Elk harvests, a Cold War state park, a governor laments and lots of other news kept popping up for me over a two-day period last fall at a meeting in Casper.
My reporter nose was twitching with all this news.
Now I had recently been out of the country for two weeks, this all seemed pretty new to me:
• Legislators Jim Anderson (R-Glenrock) and John Hines (R-Gillette) both talked about possible increases in gasoline taxes as a way to fix our roads.
Raising taxes in Wyoming is such a hot potato, they both said, they worried that funds will not be forthcoming to make necessary repairs.
Hines said there are three ways to raise funds – increase the state sales tax, increase registration fees or increase the fuel tax.
Toll roads are almost impossible because they can now only be used for new construction, which is very unfair to Wyoming.
I was told some years ago that out-of-state drivers pay 55 percent of our gasoline taxes
One person argued with Anderson that since Wyoming has so little mass transit, people have to drive a long ways to get to work. His answer was that Wyoming’s tax is very low compared to surrounding states and that those same roads used by people driving to work have to be fixed, too, so they can get to work.
• Gov. Matt Mead is still looking for a “lull” time as governor. “Last year, it was the floods. This year it was the fires,” he said.
“We had 400 fires in Wyoming, 35 of which were major,” he stated. Price tag for fighting those fires is $90 million and soon the state and the federal government will determine who owes what. It will be expensive, he says.
• Mead said he repeatedly heard from firefighters how much they appreciated the signs “Thank You Firefighters,” plastered all over Wyoming.
Best story was about the two Laramie Vohland sisters, Kellen 6 and Emerson 3, who pulled a little red wagon full of popsicles around for the firefighters. Mead ultimately invited those girls to his office for a “popsicle party,”
• Our next new state park might be the first state park in the country that commemorates the Cold War.
North of Cheyenne is a missile silo and Milward Simpson, head of state parks, told the crowd at the State Tourism Summit in Casper, they are considering making a state park out of the site.
As someone who has spent most of his life living in the Cold War, I think this is a great idea.
For those too young to remember, the Cold War was the 44-year period after World War II. The USA and Soviet Russia dominated the world and kept every citizen on earth nervous about an impending holocaust.
More nuclear missiles were based around Cheyenne than anywhere on earth.
• Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott talked about the comparisons often made around the country that Wyoming animals are more difficult to harvest than those in neighboring states.
He says that fully 30 percent of the bull elk hunters in Wyoming made kills last year. This compares to a paltry 19 percent in Colorado, which finished second.
Deer kills in Wyoming were 45 percent, according to Talbott, compared to just 30 percent in Colorado, which again finished second.
Nobody offers up a better hunting experience that Wyoming, he concluded.
• When it came to fishing, Talbott said, “right here in Casper is one of the world’s great fisheries in the North Platte River.”
In one place, perhaps the “Miracle Mile,” the G&F counted 28,000 fish in a one-mile stretch of the river.
In my new book, U. S. Sen. Mike Enzi wrote the chapter about the North Platte because he is such an avid angler who fishes this river every chance he can all over the state.
• Sen. Enzi talked to the mainly tourism crowd at the Summit about the bad state of politics in Washington, D. C.
Enzi says he can balance the budget in five years with his “one percent solution,” which involves every program cutting itself by just one percent each year for five years. Still would not cut the debt, but it would stop the annual bleeding, he says.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns and blogs at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.