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Statewide foundation grants $200,000 to 21 county nonprofits

LARAMIE — The Wyoming Community Foundation recently awarded $212,500 to 21 nonprofits in Natrona County as part of its annual grant-making process.

The McMurry Library Fund also made a distribution to the Natrona County Public Library Foundation.

“Grant requests have increased over the past few years, and we don’t anticipate requests to slow down next year,” said foundation program associate Anita McLaughlin. “We know we can’t fill all of the gaps, but we are thrilled that with support from donors, many community projects are being supported.”

Following its most recent board meeting, the statewide organization reported it distributed $996,632 to various organizations with an additional $188,305 given in individual scholarship money.

In 2016, the community foundation granted $8.1 million to charitable organizations across the state and hopes this year will bring similar numbers.

The foundation counts on donor support for grant-making. The organization holds over 400 funds for families, individual donors, businesses and nonprofits. These funds are invested, and the returns are used to support charitable causes.

The Wyoming Community Foundation’s next grant application deadline is Dec. 15. Nonprofit organizations working to strengthen their communities are encouraged to apply.

In Natrona County, the Wyoming Community Foundation’s local board granted money to: Artcore, Boy Scouts of America, Casper Chamber Music Society, Casper Downtown Development Authority, Casper Family YMCA, Central WY Senior Services, Child Development Center of Natrona County, Children’s Advocacy Project, Habitat for Humanity, the Heart of WY; Jason’s Friends, Joshua’s Storehouse, Meals on Wheels, Mike Sedar BMX Parents Association, NAMI Casper, Platte River Trails Trust, Reach 4A Star Riding Academy, Science Zone, Self-Help Center, WY Business Coalition on Health, WY Senior Citizens, and Wyoming Symphony Orchestra.

For more information about the Wyoming Community Foundation, the organizations it supports, or getting involved, visit or call 307-721-8300.

Yellowstone lookout project would hurt views at Mt. Washburn

Communications towers proposed for a historic fire lookout and popular hiking destination in Yellowstone National Park would detract from its views, park officials have determined.

The finding has triggered consultations with Wyoming preservation officials to look for ways to minimize the impact.

Yellowstone is proposing to erect a three-sided mounting structure with 40-foot towers for cellular antennae and other equipment around the Mt. Washburn Fire Lookout.

It’s part of a broader effort to improve Yellowstone’s wireless infrastructure and cell service in developed areas — changes that have sparked debate over how much connectivity is appropriate in a park that for many visitors offers an escape from an increasingly linked-in world.

The determination that the Mt. Washburn proposal would have an “adverse” visual effect was included in a letter from Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk to preservation officials that was obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Park officials will consult with Wyoming’s historic preservation office on ways to minimize or offset the equipment’s visual impact, said Yellowstone spokeswoman Morgan Warthin.

The new towers and mounting structure would allow for the removal of telecommunications equipment that’s been installed on the lookout tower over the course of decades, park officials have said.

Wyoming Historic Preservation Officer Mary Hopkins said that would benefit the structure itself but there still would be visual impacts.

“I don’t think it’s going to look any worse,” Hopkins said. “Our concern is the historic structure and the effect on that only — not whether there’s cell service.”

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility Executive Director Jeff Ruch said the park was making a bad situation worse.

“It was ugly and it’s about to get ugly squared,” Ruch said. “Given the nature of what they’re proposing, we’re not sure how you can eliminate the adverse impact other than by putting a cloak of invisibility on the whole structure.”

Natrona County judge appointed to commission that reviews ethical conduct

A Natrona County District Court judge has been appointed to a statewide commission governing judges’ ethical conduct.

Catherine Wilking, of Casper, was appointed to the 12-member Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics after being elected by her fellow judges, the commission announced Wednesday.

The commission is tasked with reviewing and investigating complaints that allege judicial misconduct. It can also choose to initiate investigations of its own accord.

The ethics committee made news in 2016 after sending a Pinedale magistrate before the state supreme court for refusing to marry gay couples. She was eventually censured by the court and ordered to perform marriages for both gay and straight couples or none at all. The court also censured a retired Sublette County judge in 2007 following a commission investigation for failure to exercise proper oversight over a court clerk who was also his wife.

Six private citizens compose the commission, along with three lawyers and three judges. The private citizens are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate, while lawyers are appointed by the state bar association.

Wilking took the seat vacated by retired Rawlins judge Wade E. Waldrip.

Wilking was sworn in as a district court judge in 2011. In her time on the bench, she sentenced a Casper couple to a combined 90 years in prison for ongoing sexual assault, ruled that Casper municipal court had been illegally sentencing minors to probation for possessing alcohol and sentenced a probation officer to a Casper Re-Entry Center program for stealing probationers’ drugs and a puppy.