stimulus for sorcerers

By Jim Stanford on November 9, 2011

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Wyoming lawmakers could do just as well paying Shoshones for a raindance.

It seems any enterprising engineer or dreamer looking for an easy handout from state government could hit up the Wyoming Water Development Commission.

On the heels of recommending $300,000 for a Green River watershed study — possibly an end run for yet another ill-advised dam proposal — water managers are seeking $2.4 million for more cloud seeding.

Yes, cloud seeding. The latest request comes on top of nearly $12 million the Wyoming Legislature has given the agency to pump silver iodide into the clouds above the Wind River, Medicine Bow and Sierra Madre mountains, with no measurable results and in violation of wilderness protections.

The goal is to boost snowpack and increase runoff in the Green and Wind rivers, presumably to graze more cattle in the desert. Barry Lawrence, project manager for the Wyoming Water Development Office, calls cloud seeding a “long-term water management strategy,” the News&Guide reported.

Lawmakers might as well be wandering the desert with a forked stick.

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Posted under Economy, Environment, Politics, Republican Party, Weather, Wyoming, Wyoming Legislature

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sustainable tourism

By Jim Stanford on June 7, 2011

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Washakie and his warriors, 1870. Photo by William Henry Jackson.

There will be plenty of platitudes about “sustainability” thrown around at tonight’s Comp Plan meeting, so we might as well establish a baseline.

The meeting is far from the end of the process, but it could be the last chance for residents to comment, now that planning staff, planning commissioners and elected officials have had their say. The forum is from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Grandview Lodge behind Snow King Resort (also broadcast online).

So far the town and county have spent four years and untold thousands on a document long on lofty vision statements and short on details. Instead of a layout of planned roadways and paths, for example, the Transportation chapter calls for … another plan.

Basically, the entire endeavor seeks to balance two ideas — People live here for the wildlife and open space, and we must do everything we can to preserve wildlife and open space — that are inherently at odds with each other.

Unless you’re Chief Washakie.

(Photo via Wind River History)


Posted under County Government, Economy, Environment, Politics, Town Government

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peak morning

By Jim Stanford on January 29, 2010

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Sunrise on the Grand Teton. Click to enlarge.

The day’s first rays color the mountain the Shoshones call Damuh Bahvee, or “Our Elder Brother.” Welcome sunshine, after all the recent recent snowstorms.

It was a fine day to be out among the peaks, schussing in hoar-frosted powder that glittered like diamonds.

From an Indian prayer:

Mountain Spirit, leader of the Mountain Spirits, your body is holy.
By means of it, make him well again.
Make his body like your own.
Make him strong again.


Posted under Environment, Sports

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a reverence for rivers

By Jim Stanford on October 14, 2009

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At the Summit on the Snake in May, a panel of noted thinkers and outdoorsmen grappled with the question of the whether the newly christened “Wild and Scenic” Snake River is really wild.

Climbing guide Jack Turner, ever the purist, and kayaker Mick Hopkinson, the blunt realist, dismissed the notion. Designation of the Snake headwaters around Jackson Hole was a “desperate attempt to save what you’ve got left,” Hopkinson said. “Anything that flows out of a dam is not a wild river,” said Turner.

I wish I could have handed Jack the oars the next morning, when I went out to run the Snake in Grand Teton National Park at 16,000 cubic feet per second. The river rumbled; the vibration of rocks being swept downstream was not only audible but palpable.

A few days later, at Lunch Counter Rapid in the Snake River Canyon, the river roared like a jumbo jet; it was as if the ocean had been tilted on end and poured through a crack in the rock. The ferocity and power in both instances were the very essence of wild.

This video features author and river runner Verne Huser, who has spent 50 years on the Snake, and James Trosper, Shoshone medicine man and great-great-grandson of Chief Washakie. (The Snake River takes its name from the Shoshone tribe, who were given the nickname “Snake Indians” because of their sinuous greeting sign.) Verne and James floated with Barker-Ewing Scenic Trips on the day after the summit, the peak flow of the year. The video features clips from the trip and sound bites from their panel discussion.

River runners and native peoples regard these streams as sacred. Water is the source of all life; during high runoff one can feel the vitality.

I am not yet ready to put down the oars. This site will be silent for a few days, as two boatmen and I have ventured far down to the end of the river, Hell’s Canyon, where I hope to get another shot of this vitality and live to tell about it.


Posted under Environment, Sports, Wyoming

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Shoshoni, Wyo.

By Jim Stanford on March 7, 2008

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Shoshoni, Wyoming, at dusk — photo by David Stubbs

We arrive in Shoshoni by sundown to find crumbling brick buildings resembling a ghost town.

From the snow-white splendor of Grand Teton National Park, we have crossed the divide into blood-red hills and the twisting curves of the Wind River. The sight of bare earth is soothing. It’s easy to think it’s spring, until we step outside and feel the most distinctly Wyoming of the elements: wind.

Two friends and I are on a journey across the Wind River Reservation to see the man we hope will be the next Great White Father in Washington. Only he isn’t white, but brown, the color of this land.

poem on a wall, downtown Shoshoni — David Stubbs photoWe have rocked out to Bob Dylan, Michael Franti, Sharon Jones and Vampire Weekend. Now we are listening to the beating of drums on native radio.

As I walk the deserted street toward the railroad tracks, square in the middle of nowhere, my phone rings: It’s an Obama volunteer, calling from Texas to make sure I’m going to attend the Wyoming caucus on Saturday.

Not only that, I assure her, but I’m on a six-hour trek to see Obama speak in the heart of our state on Friday. I describe the scene in Shoshoni, and it gives her goose bumps, she says.

“Things didn’t go as well as we would have liked down here,” she tells me, “so we’re just trying to work a little harder.”

(Photographs by David Stubbs)


Posted under Politics, Wyoming

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