Wyoming news briefs for June 7
Final health order expires
CASPER — As expected, the state of Wyoming entered June without any remaining health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state health department announced late last month that it was immediately eliminating one of the two health orders that were then in place: a requirement that indoor events of more than 500 people be held at a maximum of 50% of a venue’s capacity and that face masks and social distancing be required at such events.
The state said May 21 that it planned to allow the other coronavirus health order — one mandating face masks and social distancing at K-12 schools — to expire on June 1. Wyoming Department of Health spokesperson Kim Deti confirmed Friday that the state had decided against renewing the order.
Even the final remaining health order was only in effect for part of the state; more than half of Wyoming’s school districts, including the Natrona County School District, had received permission from the state health officer to lift the mask requirement. (In its May 21 announcement, the state also immediately removed the mask mandate for colleges in Wyoming.)
On the flip side, two counties in Wyoming still have districts with local health orders in effect related to face masks, according to Deti: Teton and Albany counties.
State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist previously said that the state was letting the health orders expire because the COVID-19 vaccine had been readily available for anyone in Wyoming who wants one for a while now.
Man sentenced to prison on stalking charge
CHEYENNE — A man accused of continuously stalking a woman in violation of his parole conditions and a protection order was sentenced to prison last week.
Eddie Lee Spigner Jr. was sentenced by Laramie County District Judge Thomas Campbell to three to eight years of incarceration for a felony stalking charge, which he received within five years of a previous conviction.
Additional charges – felony stalking (within five years of prior conviction), two counts of misdemeanor simple assault (attempt injury) and misdemeanor criminal entry – in a separate case involving the same woman were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Spigner was accused of stalking his former girlfriend at her home beginning on April 4, 2020 – two days after he was released from prison on a previous stalking conviction – and continuing until December 2020. Spigner made repeated contact with the woman at her apartment, despite being on parole for stalking the same woman in the past, according to court documents. At one point, Spigner walked up to the woman’s apartment and tried to open the front door.
Spigner was caught several times on surveillance footage walking around the woman’s apartment complex, according to court documents. In October, a Cheyenne Police officer responded to a report of a man in a ski mask looking into windows in the area.
The woman obtained a stalking protection order against Spigner on Nov. 6, after which he continued to show up at her apartment complex, according to court documents.
“You have tormented my family long enough,” the victim said in a statement.
Officials predict busy summer for DeSmet
SHERIDAN — In the summer of 2020, nearly double the number of boats were inspected at Lake DeSmet check stations than in 2019, and it’s likely that this summer will be another busy one.
“Last year was through the roof. Between April 18 and Sept. 27, when Lake DeSmet check stations were open, over 10,000 watercraft were inspected,” said Christina Schmidt, Wyoming Game and Fish Department public information specialist for the Sheridan Region. “In 2019, it was 5,768, so that number almost doubled.”
Reed Moore, aquatic invasive species specialist for the Game and Fish who supervises inspections, said the lake gets especially busy when the water temperature warms, and people head to the reservoir with boats in tow.
“We don’t get really busy until the water temperature is warmer, and right now it is still on the incline. But we are seeing people out fishing already, and statewide last year, we were up 40% from the previous year,” Moore said. “We don’t really have any way to track why that is, but pretty much everything regarding outdoor recreation, because of the pandemic, was up.”
With the introduction of kokanee salmon to the lake in 2019, and redoubled efforts to restore the rainbow trout population, it’s more important than ever to keep the ecosystem healthy. Everyone from agricultural water users to recreationalists depend on a healthy ecosystem at Lake DeSmet, and wildlife biologists are sampling fish populations this week. Boat inspections are also underway.
More people abandoning campfires in B-T Forest
JACKSON — More people than ever visited Jackson Hole in late May and early June, and those who spent their stay camping were pretty crummy about extinguishing their fires.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest is reporting that there were 21 abandoned campfires documented in the area in the weeks leading up to this past Wednesday. That’s a lot, considering that there were only seven abandoned fires detected through June 2 during 2020 and just three during the same pre-COVID-19 period in 2019.
“People just aren’t thinking of fire safety at this time of year,” Bridger-Teton spokeswoman Mary Cernicek said in a news release. “It’s like folks assume because it’s spring they don’t need to worry about putting out their campfires.”
“It is early,” she added, “but it only takes a couple of days of warm dry weather to dry things out.”
None of the still-hot fires found have sparked wildfires so far, but some have escaped their rings.
Best practices are to douse any campfire with water until it’s cold to the touch. Failing to do so leaves lingering embers at the whims of weather, and last fall there were a spate of abandoned hunter warming fires that sparked small wildfires.