News Roundup: Beacon parks open in Teton County; Wyoming Supreme Court won’t weigh in on abortion ban

Plus, suicidal youth are on the rise in Teton County, and a physicist is coming to Jackson to talk economic growth and energy.
The Coal Creek Beacon Park is one of three avalanche training parks in Teton County. (Teton Backcountry Alliance)


Beacon parks open in Teton County for avalanche practice

Avalanches are a danger in northwestern Wyoming, so Teton County is making sure people are prepared. A beacon park is open at the Coal Creek Trailhead on Teton Pass for the third consecutive year. 

Community members can practice their avalanche skills by turning the transmitters on and using a beacon and probe to locate them. Local ski education nonprofit Teton Backcountry Alliance set up the park for public education. 

“I think everyone knows that sharpening your search skills is critical to helping someone who’s been buried,” said Gary Kofinas, the chairman at the alliance.


Transmitters are buried in various locations 100 yards north of the Coal Creek parking lot. The alliance will hold low-cost search clinics at the park on Jan. 18 and 24. Advanced registration is required on their website.

 Another beacon park is open at the Rendezvous Park off Highway 22 and Moose-Wilson Road. Snow King Mountain Resort will also set up a beacon park on the top of the mountain starting in January.

Wyoming Supreme Court denies to weigh in on state abortion case

The Wyoming Supreme Court has declined to weigh in on questions regarding the lawsuit currently blocking Wyoming’s abortion ban. In a brief signed by Chief Justice Kate Fox, it stated that the court doesn’t believe it can answer the questions based on what it deemed, in its own words, the “limited factual record provided.” 

Some of the questions had to do with the constitutionality of the state abortion ban and whether it violates citizens rights to privacy. Now the lawsuit returns to Teton County. Abortion will remain legal in Wyoming as an injunction is in place.

Suicidal youth on the rise nationwide and in Wyoming

Suicidal thoughts are increasing for youth nationwide. A recent study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that emergency room visits for suicidal children went up nearly 60% from 2016 to 2021.

Teton Youth & Family Services Executive Director Sarah Cavallaro said that Wyoming youth are no exception. In recent years, the nonprofit has seen an uptick in kids self-harming.

“It’s harder to monitor and watch what’s happening because you have to keep eyes on them 24-hours,” Cavallaro. “You know walls can be fixed, windows can be fixed, humans, bodies can’t be fixed when they’re harmed.”

Cavallaro attributed this trend to the isolation that came with the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as an increased reliance on phones and social media, rather than person-to-person contact. She said more research and awareness about the issue bring her hope amid the crisis.

Global affairs center to kick off discussion series with talk on energy and growth

The Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs is hosting a series of free public talks in the new year focused on global change. The think tank aims to bring people together to promote climate action. It’ll kick off the series on Jan. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the Center for the Arts with a lecture by Utah State physicist Robert Davies. 

Davies said his talk will focus on the idea that economic growth is the source of the many environmental crises we face. However, he says economic growth will end soon, according to the laws of thermodynamics and exponential growth.

“We’ll do some fun, compelling calculations that everyone will be able to understand,” Davies said. “So, the idea is to make sure that you cannot leave that presentation with any illusion that economic growth is going to continue for long.”

This refers to aggregate economic growth globally. Davies said some sectors — such as clean energy — need to grow, while others — such as coal — need to go away entirely. As a science communicator, Davies’ hopes to prepare people for these transitions he views as inevitable.

“The question is are we going to have a hard landing or a soft landing,” he said. “If we just allow ourselves to crash out of growth, that’s terrible. So, what we need to do is plot a trajectory, and the good news here is lots of people have been doing that. There’s so much research.”

Davies’ presentation will be his second time speaking in Jackson about environmental crises.

Western states look toward desalination to create fresh water

This story comes through a content-sharing partnership with Wyoming Public Media.

As parts of our region face the worst drought in over a millennium, some states are looking for new ways to create fresh water. One idea that’s gaining steam is desalination. 

This method involves taking salty water and removing minerals from it to make potable freshwater. It’s a technology found all over the world, but you might think of it as more useful next to oceans. Peter Fiske with a Department of Energy-funded water research center said that’s actually not the case. 

“There is a lot of salty water around to desalinate, that is not at the coast,” Fiske told several western governors in early December.

This includes refuse from oil and gas production and agriculture, as well as wastewater. Fiske said a lot of groundwater in the Mountain West is easily accessible, but too mineral dense for humans to drink. And small desalination plants across the region could be profitable. 

“It’s not a silver bullet,” Fiske said. “However, it’s about diversifying our western portfolio of water supplies.”

California and Arizona are already investing in desalination, and researchers in Colorado are looking to improve the technology. Some scientists have cautioned against using it at a large scale, in part because it’s expensive and energy-intensive.

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About Hanna Merzbach

Hanna is KHOL's senior reporter and managing editor. A lot of her work focuses on housing and local politics, but also women's health — and whatever else she finds interesting. You can hear her reporting around the country and region on NPR, Wyoming Public Radio and community radio stations around the west. She hails from Bend, Oregon, where she reported for outlets such as the Atlantic, High Country News and Oregon Public Broadcasting. In her free time, you can find Hanna scaling rock walls or adventuring in the mountains.

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