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Conservative Movement: Freedom Caucus Could Gain… | Cowboy State Daily

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Conservative Movement: Freedom Caucus Could Gain… | Cowboy State Daily


Will 2024 be the year the Wyoming Freedom Caucus gains control of the state House?

State Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, chairman of the growing Republican group, sure hopes so.

Bear said he’s personally taking responsibility for whether or not the Freedom Caucus gains seats in the Wyoming Legislature in the upcoming election. Falling short, he said, “would be a huge disappointment for me.”

Whether this will be the year that the farther right group of Republicans known as the Wyoming Freedom Caucus gains enough seats to have a controlling majority is a hot topic in state political circles.

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The answer won’t come until primary election day Aug. 20, when voters will get to say how they feel about the direction the state has been trending over the past couple of years.

By all accounts, 2022 was a positive year for the farther right in Wyoming and Republicans as a whole. The party has padded its supermajority lead by gaining legislative seats over the last two election cycles and has the most Republican-dominated Legislature in the country.

But to some like Wyoming Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne, these numbers are all a facade, imploring the audience at a political rally held in Casper on Sunday to “turn this Legislature red.”

Multiple members of the Freedom Caucus who Cowboy State Daily spoke with at the rally and in recent weeks have expressed confidence about their chances in the August primary.

They’re also convinced that most people in Wyoming agree with their political beliefs and that they aren’t being effectively represented.

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If the current presidential polls are any indication of the final outcome of that race, and if the results of Republican primaries in other states are also an effective barometer, farther right Republicans might be in for a banner year nationally in 2024.

Bear said he sees these results, and what people are telling him, as positive signs for things to come in the Cowboy State.

“I’m confident that things are going to progress to the right in the House,” he said.

By The Numbers

While Republicans have a supermajority in Wyoming, there’s a growing division between the Freedom Caucus and others in the party who say they’re too far right. Conversely, members of the Freedom Caucus have said these more centrist Republicans as being “liberals” and couch them as adversaries who side with Democrats.

There are 25-26 Republican members of the Wyoming House who are politically aligned with the Freedom Caucus. That leaves about 31 other Republicans and the five Democrats.

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Based on those numbers, the Freedom Caucus could gain as few as three seats to claim a majority of the Republican seats in the House. It would have to gain at least five or six seats to take a full majority.

Bear said he sees the former as a more attainable goal.

“If we grow, it means our messaging is working,” he said.

If not, he said the group has to improve its communication tactics.

Bear also pointed out how the Freedom Caucus has likely already clinched two new seats in the upcoming election.

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These are the races involving Sheridan resident Laurie Bratten and Casper resident J.R. Riggins, who are both running unopposed to replace outgoing Reps. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, and Kevin O-Hearn, R-Mills. No Independent candidates have signed up to take on Bratten or Riggins for the general election yet.

If the Freedom Caucus gains a majority of Republican seats, but not a majority of the total seats in the House, a likely narrative the group will promote is any alliance that forms between other Republicans and Democrats on bills.

The numbers in the Senate are a bit more hazy, and the Freedom Caucus is not directly involved in campaigning any of those races.

But the budget stalemate that played out during the most recent legislative session shows that the chamber is on the precipice of falling to legislators aligned with the Freedom Caucus and may only need to gain one or two seats to do so.

However, well-known members of the Wyoming Caucus, a group that’s organized to oppose the Freedom Caucus, like House Speaker Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale, Reps. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, and Barry Crago, R-Buffalo, are all running for the Senate.

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Some have argued that the differences between the two caucuses are overstated and that they agree on most issues.

Others like Bear have pointed to various political scorecards and analysis that show non-Wyoming Freedom Caucus Republican representatives vote much more in unison and closer to Democrats.

Other Perspective

Rep. Jon Conrad, R-Mountain View, asserts that scorecards like these are skewed by the personal biases of those making them, are often too limited and shouldn’t be trusted.

He believes certain people are latching on to catchphrases and shortsighted posturing in Wyoming to determine who they do and don’t like based on sometimes “nefarious reasons.”

“All of us in the Legislature are trying to meet the expectations of our constituents,” he said. “Whether a legislator is conservative or not is being designated by people who don’t designate by looking at all the votes.”

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He pointed to the issue of property taxes.

During the most recent legislative session, four bills passed into law providing different forms of tax relief in Wyoming, and the fifth was vetoed by the governor. Conrad sees this as a sign of legitimate progress on the issue, but admitted many of his constituents want more, which he wants to help with.

Conrad is against a 2026 property tax initiative supported by most of the farther right that would cut property taxes by 50% in Wyoming. He believes it would decimate the state’s counties and schools.

He does, however, support an amendment going before the voters this fall to add a separate class of taxation for residential that will give the Legislature much more flexibility to address the issue.

“We need to promote and do more without hurting the respective services in these communities,” he said.

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Conrad believes that what’s seen as conservative in one part of Wyoming could be very different in another and that people are more concerned with specific issues rather than this label.

He believes deciding who is a conservative or not is a choice that should be made only by the voters, who he encourages to research every vote their legislator makes.

Do They Represent Wyoming?

Although Wyoming has the biggest Republican majority in the country amongst its voters and the candidates they elect, the state has not passed the most conservative legislation into law by volume, a claim better represented by states like Florida, Idaho and Texas.

It’s a dynamic representative of the state’s place in the West, a region of the country historically known for Libertarian beliefs and more centrist politics. That legacy has been dwindling away over the last few decades with states like Colorado, Washington and California drifting noticeably to the left, and other states like South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming moving right.

Based on election results, strong arguments could be made for both camps that they are more representative of Wyoming, or at least were so in 2022.

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“We’re in the majority with those beliefs,” said Rep. Tony Locke, R-Casper, a member of the Freedom Caucus. “Conservative people in this state have to find their voice.”

Backed by former President Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman coasted to a 38-percentage-point primary victory over former congresswoman Liz Cheney in her 2022 election. That same year, Gov. Mark Gordon, considered more moderate politically, easily beat his primary and general election opponents in his reelection bid.

Sunday’s political rally was held to give some of the farther right Legislature candidates in Casper, Hageman and Secretary of State Chuck Gray a chance to speak.

“I know that Wyoming has some champions in the Legislature already and I believe we need a few more,” said Jayme Lien, who’s running for House District 38 in Casper.

A spokesperson for Hageman’s campaign said although her presence at the rally and others like it this summer shouldn’t be seen as a formal endorsement of the candidates there, she does have a message for the Wyoming voters.

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“The congresswoman believes there are strong conservatives throughout Wyoming and encourages voters to research the voting records and pledges made by the candidates to find the true conservative voices,” Tim Murtaugh, a spokesperson for Hageman said.

During her speech, Hageman also blasted lawmakers in Wyoming who followed COVID-19 mask mandates.

Locke urged those in attendance to expand the number of people they talk to about politics to avoid an “echo chamber,” but nearly all of the candidates who spoke there expressed extremely similar political views.

Although small government representation and lower regulation are Republican fundamentals, some of the bills supported by the Freedom Caucus would do exactly the opposite, putting certain restrictions on health options and small businesses.

Ineffective representation from the Legislature was one of the hallmark complaints expressed at the rally. In short, many farther right conservatives like those who spoke on Sunday believe a majority of the state’s Republican legislators have been duping their voters into making them believe they are more conservative than they actually are.

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“I’m tired of electing Republicans and having them voting like Democrats,” said Glenrock resident Kevin Campbell, a candidate in House District 62.

But Bear believes voters are becoming more informed about voting records due to the handful of conservative political ranking websites that have popped over the last few years, social media, and his group’s messaging efforts. The simple presence of the Freedom Caucus, Bear said, has “piqued people’s interest.”

Hageman and Gray have been some of the most prolific faces in Wyoming’s farther right political movement. Both are strong supporters of former President Donald Trump, who Wyoming voted to support with a larger margin than any other state in 2020.

Gray and Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, were also on-hand for Sunday’s rally. They were some of the earliest members of the Freedom Caucus in Wyoming. Gray mentioned how when he first entered the State House in 2016, he only viewed six of the 51 Republican members as conservative.

“It was so disturbing,” he said.

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Jennings believes the candidates he sees as true conservatives will be taking over in the upcoming election.

“Going door-to-door talking to people, they’re disappointed with what leadership has done,” he said.

Then What Happens?

In his final words given to the roughly 150 people in attendance on Sunday, Gray painted a picture of Wyoming as being run by a powerful cabal made up by the media and establishment politicians.

“This media and the insiders, they’re going to throw everything at you,” Gray told the audience. “We know the coalition we’re up against. It’s the coalition of the media, the insiders and the Democrats, and the insiders are what I call the RINOs (Republican in name only).”

It’s easy to fight for power, but what matters even more is when that power is finally attained.

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Some like Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, a member of the Wyoming Caucus, have warned that Wyoming people may have to learn the hard way what the Freedom Caucus will do when they come into power.

“You’re going to see a significant reduction in the amount of spending from the state of Wyoming on specifically social services for the state of Wyoming,” Brown told Cowboy State Daily in June. “I think people in the state of Wyoming will quickly see what damage people in the Freedom Caucus can be doing to our state and how atrocious their policy decisions can actually be to us.”

At Sunday’s event, Hageman promoted her efforts to abolish the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Reserve.

“Being courageous in my mind is speaking truth to power,” Hageman said. “We have to be able to be willing to stand up and regardless of what the personal risk may be, you have to be able to call people out for the bad acts that they commit.”

Bear said although he supports these efforts personally, he doesn’t find them indicative of the type of actions the Freedom Caucus will take if it gains control of the House or Legislature.

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He sees legislation like this as a way to start a conversation about broader conservative concepts.

“She’s just throwing a pebble down a mountain,” he said. “Politically, it’s not going to start an avalanche but if we don’t try, it takes a lot longer.”

Riggins and Bear believe the country has been moving in a leftward trajectory for a number of decades. Rightward political gains, they argue, have been more measured and limited. Although this may be true in the long term, the U.S. Supreme Court has made notable advances for conservatives in recent years.

“When this country was started it was started by Puritans, we’ve never seen it move back,” Bear said.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at leo@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Wyoming

Cowboy State Daily Video News: Thursday, July 25, 2024

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Cowboy State Daily Video News: Thursday, July 25, 2024


It’s time to take a look at what’s happening around Wyoming, for Thursday, July 25th. I’m Wendy Corr, bringing you headlines from the Cowboy State Daily newsroom – brought to you by Wyoming Senior Olympics, reminding you that this year’s Summer Olympics start July 31st in Cheyenne – and volunteers are needed! Become a volunteer today at Wyoming senior Olympics dot org.

U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman is catching heat from the Wyoming Democratic Party for saying Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris was hired by President Joe Biden to be his VP, not because of her qualifications, but because her race and gender fulfilled the president’s diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, goals. 

Cowboy State Daily’s Leo Wolfson reports that the Wyoming Democratic Party took offense to these comments, calling them “racist.” 

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“This stems from a comment that President Joe Biden made back in 2019 when he said he was looking to find a person of color and a woman to fill his VP role, which obviously Harris fulfills both those requirements. But the Democratic Party of Wyoming finds this was a racist comment on Hageman’s part, and they want her to apologize for making it.”

Hageman said, quote, “If you don’t want people to say she was hired only because she’s a black woman, then maybe Biden shouldn’t have said he was only gonna hire a black woman.” Endquote.

Read the full story HERE.

On Tuesday, the Black Diamond Pool in Yellowstone National Park violently erupted. The force of the eruption sent rocks hundreds of feet into the air and destroyed the boardwalk that dozens of people had been standing on when it blew. 

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Cowboy State Daily’s Andrew Rossi spoke to Mike Poland, scientist-in-charge of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, about the science behind the event, which Poland categorized as a “small” hydrothermal explosion. 

“A hydrothermal explosion happens when water converts to steam, because it expands so much, up to 1000 times, just creates a lot of energy, and that’s what happened beneath Black Diamond Pool on Tuesday… Poland told me that these kind of hydrothermal explosions happen, maybe not all the time, but there are at least a couple of them every year… I guess the scary thing is, they can happen anywhere at anytime in Yellowstone.”

The Biscuit Basin boardwalk remains closed to visitors while geologists and National Park Service teams assess the damage and current behavior of Black Diamond Pool. 

Read the full story HERE.

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Residents in a small Montana town were saddened and angered when they learned a headless grizzly carcass that was left in the Yellowstone River was a popular bear well known to townspeople. 

The 15-year-old male was Grizzly 769, a bear dubbed the Blacktail Lakes Bear. And outdoors reporter Mark Heinz says this was the same bear that had made trouble in Gardiner, Montana, and had to be put down by wildlife agents.

“They shot it when it was in the river, because they figured that was the safest option, rather than trying to shoot it in the middle of a bunch of houses and stuff. And it died and the carcass sort of floated down the river… and it finally got hung up and stopped in a place where they just couldn’t get it from shore… So what they did is they cut off the head and the paws of the grizzly because grizzly claws can bring a lot of money on the black market.”

Despite what some see as a terrible waste, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks sees as nature taking care of business, as the carcass of the bear is already being scavenged by bald eagles and other predators.

Read the full story HERE.

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The collapse in coal production continues out of the state’s energy-rich Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming. 

Second quarter data released Wednesday by the Wyoming State Geological Survey shows coal production has slipped nearly 30% from the second quarter of 2023 – and that’s on top of the 21% drop in the first quarter, according to energy reporter Pat Maio.

“The reasons are because, you know, there’s a lot of stockpiles out there still of coal, and the winter was very light, and natural gas prices are low. And, you know, there’s not been a rebound in the market, which is bad for the Powder River Basin.” 

But Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Industry, said he’s cautiously optimistic of signs of a rebound coming in the second half of the year, and into 2025.

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Read the full story HERE.

Former President Donald Trump has scheduled a campaign stop in Wyoming early next month.

Trump is scheduled to attend a fundraiser for his campaign in Jackson on Aug. 10. It will be his second visit to the Cowboy State in the last two years, according to politics reporter Leo Wolfson.

“He came here in 2022 for a campaign fundraiser for Congresswoman Harriet Hagaman. The event that’s going to be taking place on August 10 is big money all the way, which is no surprise that they selected Jackson, which is one of the wealthiest towns and counties in America for the event. It will cost 5000 to get into the event just to get in itself.” 

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A photo with Trump at the event will run $35,000 or a pledge to raise $70,000. Co-hosting, which includes a table, photo with Trump and an entry to the lunch reception, comes with a $150,000 price tag.

Read the full story HERE.

And two men involved in saving an 11-year-old boy who’d fallen into the whitewater rapids of the Popo Agie River in May say they are convinced the rescue was a miracle from start to finish.

Lonnie Porter and Ronnie Disbrow were recognized during Cheyenne Frontier Days as Hometown Heroes, in front of a crowd of at least 10,000 spectators, earning them a standing ovation. The men told Cowboy State Daily’s Renee Jean that a series of fortunate coincidences that day saved the boy from certain death.

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“This kid lost a croc. So he reached down into the water to pick it up, and the water just was going so fast, it just grabbed him and swept him in… There’s about 10 things that if any one of them had been different, that kid would have gone into the Sinks Canyon and we would have never seen him again.” 

It only takes 10 minutes of hypothermic conditions to put most people out of commission, and the child had already been in the water for 35 minutes by the time the rescuers arrived. Porter and Disbrow credit divine intervention for the happy ending to this story.

Read the full story HERE. 

A massive ground search is underway for a visiting University of Wyoming professor who has been missing for more than two weeks.

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Nash Quinn, a 39-year-old fine arts professor, avid cyclist and disc golf player, has not been seen or heard from since July 8 – although the sheriff’s department didn’t get involved in the search until this past Sunday, according to Cowboy State Daily’s Jen Kocher. 

“There were dozens and dozens of volunteers out today. And the it’s a lot of territory was covered. So far, no sighting of him. I just checked in with the Albany County sheriff who is since joining the search as of Sunday. And they’ve got all kinds of assets out there. They’ve got a search and rescue crew and they also have ATVs and all different stuff.”

Quinn is described as a white man with a thin build, with dark blonde hair and blue eyes and a mustache, and wears glasses. His Ridley bike is white with a brown leather seat and 29-inch wheels.

Read the full story HERE.

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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department have come up with a seemingly sci-fi way to combat brook trout that have been taking over the Game Creek area, part of the upper Snake River drainage, from native cutthroats. 

Cowboy State Daily’s Mark Heinz reports that biologists have genetically-altered male brook trout, which then can mate with wild brook trout, but the offspring produced can only be male. That means years of interbreeding with these Trojan fish should produce an all-male population, unable to reproduce. 

“They’re called Trojan male fish, brook trout. Basically, they have two Y chromosomes instead of the usual x and y of a male. I’m not sure how all the science works, but … the idea is you’re eventually going to get to the point where the entire brook trout population is nothing but males. Of course, what happens is, they die out. And so that’s a way to effectively eradicate the brook trout from this drainage, where they’ve been competing with native Yellowstone cuts.”

If things go well in Game Creek, Game and Fish might consider using this method for population control in other fisheries.

Read the full story HERE.

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A Douglas woman has agreed to spend at least the next 10 years in prison for causing her 81-year-old mother’s death.

54-year-old Edwina “GiGi” Leman pleaded guilty to one count of elder abuse and no contest to one count of voluntary manslaughter this month for breaking her mother’s femur, which led to health complications that ended up killing her. Cowboy State Daily’s Clair McFarland explains the plea deal.

“Pleading guilty to abusing a vulnerable adult, she had to essentially confess in court to give a factual basis for what she had done. Whereas pleading no contest to the actual killing, to the fatality of it, All she had to do was agree that the state has enough evidence to convict her. So she’s admitted to abusing her mother. And she’s simply not disagreeing that she killed her mother.”

Leman accepted a plea agreement that allow her to serve no fewer than 10 years, while prosecutors can ask for up to 20 years, the legal maximum for manslaughter. The terms will be decided at sentencing. 

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Read the full story HERE.

During Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Cheyenne Train Depot is the scene of a long-standing tradition that’s about as Americana as it gets.

Three times during each celebration, a free pancake feed is held that – in total over the years – has served 4.5 million pancakes to over 1.4 million guests. Cowboy State Daily’s Renee Jean reports that it’s an incredible sight.

“There’s just a river of people flowing into the depot from every possible direction… The original purpose of this, though, was not just a grand gesture of Western hospitality for Cheyenne Frontier Days, it was actually an emergency management training exercise to practice feeding as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. And these guys could feed 10,000 people in two hours.” 

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It takes 5,000 pounds of batter to pull the event off each year, along with 425 gallons of syrup. About 30,000 people in all will be served this year.

Read the full story HERE.

Radio Stations

The following radio stations are airing Cowboy State Daily Radio on weekday mornings, afternoons and evenings. 

KYDT 103.1 FM – Sundance

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KBFS 1450 AM — Sundance

KYCN 1340 AM / 92.7 FM — Wheatland

KZEW 101.7 FM — Wheatland

KANT 104.1 FM — Guernsey

KZQL 105.5 FM — Casper

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KMXW 92.5 FM — Casper

KJAX 93.5 FM — Jackson

KROE 930 AM / 103.9 FM — Sheridan

KWYO 1410 AM / 106.9 FM  — Sheridan

KYOY 92.3 FM Hillsdale-Cheyenne / 106.9 FM Cheyenne

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KRAE 1480 AM — Cheyenne 

KDLY 97.5 FM — Lander

KOVE 1330 AM — Lander

KZMQ 100.3/102.3 FM — Cody, Powell, Medicine Wheel, Greybull, Basin, Meeteetse

KKLX 96.1 FM — Worland, Thermopolis, Ten Sleep, Greybull

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KCGL 104.1 FM — Cody, Powell, Basin, Lovell, Clark, Red Lodge, MT

KTAG 97.9 FM — Cody, Powell, Basin

KCWB 92.1 FM — Cody, Powell, Basin

KVGL 105.7 FM — Worland, Thermopolis, Basin, Ten Sleep

KODI 1400 AM / 96.7 FM — Cody, Powell, Lovell, Basin, Clark, Red Lodge

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KWOR 1340 AM / 104.7 FM — Worland, Thermopolis, Ten Sleep

KREO 93.5 FM — Sweetwater and Sublette Counties

KERM 98.3 FM — Goshen County

Check with individual radio stations for airtime of the newscasts.



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Groups launch Hunt-Fish-Vote Wyoming website

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Groups launch Hunt-Fish-Vote Wyoming website


(Statewide, WY) — Today, seven hunting and fishing conservation groups launched the website Hunt-Fish-Vote Wyoming, an educational voter resource for Wyoming’s hunters and anglers. Supporting groups include the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation, American Bear Foundation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Muley Fanatic Foundation, and Wyoming Trout Unlimited.   “Wyoming sportspeople are impacted […]



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Colorado-Wyoming Climate engine offers research grants – BizWest

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Colorado-Wyoming Climate engine offers research grants – BizWest


 July 24, 2024

The Colorado-Wyoming Climate Resilience Engine has launched its Use-Inspired and Translation Grant opportunities to accelerate the research, development, and commercialization of innovations into tangible products, services, or solutions that address climate resiliency, according to a news release.

“We are thrilled to launch this combined grant program, which represents a huge milestone for the CO-WY Engine and an incredible opportunity for our region,” said Mike Freeman, CO-WY Engine CEO  in the release. “By supporting both early-stage research and the translation of these innovations into practical solutions, we aim to build a robust ecosystem that drives sustainable growth and addresses the urgent challenges faced by our communities. This initiative is a testament to the collaborative spirit and dedication of our partners across Colorado and Wyoming.”

The program seeks to accelerate the commercialization of innovations addressing climate resiliency. Proposals should demonstrate a solid product-market fit, collaboration with industry partners, and a roadmap for securing additional funding, the release stated.

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The 22nd Annual A Vintage Affair event, presented by Wilbur’s Total Beverage, benefits Pathways’ mission of providing expert medical and comfort care for individuals navigating the last months of life.

Priority areas for this cycle include Complex Earth Sensing, Soil Carbon Capture Data & Analytics, Methane Emissions Analysis, Extreme Weather Modeling, Wildfire Risk & Prediction, and Water Availability Prediction, the release stated.

The Engine anticipates two award cycles this year. The first applications are due Sept. 3, and a second cycle will open Jan. 15, 2025.

Selected projects will receive from $250,000 to $750,000 for the Translation Grant Program and up to $300,000 for the Use-Inspired R&D Grant Program, the releases stated. Each program cycle will have a project period of one year, with the possibility of a formal no-cost extension for up to six months, subject to approval, the release stated.

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To provide more information about the RFP and answer questions, the CO-WY Engine will host three virtual events, Aug, 1, Aug. 7, and Aug. 8. For more information about the CO-WY Engine and its programs, visit www.co-wyengine.org.



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