House lawmakers narrowly approved a bill that would spend $1.4 million on cloud seeding in four Wyoming mountain ranges, despite objections that the plan had not been vetted by the Water Development Office or its citizen commission. The goal is to augment runoff in streams and rivers, but some feel the science behind the proposal is sketchy. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr/WyoFile)

The Wyoming House voted 30-27 Monday to spend $1.4 million for a cloud seeding program that hasn’t been reviewed by the Wyoming Water Development Commission.

Rep. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) proposed an amendment to the Omnibus Water Bill — Construction that would have removed the $1.4 million plan to start a cloud seeding program in four ranges — the Bighorn, Laramie, Medicine Bow and Sierra Madre mountains. The Water Development Commission had not vetted or recommended such a program; members of legislators’ Select Water Committee added the item.

“Do you want the planning process to work … or are we going to piecemeal this together,” Barlow said on the floor. The expenditure would be the first of many, he said. “There will be another request, (in) another year, for more money.”

Rep. Mike Greear (R-Worland) also worried about money, urging a year’s pause to see where the price of oil ends up. “Better off to put the brakes on this project,” he said.

Cloud-seeding opponents also said weather modification science wasn’t firm, even after spending close to $14 million in a decade-long study. “The fact is, we don’t know how effective it is,” Rep Michael Madden (R-Buffalo) said. “By the time you’re all done with this, you might have … maybe 2 to 3 percent more over the entire year. It doesn’t mean it’s going to rain all over the place.”

Such arguments didn’t sway the majority. “Weather modification works,” Rep. Stan Blake (D-Green River) said. Rep. Glenn Moniz (R-Laramie) said representatives should listen to the people they represent, not the “whine” of the appointed water commission.

The construction bill now is scheduled for a third house reading.

Move or eliminate bighorn sheep herd?

The Senate assigned a bill that would move or eliminate a bighorn sheep herd from the Bridger-Teton National Forest if domestic sheep grazing in the Wyoming Range is curtailed.

Senate File 133, Bighorn Sheep Relocation, would allocate $37,000 to the Game and Fish Department to remove the wild sheep “as a result of any federal judicial or agency action requiring the elimination or suspension of any domestic sheep grazing in the Wyoming Range of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.”

The bill was introduced last week and referred to the Senate Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee. It is sponsored by Sens. Stan Cooper (R-Kemmerer), Dan Dockstader (R-Afton), Fred Emerich (R-Cheyenne), Gerald Geis (R-Worland), and Larry Hicks (R-Baggs), and Reps. John Eklund (R-Cheyenne), Robert McKim (R-Afton) and Glenn Moniz (R-Laramie).

See the bill here

Game and Fish doesn’t list a huntable Darby herd — the name referred to in the proposed legislation — in its regulations or annual reports. But Dockstader said in an email Monday the measure applies to an area in Lincoln County where 13 bighorn sheep are in a “non-emphasis” area. A buffer zone would be created on the lower part of Bridger-Teton’s Greys River District, the north part of Kemmerer District and west side of the Big Piney District to keep domestic and wild sheep apart.

Bighorn sheep are susceptible to diseases, like pneumonia, spread from domestic sheep. The Forest Service has sought ways to separate the two species, including reducing domestic grazing allotments. Conservationists also have gone to court to protect bighorns on federal lands.

Taxing flared natural gas

Reps. Samuel Krone (R-Cody), Stan Blake (D-Green River) and Cathy Connolly (D-Laramie) introduced a bill Monday that would tax any natural gas that is flared for more than 90 days. House bill 238  would generate $600,000 in FY 2016 and $1.2 million in FY 2018, according to estimates by the Legislative Services Office.

Cyclists seeing red

Cyclists in Jackson Hole are seeing red over House bill 206 that would require bicyclists across the state to wear a reflective vest and have a government-issued photo identification and a flashing rear light while on highways. Many riders, who see the action as divisive and over-reaching, took out their anger in Facebook posts.

Representative(s) David Northrup (R-Powell), Donald Burkhart (R-Rawlins), Hans Hunt (R-Newcastle), Allen Jaggi (R-Lyman), Jerry Paxton (R-Encampment) and Cheri Steinmetz (R-Lingle) sponsored the bill, which has been referred to the House Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee.

House would take federal lands

Wyoming joined its western sagebrush-rebel cousins this week in advancing a bill that would study and demand the transfer of federal lands to the state.

The House on Thursday introduced its transfer bill and assigned it to the Judiciary Committee. Meantime the Senate has amended its transfer bill so that a $100,000 study investigates only management of certain federal property.

House Bill 209 states that “on or before December 31, 2017, the United States shall … extinguish title to all public lands; and (t)ransfer title to public lands to the state of Wyoming.” The bill would exclude national parks, wilderness areas, national monuments, the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway and some other properties.

For a story on the measure, click here.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at or (307)...

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  1. Aren’t there some productive bills to look at? This bunch is wasting their time and our money with these bills. They all sound like grandstanding to me. None of these bills stand a chance of doing anything positive for the people of Wyoming. Just a bunch of sour grapes.

    Ted Porwoll