Tracking a complex story for years requires patience, determination, grit, resourcefulness and a lot of notebooks. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Depth, context, backstory, research and human narrative — WyoFile strives to deliver more to our readers than just the blow-by-blow of the daily news cycle.

In a state with too few reporters it’s rarely easy and 2018, with its dizzying array of rapidly developing issues, held more than enough breaking news to keep WyoFile and Wyoming hopping. Economic diversification, LGBTQ rights, water development, state vs. federal power struggles and government transparency all stayed in the headlines. From a fast and furious legislative budget session (complete with a controversial “critical infrastructure” protection bill), through hard-fought elections and a historic battle over grizzly bear hunting, to the sentencing of Michael J. Ruffatto and the overturning of data-trespass laws the stories kept coming.

Yet the WyoFile team managed to step back occasionally from the chaos, widen the lens and dig a little deeper to reveal the forces at work behind the headlines and consider what they mean for the people, places and body politic of Wyoming.

The 12 stories below are a collection of staff favorites — stories that we feel best represent Wyoming in 2018 and our ongoing efforts to capture it on the page.   

In January, a high school student’s car was vandalized by people who found out she was gay. It forced a conversation with her family she wasn’t ready to have, she said. (photo provided by family)

Bullies tag gay Riverton teen’s car, then she finds a hero

As the debate over LGBTQ issues continues to heat up, this narrative of a gay Riverton teen’s persecutors and allies found that for some Wyoming residents, standing up against bullying is a reflex that comes with being part of the community.

Speaker of the House Steve Harshman (R-Casper) speaks to reporters on the first day of the 2018 session.

Did Steve Harshman save public schools or mortgage their future?

WyoFile examined the Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives and his approach to crafting and passing controversial education funding legislation. Did the high school football coach go the length of the field, or just gain some yards in Wyoming’s ongoing education funding struggle?

Glock semi-automatic pistols come in a 10mm calibre model that firearms enthusiasts, like those at the website AZ Trigger, believe to be powerful enough for defense against sizeable predators. One commenter at the site wrote, “9mm for the hood, 10mm for the woods.” (AZ Trigger/Glock)

10mm Glock ‘fully functional’ in fatal grizzly attack

News of hunting guide Mark Uptain’s death by grizzly bear initially brought as many questions as answers. WyoFile tracked the story for weeks, then asked critical questions to bring the events into focus and publish officials’ information — some of it contradictory.

The Two Elk Saga something new for WyoFile, a seven-part series and e-book that was published in weekly installments from May 20 to June 10, 2014. (Rone Tempest)

Two Elk: The story behind the story

One reporter brought the Two Elk scandal to light and tracked the twisting tale of greed, fraud and government ineptitude for more than a decade. WyoFile founder Rone Tempest tells the story as it looked from behind his reporter’s notebook.

Wayne Moccasin points at where a strip coal mine proposed by Gillette-based Cloud Peak Energy would head through his family’s land. Together with four of his siblings, he has declined leasing offers from the coal company even as the Crow Tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs seek to move the development forward. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

A coal fight in Indian country turns ugly

A negotiation over surface coal leasing between a Crow family and Cloud Peak Energy turned bitter, resurfacing some of the West’s most persistent questions.

A 1999 photo captures both a young Robert Ramirez (back right in backwards hat) and Derek Colling (front in striped shirt). Colling, a Sheriff’s Deputy, shot and killed Ramirez following a traffic stop. (Photo provided by Debbie Hinkel)

Two lives, a police shooting and Laramie torn asunder

WyoFile charted the paths of Robbie Ramirez and Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Colling — from shared high school experience, through disparate struggles, to fatal collision.

The Sand Dunes BLM Wilderness Study Area covers more than 26,000 acres near the Boars Tusk in Sweetwater County, one of two key counties that chose not to participate in the public lands initiative. The BLM in 1991 recommended 21,000 acres be permanently protected as wilderness and off limits to motorized travel and mineral development. (BLM)

Wilderness effort founders at key juncture

Conservationists called foul over a long-running effort to sort out Wyoming’s Wilderness Study Areas. They said rules were changed, deadlines moved and bargaining options unfairly limited by D.C. meddling after years of good-faith, local collaboration.

The Kemmerer Mine serves as a backdrop to PacifiCorp’s Naughton Plant, which is a major consumer of the mine’s coal, but is set to shut down coal-burning operations at one of its three units by the end of January 2019. That closing and Westmoreland Coal Company’s bankruptcy has Kemmerer residents worried that the mine might shut down and the town “just about blow away.” (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

Coal miners: Westmoreland bosses for naughty list, not bonuses

It was a year of turmoil for Wyoming’s coal industry. Buffeted by economic forces beyond their control, union members in Kemmerer fought payouts for mid-level managers while trying to save their pensions and health care.

Jeff Locker visits the site of a former unlined effluent pit, now filled in, next to a gas well in the Pavillion Field. Experts say hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel-based drilling mud and fracking fluids were pumped into about 45 unlined pits, leached into the groundwater and likely contaminated nearby domestic water wells. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)

Pavillion water experts fault leaky gas wells, unlined pits

Years after water contamination was discovered in central Wyoming, an independent assessment indicated the sources of pollution. WyoFile’s coverage of the new development offers perhaps the most comprehensive explanation yet of the long-running saga.

Crowheart Butte creates a distinctive landmark as it rises from the prairie. (Greg Westfall/Flickr Creative Commons)

The battle of Crowheart Butte

The history of a prominent geographic feature in the Wind River valley reminds many of Chief Washakie and his leadership.

Foster Friess (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Friess suggests election-law change following loss

The ex-candidate asked other GOP also-rans whether they want to explore new law to keep voters from choosing primaries on election day. The story was the first sign that Foster Friess’ involvement in Wyoming politics would carry on past his surprising but unsuccessful election bid.

A crew drills a groundwater monitoring well at a study location near Lone Tree Creek in Laramie County. Declining groundwater levels have led to restrictions on new water development and a rush by energy companies to buy and temporarily transfer water use from irrigators and others. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Why a wrinkle in Wyo water law is worth millions

Temporary water transfers allow water-rights holders to sell the rights to billions of gallons of state-owned water for millions of dollars. Almost none of it goes to Wyoming.

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