AP News Update

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AP News Update

Latest Wyoming news, sports, business and entertainment

INDIAN LAND

21 reservations next up in consolidation program

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Interior Department officials have identified 21 American Indian reservations for the next phase of a $1.9 billion land-consolidation program.

The land buyback program is part of a $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Montana. It aims to buy fractionated land parcels across the nation that are owned by dozens, hundreds or even thousands of individual Indians and turn them over to the tribes by 2022.

So far, the program has focused primarily on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Interior officials said Thursday they are planning more appraisals, acquisitions and other land-consolidation activities at Pine Ridge and 20 additional reservations through 2015.

Cobell's lawsuit claimed Interior Department officials mismanaged trust money held by the government for hundreds of thousands of Indian landowners.

TRIPLE FATAL

Authorities believe wrecked bus on cruise control

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - Troopers investigating an accident where a bus crashed into a car, triggering an eight-vehicle pileup that killed three people, say the bus may have been on cruise control when the accident occurred.

Authorities say three men from Gillette were killed in the crash. They were identified as Colin Schultz, 37, Christopher Joubert, 40, and Charles Errington, 55.

According to the Gillette News Record, three other people were injured in the crash on Wednesday on Wyoming Highway 59 about 10 miles south of Gillette in a construction zone.

The bus was carrying about a dozen coal-mine workers. The Wyoming Highway Patrol says no one on the bus required hospital treatment.

The accident is still under investigation.

SUGAR PLANT DEATH

Western Sugar co-op cited over workplace fatality

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services has cited the Western Sugar Cooperative with 12 violations stemming from a workplace fatality that occurred at its facility in Lovell in January.

The department on Thursday proposed a fine of $71,000 after 28-year-old Anfesa Galaktionoff died Jan. 4 when she fell into equipment that uses water to carry and wash sugar beets before processing.

The state agency said Thursday adequate guarding around floor openings might have prevented the woman's death.

The cooperative has 15 days to comply or challenge the rulings.

A spokesman for the Denver-based cooperative did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Authorities said no tainted sugar or molasses meant for human consumption was distributed after the accident.

GRIZZLY BEARS

Montana: Feds mull repeal of grizzly protections

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The head of Montana's wildlife agency says federal officials will seek to lift federal protections from some threatened grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies in the next two years.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks director Jeff Hagener said Thursday he expects the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose rules that could remove two populations of grizzlies from the Endangered Species list.

He says one could lift protections for bears in and around Yellowstone Park in 2015. The other would be for grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide by 2016.

Hagener says estimates show about 740 grizzly bears live in and around Yellowstone, while about 1,000 live in the Northern Continental Divide region.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Leith Edgar didn't have immediate comment Thursday.

WYOMING GOVERNOR-CLIMATE CHANGE

Wyoming governor says he might be wrong on climate

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, a climate-science skeptic from the nation's top coal-producing state, says he could be wrong about the causes of global warming but is arguing for cleaner technology to burn coal rather than trying to eliminate its use.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports Mead's comments came in a speech Wednesday.

The Republican governor reaffirmed he is skeptical about research showing humans are causing climate change but said he's not a scientist and might be wrong.

He said weak coal industry earnings suggest investors have accepted evidence of human-caused climate change.

Mead accused the Environmental Protection Agency of trying to shut down coal-fired plants and wants the agency to withdraw proposed new rules. He says the government should look for ways to keep burning coal while reducing its pollution.

BANKERS SURVEY

Economy improving in rural parts of 10 states

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The economy appears to be gaining strength in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states.

The overall economic index for the region improved to 55.6 in May from April's 53.2, suggesting growth in the months ahead.

The survey of bankers in the region uses indexes that range from 0 to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. A score above 50 suggests growth in that factor in the months ahead.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey. He says the results show the economy is improving in these rural areas that depend heavily on agriculture and energy production.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

LUMMIS RANCH

Oil company acquires Rep. Lummis family ranch

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A major oil development company has acquired a 5,000-acre ranch southeast of Cheyenne that until recently belonged to U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis and her family.

Laramie County records show the Lummis family transferred the Lummis Ranch South Camp property to a limited liability company March 20. Six weeks later, Cheyenne-based Frontier Plains, LLC, transferred the ranch to Houston-based EOG Resources.

Public documents don't detail terms of either deal. But EOG is developing numerous oil wells in southeast Wyoming, including at least four oil wells on the former Lummis property.

Lummis is saying little about the initial transaction involving her family except that it involved a land exchange. Frontier Plains and EOG officials didn't respond to requests for comment.

A real estate broker had listed the Lummis property for $8.1 million.

SICK BOY-FRAUD

Mom of Casper boy with cancer charged with fraud

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - A Casper woman who received about $7,000 in donations after claiming her son was dying of brain cancer has been charged with felony fraud.

Krishelle Layton was arrested Tuesday and formally charged during a court appearance Wednesday.

The state Division of Criminal Investigation said in March that it was investigating the family after getting a tip from Casper police.

Layton's son Dorian, who is nicknamed "Ninja", gained local attention when he distributed gifts to sick children at Wyoming Medical Center on Christmas Eve. Casper police also named him chief for a day in January.

Court documents show that Dorian does have cancer but a doctor who treated him in Texas says his condition has significantly improved since 2009 and he's not near death.

BIGHORN TREES

Forest Service investigating damage to trees

BUFFALO, Wyo. (AP) - Bighorn National Forest officials are investigating damage to more than 100 trees in the Powder River Ranger District.

Forest Service employees on a routine snowmobile patrol recently noticed directional arrows carved into trees.

District ranger Mark Booth says it is a federal offense to cut or damage trees in national forests without permission.

He says violators can be fined $100 for the first tree and $50 for each additional tree.

Foresters say cutting into a tree makes it more susceptible to disease and rot, shortening the tree's life.

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