NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, September 30, 2019


Energy development spurs second quarter growth

CASPER (WNE) — Economic growth in the Equality State blossomed during the second quarter, with a surge in the number of construction jobs thanks to a continued boom in wind and oil projects, according to reports prepared by Wyoming’s Economic Analysis Division.

An uptick in energy development across the state boosted taxable sales in several counties, according to the state’s latest Economic Summary Report published Wednesday. New oil and gas exploration and production largely contributed to the 13.2 percent climb in sales within the mining sector, which encompasses oil and gas development. Employment across all jobs rose 1.6 percent, keeping pace with national gains. Personal income also shot up 6 percent in a single quarter.

Converse County experienced the most stunning growth spurt of the state during the quarter. Year-to-date taxable sales increased by 55 percent, thanks to drilling.

Converse County had the most oil and gas activity in the state, with 21 rigs, according to data collected by the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. 

Despite the rosy news for the budget-strapped state, employment rates still fell far below pre-recession levels, and not all counties had the same flurry of economic movement as Converse County.

“The mining sector during the downturn in 2015 and 2016 lost about 9,000 jobs, but we’ve gotten back less than one-third, or approximately 3,000, jobs,” explained Wenlin Liu, chief economist at the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information.

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Third man charged in hunting license case

GILLETTE (WNE) — A third man has been charged with game violations in what investigators believe is a 10-year effort to get Wyoming hunting privileges while living in South Dakota.

Former Gillette resident David E. Underwood, 51, faces 16 counts of game violations — all misdemeanors — including 10 counts of making false statements to buy or apply for game licenses or permits from 2005 to 2015, according to court documents.

He is accused of working with his father, Robert Underwood, to illegally apply for licenses or preference points for moose, Bighorn sheep, wild bison and mountain goat.

Underwood’s father and Russell “Rusty” B. Vick also have been charged as part of the investigation that was started in 2017 by a Gillette game warden about the three illegally buying Wyoming resident hunting licenses. Both Underwoods had lived in Gillette, but Vick lived in Alabama during the time that investigators believe big game animals were killed illegally, according to court documents.

During the investigation, it was learned that David Underwood has lived in Edgemont, South Dakota, since at least 2005, yet he is suspected of applying for about 49 Wyoming resident hunting and fishing licenses and preference points in multiple counties in Wyoming and killed “numerous species of wildlife without licenses in multiple counties in Wyoming,” according to an affidavit of probable cause.

From 2005-2016, there were 46 times that David Underwood bought Wyoming hunting licenses or applied for preference points, according to the affidavit. Investigators say he was able to do that with Robert Underwood’s help in paying for the applications and using a Gillette address.

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First woman to lead Yellowstone rangers

JACKSON (WNE) — For the first time in its 147-year history, Yellowstone National Park has hired a woman as its permanent chief in charge of the ranger corps.

Yellowstone superintendent Cam Sholly announced this week that he has selected National Park Service veteran Sarah Davis as his next chief ranger.

She will lead a cadre of more than 275 Yellowstone employees, supervising the park’s law enforcement, EMS, search and rescue, firefighting, backcountry operations, dispatch and fee collection programs, among others.

“Sarah is an outstanding leader with a track record of high performance, strategic thinking and collaboration,” Sholly said in a statement. “We’re lucky to have her join the Yellowstone team.”

Davis will assume her duties in Yellowstone sometime in December, park spokeswoman Linda Veress said.

Previously, she worked as the chief ranger at Natchez Trace Parkway, a Park Service-managed scenic drive that crosses through three states in the Southeast. There, she managed a staff of 40 and a $3.5 million budget.

Yellowstone has been without a chief ranger since spring, when Pete Webster departed to assume second-in-command duties as deputy superintendent of Glacier National Park. Leslie Reynolds held down the post on an acting basis through the summer, and park staff will help to fill in the gaps until Davis arrives in Mammoth in a few months, Veress said.

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Gillette man killed in motorcycle accident

SHERIDAN (WNE) — A fatal crash around 3:30 p.m. Sept. 22 around milepost 15 on Highway 345 north of Sheridan led to the death of a motorcyclist.

A 2018 Harley Davidson was traveling eastbound when the motorcycle exited the right side of the roadway. After leaving the roadway, the driver lost control of the motorcycle.

The driver of the Harley has been identified as 52-year-old Gillette resident Johnny H. Gilstad. It was unknown if Gilstad was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. He was transported to Sheridan Memorial Hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries sustained in the crash. Speed and driver impairment are being investigated as possible contributing factors.

This is the 121st fatality on Wyoming’s roadways in 2019 compared to 84 in 2018, 109 in 2017, and 89 in 2016 to date.

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