Cooper McKim

Natural Resources & Energy Reporter

Phone: 307-766-0809
Email: cmckim5@uwyo.edu

Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and now Wyoming. In South Carolina, he covered recovery efforts from a devastating flood in 2015. Throughout his time, he produced breaking news segments and short features for NPR. Cooper recently graduated from Tufts University with degrees in Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.

 

Ways to Connect

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Interior Department is expected to take its first tangible step in making large changes to sage grouse management plans. Ninety-eight of these plans were established in 2015 across 10 western states. They came after more than a decade of collaboration in hopes of avoiding an endangered species listing for the chicken-like bird.

Earthjustice

The Obama-era “Fracking Rule" that would increase safety and transparency regulations for oil and gas companies is back on the table. A federal appeals court vacated a 2015 decision that stopped the fracking rule, citing government overreach and costliness.

Red Desert
Sam Cox / US Department of Agriculture

The Wilderness Society, a national conservation group, has designated the northern Red Desert as one of 15 wildland areas most at-risk of energy development on public lands. The Red Desert in southern Wyoming is home to several hundred wildlife species and numerous wilderness study areas, and up till now, has avoided significant energy development.  

But the Bureau of Land Management is reconsidering its management plan, which could result in renewed oil and gas drilling.

Snake River in the Snake River Canyon of Wyoming near Alpine
Joe Tordiff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allowing a reclassification of nearly 80 percent of Wyoming’s waterways as secondary contact recreation. That means those streams are no longer recommended sites for swimming, tubing, fishing, or recreation in general — unlike the primary contact recreation status.

The DEQ’s Lindsey Paterson said these waters don’t make sense for recreation anyway. They’re shallow with little flow and are in remote areas. The change also means those waterways are allowed to hold five times the level of e. coli, an indicator for pathogens. 

Cooper McKim

  

Energy companies, environmentalists, ranchers and government officials are getting back together at meetings across the West this fall to talk about the fate of a chicken-like bird.

 

Many of these so-called stakeholders have sat at this table before. The well-being of the Greater Sage Grouse was the focus of a hard-fought compromise among 11 states, finalized a few years ago.

 

Sage Grouse Implementation Team meeting, 09/15/17
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

The sage grouse implementation team met for the first time since the Department of Interior announced recommendations to a collaborative state and federal Obama era plan. But early last month, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended changes to the plan that would loosen restrictions on energy development while giving states more flexibility in implementing their own sage grouse protection plans.

Public Lands in Wyoming
Bob Wick, BLM / Bureau of Land Management

Representative Liz Cheney is co-sponsoring a proposed bill that would allow states more power over leasing federal lands for energy development. The majority of Wyoming’s oil and gas development occurs on federal land. She said it could help reverse the decline in lease sales.

Black-footed Ferret
J. Michael Lockhart / USFWS

Wyoming biologists have spotted the first wild-born black-footed ferrets in over 35 years. They were found this week at a ranch outside of Meeteetse. The Game and Fish Department introduced a large number of black-footed ferrets at two ranches there last summer in hopes of developing self-sustaining populations.

Cooper McKim

  

Paul Miller just got back from a 12-day hunting trip outside of Cody with some friends. 

 

"Yeah, we went on a mountain goat and bighorn sheep hunt. One guy drew both tags and we archery hunted it for a couple of days, then we hunted sheep with a rifle,” Miller said.

 

ENDOW, Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming, logo
ENDOW

The state’s economic diversification group, or ENDOW, has submitted its first report to Governor Mead and the state legislature. It attempts to establish a baseline on the status of Wyoming's economy. The report outlines workforce data, state-by-state comparisons, and trends in different sectors.

An aerial view shows severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey near Rockport, Holiday Beach and Port Aransas, Texas, Aug. 27, 2017.
Army National Guard

Wyoming and Colorado residents are traveling to Texas to volunteer after the record-breaking Hurricane Harvey. About 32 people are there now volunteering with the Red Cross with another 20 expected by the end of the week.

Hurricane Harvey has battered southeastern Texas for nearly a week dropping more than 50 inches of rain, a continental record according to the National Weather Service. Red Cross has set up 30 shelters around the state to house evacuees.

Erin Campbell out in the field
Provided by Wyoming State Geological Survey

Governor Matt Mead has chosen Erin Campbell as the new state geologist and director of the Wyoming State Geological Survey, or WSGS. A role responsible for studying the state's mineral resources and advising the government.  

Erin Campbell will enter her position with a background in government, industry, and education. She taught geology at the University of Wyoming for 15 years and is currently the manager of energy and natural resources at the WSGS. She’s also the first woman to hold the position.

Goshen County is not used to being a major destination. But thanks to the eclipse, it was. Over 100,000 people visited the county to set up tents and campers as well as visit local festivities.  Reporter Cooper McKim flew over the county, saw downtown Tor
Cooper McKim

Goshen County is not used to being a major destination. But thanks to the eclipse, it was. Over 100,000 people visited the county to set up tents and campers as well as visit local festivities. Reporter Cooper McKim flew over the county, saw downtown Torrington celebrate, and witnessed the eclipse with hundreds of others in Fort Laramie. Here’s what it felt like to be there:

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Sacramento, US

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has approved a regulation that would allow captive breeding of greater sage grouse in the state. The law would allow specially licensed private farms to possess, breed, and sell the bird.

287 Lander Southeast
WyDOT

Traffic got back to normal yesterday, according to Wyoming’s Department of Transportation. Officials reported historic levels of traffic Monday, the 21, following the solar eclipse or a 68 percent increase of overall traffic compared to the five-year average for the third Monday in August — much of that concentrated in central, western, and southern Wyoming.

Doug McGee, public affairs manager for WYDOT, said visitors started entering the state in larger numbers last Wednesday, picking up each day leading to the eclipse.

Site overlooking Fort Laramie B & B
Cooper McKim

During the eclipse, the Fort Laramie B & B saw a bigger crowd than they have ever seen. The four-bedroom lodge saw more than a hundred camped out. The crowd was comprised of a family reunion, researchers, and tourists all gathered together. A group from the University of Montana was there thanks to a space grant from NASA. 

One student, Loren Spencer, took advantage of the clear sky the night before the eclipse to set up his telescope. With several gathered around, he pointed to a long streak that he identified as the Milky Way. 

 At Torrington's H & R Block with Sally Cole, Linda Keener, Dawn Pickinpaugh -- in order from left to right
Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

On a sunny day in downtown Torrington, local businesses are getting ready for the solar eclipse that’s now only days away. The H & R Block is one of them — accountants there are selling original eclipse-themed t-shirts. There’s a table outside, with black and white shirts of all sizes hung up behind it.

“So, what was the inspiration to make these shirts and to sell them here?” I asked. 

“Bills!” Sally Cole replied.

Wyoming toad
Sara Armstrong / USFWS Mountain-Prairie

While you’re watching the eclipse next week, you might notice a change in the sound of wildlife around you. With the sudden switch from light to dark, along with a temperature drop, the eclipse may affect the behavior of certain animals — like rodents, birds, and amphibians.  

Grant Frost, a biologist with Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department, said, “Some animals will begin to awaken, to stir, because they think that night is coming on . . . you might hear some changes in the calls they make just because they’re thinking they should gather together or whatever the activity is.”

A greater sage-grouse male struts for a female at a lek (dancing or mating ground) near Bridgeport, CA
Jeannie Stafford / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is concerned about the Interior Department’s recommendations to the sage grouse conservation plans. The federal agency released a report this week outlining recommendations to the 2015 plan, including giving states more leniency in enforcing the rules and changing the focus from habitat management to population goals.

A male Sage Grouse (also known as the Greater Sage Grouse) in the USA
Pacific Southwest Region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from Sacramento, US

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to make fundamental changes to a sage grouse conservation plan adopted under the Obama administration. They could make it easier for ranchers and energy companies to move into sagebrush habitat that’s now off limits. 

Cooper McKim

At the center of the dusty Pinedale-Anticline field looking over the Wind River Range, Erika Tokarz stands on Ultra Petroleum’s  Riverside 9-2 pad which is home to several wellheads. Across the road, workers in hard-hats and sunglasses crisscross the plot of land with a massive tower at its center, working to drill a hole for natural gas. 

 

POWDER RIVER BASIN RESOURCE COUNCIL

The Environmental Quality Council, or EQC, will not accept a permit for the proposed Brook Mine. The independent review board is made up of five council members. In a four to one vote, the EQC decided the permit application was incomplete.

The council brought up several deficiencies with the permit application including lack of information on subsidence, the costs of land reclamation, and effects on hydrology. All members agreed Brook Mine LLC should have held sessions for public input before it submitted a permit application. 

The sign at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park
Wikimedia Commons: Guerillero

The Department of Interior will contribute $53 million to the National Park Service this year with funds going to 42 parks including Grand Teton and Yellowstone. The goal of the incoming money will be to address high priority maintenance projects. For Yellowstone, that means improving trails, retaining walls, and overlooks for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Cooper McKim

A conservation group has expressed skepticism about a federal grant announced by Ramaco Carbon, LLC, a coal company that intends to build a mine north of Sheridan. Ramaco recently announced a $7 million grant from the Department of Energy to develop low-cost carbon-fiber components made from coal instead of oil.

Proposed Brook Mine Land
Cooper McKim

A press release from Ramaco, a Kentucky-based coal company, says the Department of Energy has awarded it a $7 million grant.  The grant is geared towards developing a low-cost carbon fiber using coal as the raw material. Carbon fiber is traditionally made with oil.

 

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