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State Briefs


April 21, 2022

Family members sentenced for theft from contractor

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Four members of a family were sentenced Wednesday afternoon in Laramie County District Court after they were accused of working together to steal from a local contractor.

David Dean Brown, David Kyle Brown and Joni Gayle Brown each pleaded guilty in January to one felony count of conspiracy to commit theft. Rhena Brown pleaded no contest in February to the same charge.

Joni and David Dean Brown admitted to helping their son, David Kyle Brown, receive paychecks from Reiman Corp. over a period of about three and a half years for work he did not do. Rhena Brown, David Kyle Brown’s wife, was accused of having knowledge of the fraudulent payments.

Laramie County District Judge Catherine Rogers sentenced David Dean and David Kyle Brown each to three years of supervised probation, with a suspended sentence of three to five years in prison.

Rogers deferred an entry of judgment for both Joni and Rhena Brown under Wyoming statute 7-13-301. This means that if the two women successfully complete three years of supervised probation, the charges against them may be dismissed by the court.

The Browns are responsible for paying $247,027.96 total in restitution to Reiman Corp., Rogers ruled Wednesday. In their statements before the court, the Browns indicated they were eager to pay back the money as soon as possible.

Study shows oil reclamation boosts bug numbers

CASPER (WNE) — Reclaimed oil and gas well pads can be pollinator hotspots. 

A peer-reviewed study by researchers from the University of Wyoming, the University of California Davis and the oil and gas industry found that disturbed sagebrush reseeded with native plants hosts many times more insects than intact reference sites nearby. The study was published earlier this month in the scientific journal Land. 

“Insects are often a key indicator of ecosystem functionality and ecosystem health,” said Michael Curran, the study’s lead author, who received his PhD in ecology from the University of Wyoming in 2020. 

The researchers identified between three and four times more insects on well pads reclaimed with native, perennial grasses and between six and 12 times more insects on well pads reclaimed with the Rocky Mountain bee plant, a native annual flower, compared with reference areas, all located in Sublette County. 

Two years after reclamation, pollinator abundance was also a dozen times higher than reference areas on well pads reseeded with the Rocky Mountain bee plant. According to Curran, that’s a lot. 

“It seems as though starting with this annual flower … that does well in disturbed soils, that can compete well with invasive plants — it can set a stage for further success, allowing perennial flowers and shrubs and other grasses to come in,” he said. 

Oil and gas companies typically remove soil from the well site before they start drilling, replace most of the soil once the well is complete and plant new seeds to prevent erosion.

Ordinance proposed to restrict Sheridan gambling

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Sheridan Mayor Rich Bridger suggested an ordinance he hopes will prevent the city’s downtown district from becoming a gambling hot spot.

Ordinance 2250 is a proposed zoning change that would prevent gambling for B-1 zoned properties in the downtown district — stretching from Whitney Street to Fifth Street — and limit gambling to six devices in B-2 zoned properties in the district.

The proposed ordinance, Sheridan city attorney Brendon Kerns said, “would prevent gambling from fundamentally altering the character, nature and uniqueness of the Sheridan downtown.”

“The Sheridan downtown has a unique character that is obviously the cultural heart of the city,” Kerns wrote in an April 7 memo to the city council. “Changes to that culture and character should be debated and discussed thoughtfully.”

Currently, none of the properties within the Downtown District would be in violation of this ordinance and the Wyoming Gaming Commission has no pending applications for gambling facilities in the district, Kerns said. While many bars in the district — including Beaver Creek Saloon, No Name Bar, Rainbow Bar and Mint Bar — contain gambling machines, none have more than six, Sheridan Police Chief Travis Koltiska said.

B-1 and B-2 properties outside of the downtown district would be unaffected by the ordinance, Kerns said. When asked by Councilor Clint Beaver whether the ordinance could be applied citywide, Kerns said it could, but it would impact the operations of several existing gambling establishments, including Wyoming Downs.

Bridger said it was not his intent to hurt businesses already in operation through the ordinance.

Heavy snow stalls Yellowstone opening

JACKSON (WNE) — Crews in Yellowstone National Park are working to clear nearly a foot of snow from the park to allow visitors early season access.

“Due to extremely heavy snow received this week,” officials wrote on social media, “the park’s efforts to open interior roads by April 15 have been delayed.”

Thanks to progress made clearing large snow drifts, the West Entrance to Old Faithful stretch and Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris were able to open midday Friday.

The road between the North Entrance, Mammoth Hot Springs and Northeast Entrance is open year-round.

There was still no word on when the Norris to Canyon Village stretch would open. It was scheduled for April 15. Crews were actively working on that route late Friday.

East Entrance to Lake Village and Canyon Village to Lake Village stretches are scheduled to open May 6, followed by the Cooke City to Chief Joseph Scenic Byway stretch May 11.

The South Entrance opens May 13, with access to to West Thumb, Lake Village and Old Faithful (Craig Pass).


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