reintroduced this Congress protects the legacy of Devils Tower by taking the first step towards codifying the name in statute.”

Large plane makes unexpected stop in Cody

CODY (WNE) — Yellowstone Regional Airport got an unexpected visitor on Friday afternoon, as weather forced one of United Airlines’ large Boeing 737s to make a pit stop in Cody.

The United flight departed Chicago O’Hare International Airport at 10:46 a.m. Friday, bound for Jackson Hole Airport.

However, with poor weather conditions in the Jackson area — and the plane lacking the fuel to continue circling the airport in a holding pattern — the flight was diverted to Cody to refuel. The aircraft landed around 1:23 p.m., according to data from the plane-tracking website FlightAware.

With a carrying capacity of 118 passengers, the 737 is considerably larger than the 54-seat jets that the Cody airport typically hosts this time of year.

A passenger loading bridge was pulled up to the 737-700’s door on Friday, though it wound up not being necessary.

“The pilots and flight attendant stepped out to communicate with the airport staff and the Skywest ground crew, but no passengers disembarked,” said Vicki Olson, a Powell resident and Skywest employee who captured photos of the unusual scene.

The 737, its crew and passengers spent a little more than an hour on the ground in Cody.

The refueled aircraft resumed its flight to Jackson Hole at 2:32 p.m., arriving at its intended destination a half-hour later, according to FlightAware’s data. All told, the Chicago-Jackson trip took about five hours and 15 minutes — about an hour longer than normal.

Evanston man killed in accident

EVANSTON (WNE) — An Evanston man was killed in a single vehicle rollover on Thursday, Jan. 24. According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol, the accident took place around 6:50 a.m. near mile marker 35 on eastbound Interstate 80.

The driver and lone occupant of the 2008 Ford F-350 that rolled has been identified as 24-year-old Evanston resident Tyree L. Summers. According to WHP, Summers’ pickup drifted off the left side of the roadway before it overturned.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol is investigating the incident and has cited “driving too fast for road conditions” as a possible contributing factor to the deadly crash.

“The road conditions were slick at the time of the crash,” a WHP press release states.

Although Summers was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident, he became the 12th fatality on Wyoming’s highways in 2019. That’s four times the number of Wyoming highway deaths through the same time period in each of the last three years.

Wyoming this Weekend, Feb. 1-3

By The Wyoming News Exchange

An international sled dog race will top the events scheduled for this weekend around Wyoming.

The 2019 Pedigreee Stage Stop Sled Race’s sixth state will be held Friday, taking competitors from Driggs, Idaho, into Teton County, a distance of 32 miles. Then, on Saturday, the event will wrap up with a 32-mile trek around Teton County and a banquet to celebrate the competition’s end

Other events scheduled for the weekend include:

The Rocky Mountain Wild West Wrestling Tournament at Gillette’s Cam-Plex on Friday and Saturday;

The “Winter Rendezvous Games” in Riverton on Saturday, and

A performance by the men’s vocal ensemble Cantus in Sheridan on Saturday.

For more information on these and other events, please visit the Wyoming Tourism Department’s website at TravelWyoming.com

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