AP News Update

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AP News Update

Latest Wyoming news, sports, business and entertainment:

YELLOWSTONE GRIZZLIES

Grizzly panel says Yellowstone bears recovered

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A panel of wildlife officials says it's time to lift Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.

An Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee spokesman says the panel's members voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of ending the federal protections.

The committee's recommendation will now be considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency could propose a rule by mid-2014 to end protections.

Scientists say there are now more than 700 grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming following a decades-long recovery.

Revoking the animal's threatened species status would open the door to limited hunting, but other conservation measures would stay in place.

Environmental groups worried about climate change say it's too early to take the bears off the threatened list.

BISON HUNT

Mont. wildlife officials seek to expand bison hunt

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Montana wildlife officials want to let state-licensed hunters take more bison that migrate from Yellowstone National Park.

State wildlife commissioners on Thursday will hold an initial vote on a plan to increase future bison quotas and allow hunting in new areas.

The proposal comes after members of Indian tribes acting under treaty rights took the vast majority of the 744 bison shot by hunters over the last decade. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim says the agency wants comparable opportunities for state-licensed hunters.

The maximum annual quota on Yellowstone bison would increase from 150 to 200 animals. Hunting would be newly allowed in areas south and west of Hebgen Lake.

Aasheim says the plan is contingent on an environmental study now underway.

YELLOWSTONE REOPENING

Yellowstone National Park reopening for winter

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) - Yellowstone National Park is reopening for the winter.

Starting Sunday, the north, west and south entrances to the park will be open commercially guided snowmobiles and snowcoaches.

The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, dining room and gift shop will open for the season on Dec. 20 and the park's east entrance over Sylvan Pass is set to open Dec. 22.

The only road in the park that is open to wheeled vehicle travel all year is the section from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont., through Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Junction and the Lamar Valley on to the park's Northeast Entrance and the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate, Mont.

LARAMIE KILLING

Laramie man acquitted of murder in May stabbing

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - A Laramie man who stabbed the husband of a friend to death has been acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges.

Jurors found Tim Harnden not guilty Wednesday after deliberating for just over 2 1/2 hours.

The Laramie Boomerang reports that the 67-year-old showed little emotion other than relief as the verdicts were read. He declined to comment.

Harnden killed 44-year-old Paul Hamilton during a fight at a home Harden shared with Hamilton's estranged wife, Carole Hamilton, and another housemate. Paul Hamilton had been living in a camper outside the home.

Investigators alleged that Harnden was romantically interested in Carole Hamilton and wanted to get rid of her husband. Harnden said Paul Hamilton was a violent man and he killed him in self- defense.

MINERALS COMMITTEE

Wyo. lawmakers consider orphan wells problem

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A state legislative committee is about to hear Gov. Matt Mead's recommendations for cleaning up thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells.

The Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee is scheduled to hear a presentation on the plan Thursday in Casper.

Mead proposes allocating an additional $3 million to deal with the proliferation of so-called orphan wells around the state. The vast majority are coal-bed methane wells in the Powder River Basin.

Abandoned oil and gas wells that aren't plugged and cleaned up can become an environmental hazard. Mead proposes to remediate as many as 4,400 oil and gas wells over four to seven years.

State lawmakers also will discuss a new requirement for petroleum companies to test nearby water wells for pollution before drilling for oil or gas.

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