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Wyoming in brief

East Entrance continues to defy downward tourism trendCODY – The number of visitors to Yellowstone National Park fell behind last year’s pace through June.

Through the first six months of this year, the park counted 862,713 visitors, a 4.3 percent drop from the 901,853 visitors recorded through June of last year.

All but one of Yellowstone’s five entrances saw fewer people passing through. The only entrance to see a gain was the east entrance on the road from Cody.

Claudia Wade, Park County Travel Council marketing director, suggests that the east gate count “reflects what we’re trying to do – marketing Cody as the only way to go to Yellowstone.”

Visitor numbers declined at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Cody Nite Rodeo, Cody chamber and Buffalo Bill Dam just west of Cody.

The Buffalo Bill Historical Center’s visitor total through June is down 5.3 percent, according to BBHC representative Jan Jones.

BLM approves electric fence proposalMEDICINE BOW – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday it has approved a ranch’s plans to put up electric fence.

The Q Creek Ranch north of Medicine Bow plans to electrify 14.3 miles of fence, about four miles of which is on BLM land.

The ranch scaled back its original plan to put up 77 miles of electric fence after opponents said they worried that hunting access and wildlife activity would be restricted.

The BLM agreed to a plan in which the electricity would be turned on only when cattle are present and when there is no big game hunting season, officials said.

No legal access to public land will be lost, Rawlins BLM Field Office Manager Kurt Kotter said.

“I am committed to ensuring that the public continues to have access to the legally accessible public lands in the allotment for hunting and other recreation activities,” he said.

BLM must study whether to allow more developmentRAWLINS – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management must study whether to allow more development in the Rawlins district than is permitted under its land use plan.

Companies have proposed drilling an additional 3,880 coalbed methane wells, which would exceed the number of wells allowed under the land use plan developed in the mid-1980s, said John Spehar, BLM planning and environmental coordinator.

The proposal is known as the Atlantic Rim Coalbed Methane Project.

“The Atlantic Rim project is going to put us over the edge,” he said. “It looks like we’ll exceed our reasonably foreseeable development scenario.”

The study would examine whether wildlife would be harmed by the additional development, he said.

Council to appeal Laramie ward system rulingLARAMIE – The City Council voted 5-3 to appeal a court order that would create an election system to spread council representation across Laramie.

A judge upheld a ward system to divide Laramie into seven areas, or wards, with each having one representative on the council. Two members would be elected at-large.

Currently, all nine council members are elected at-large, meaning all could conceivably be elected from the same neighborhood.

The council has argued it is unclear what kind of system voters wanted last November. Forty-four percent of voters supported a seven-ward system and 18 percent supported a nine-ward system.

The council will appeal the ruling by 2nd District Judge Jeffrey A. Donnell to the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Councilman Eric Stone, who voted with the majority, said he questions the constitutionality of the law that allowed such a vote.

Councilwoman Anne Nordin, who opposed the appeal, said the ruling should be honored.

“Why do we keep kicking this back? It’s a ballot issue the people we work for got us here and they should be making the decision here,” she said.

Deadline for comments on grizzly management draws nearRIVERTON – Friday is the deadline for public comment on Wyoming’s draft plan for managing grizzly bears once they are no longer considered threatened.

The plan would manage bears in a federally designated area in and around Yellowstone National Park. Management could include hunting or removal of nuisance bears.

Environmentalists have said the plan fails to protect grizzly habitat. The plan would have the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission manage bear expansion and set population goals.

The plan was created by a 21-member group and sent out for public comment March 27.

The state wanted a balanced public perspective of the draft plan, said Reg Rothwell, supervisor of biological services for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“All too often, we receive comments from either side who feel strongly with how we manage a particular wildlife species,” he said. “Often that kind of input on each end of the spectrum doesn’t reflect the ideas of the majority of the people of Wyoming.”

If the plan is approved by commissioners, it will be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an endorsement.

Montana and Idaho are developing similar plans.

Man found guilty in Ecstasy caseCHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – A man caught carrying 139 pounds of ecstasy in the trunk of his rental car was convicted Wednesday of a federal drug charge.

A jury found Atzmon Gerby, 43, of Tarzana, Calif., guilty of possession with intent to distribute the drug. He could receive up to 20 years in prison.

A sentencing date was not set.

Gerby’s attorney, John Murphy, said his client would appeal.

Prosecutors said a state highway patrolman found thousands of ecstasy tablets in the trunk after stopping Gerby for speeding on Interstate 80 east of Cheyenne on March 22. Gerby agreed to let the patrolman search the car after the officer became suspicious of Gerby’s mannerisms and story, prosecutor Steven Sharpe said.

But Murphy argued during the trial that Gerby did not give consent for the search and so the search was illegal. He said Gerby did not know the drugs were in the car.

Gerby, a native of Israel, has a wife and five children.

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