Wyoming News Update

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Here is the latest Wyoming news from The Associated Press

School district still waiting for bids on vacant buildings

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Officials say the Natrona County School District hasn't yet received any bids for the buildings it has put up for sale.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports the district's school board approved a plan earlier this month to get rid of three vacant buildings -- North Casper Elementary, Roosevelt High School and the Fairground Center. Officials are also planning to sell Grant and Mills elementary schools and Star Lane Center, which are expected to be vacant next year.

The initial goal was to have the vacant buildings sold by July 1 and at least Mills sold by Sept. 1. But district spokesman Kelly Eastes says the timeline is fluid.

Officials said last month a church group and the Salvation Army have expressed interest in buying the district facilities.

If the buildings aren't sold, the district may have them demolished.

Conservation area to help wildlife migration in 3 states

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Federal authorities have announced the establishment of a 7,000-square-mile watershed conservation area in three states that includes major migration corridors for birds and mammals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday gave notice that it has established the Bear River Watershed Conservation Area in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. Its creation is part of a plan to protect wildlife habitat by buying perpetual conservation easements from willing private landowners.

The agency says it has identified some 1,400 square miles of potential easements on priority habitat that connects the northern and southern Rocky Mountains

The conservation area includes national wildlife refuges in each state and the 500-mile Bear River.

Officials say the area supports native fish, more than 200 species of birds and links migratory routes for elk, pronghorn and other mammals.

Wyoming population drops, but some positive signs in economy

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The downturn in Wyoming's extraction industry caused the state to see its first population decline since 1990.

But state economists say there are signs that Wyoming's economy has at least stabilized.

The U.S. Census Bureau this week estimated that Wyoming's population declined by just over 1,000, or 0.2 percent, from July 2015 to July 2016.

State economist Wenlin Liu (LEW) says the population decline reflects the downturn in Wyoming's mineral extraction industry that has cost thousands of jobs over about the last year.

But state economist Jim Robinson says job losses in the oil and gas industry appear to have flattened out and there has been a slight increase in drilling activity in recent months.

Robinson says the state economy looks fairly stable now although there isn't much growth.

Police: Sandwich links man to recent burglaries in Wyoming

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich found at the scene led Wyoming police to arrest a burglary suspect.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that Zachery Munoz has pleaded not guilty to three counts of burglary.

Cheyenne police say someone on three separate occasions in September stole power tools and equipment from a business. In the first case, police say they found a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the scene. They dubbed the suspect the "PB&J burglar."

Police say subsequent DNA testing done at the Wyoming State Crime Lab linked 26-year-old Munoz to the sandwich.

He entered a plea earlier this month, and his trial is scheduled for February.

Wyoming Army National Guard to build center in Laramie

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Officials say the Wyoming Army National Guard could break ground on a new readiness center in Laramie in 2017.

The Laramie Boomerang reports that according to a news release from Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, the Senate is moving forward with a bill that would provide $21 million for the Laramie readiness center as well as a 2 percent raise for active-duty military service members.

Enzi's office says the Senate voted 92-7 to move forward with consideration of a final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The house passed the bill Dec. 2.

Wyoming Army National Guard Construction and Facilities Management Officer Lt. Col. Loren Thompson says Wyoming has also put $5.9 million toward the new Laramie center.

Thompson says readiness centers are similar to armories.