Weekly News Roundup: Friday, July 22

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on a new report about Jackson’s lodging industry, polling in the Cheney-Hageman race and the offspring of Grizzly 399.
Rep. Liz Cheney, left, and Republican challenger Harriet Hageman
A new poll of Wyoming voters published by the Casper Star-Tribune this week shows Rep. Liz Cheney (R), left, trailing the Trump-endorsed Republican challenger Harriet Hageman, right, by 22 percentage points about a month ahead of the primary election on Aug. 16. (Cheney for Wyoming/Hageman for Wyoming)

 

Offspring of famed Grizzly 399 killed after conflicts

Citing concerns for human safety, Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials killed one of the young offspring of the famed grizzly bear near Pinedale last week. Read KHOL’s full coverage here.

Analysis of Jackson lodging industry delivered to local electeds

The number of short-term rental permit applications grew steadily in Teton County between 2016 and 2020 but then plateaued. That’s according to a report delivered to the Jackson Town Council Monday by Community Development Director Tyler Sinclair. At the council’s direction, town staff conducted a 10-year analysis of changes in the local lodging industry. 

One of the main findings is that lodging revenue is growing faster than the number of lodging units–like hotel rooms or short-term rentals, which Sinclair said is consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. The report also found that 71% of the lodging units that town zoning will allow have already been built. Council Member Jim Rooks said that figure gives him some hope when it sometimes feels like development is going to continue forever.

“We’re not going to have 100 news hotels. There’s 29% of what’s available remaining to be developed,” Rooks said. “That helps me just as an individual to say it’s not going to go everywhere, and it can only occur so much.”

Still, Monday’s discussion made clear that the town has limited authority to control when lodging development happens. The town councilors also declined to support a staff recommendation to limit the size of individual lodging units. Explaining his hesitance, Council Member Jonathan Schechter said this is part of a larger conversation about the future of tourism in Jackson Hole.

“I don’t see that you’ve identified a problem. I don’t see that you’ve identified an opportunity,”  Schechter said. “I am profoundly reluctant to take any action if I don’t understand what the action is and how it might either help the problem or help us embrace an opportunity.”

Echoing that sentiment, several council members said they prefer to wait to take any actions on lodging while the related Sustainable Destination Management Planning process is still underway. A draft management plan is expected to be released in September.

Insurance changes for local COVID-19 testing sites

The Teton County Health Department announced last week that the county’s two Curative COVID-19 testing sites will no longer provide free tests to everyone regardless of insurance status. Funding for the free testing had been provided by the Wyoming Department of Health, which is revisiting its priority areas as resources dwindle. 

However, testing will still be no cost for uninsured patients – and likely also for those who are insured, according to county Health Director Jodie Pond.

“If you do have insurance, you’re still eligible for a $0 co-pay under the testing guidelines,” Pond said. “Now, of course we always want people to check with their own insurance and make sure that’s true.”

Pond is also reminding the public that every home in the U.S. is now eligible to order a third round of free at-home Antigen tests. The COVID-19 community risk level in Teton County is currently high despite 90% of the population being fully vaccinated.

Results of first in-state poll on Cheney-Hageman race

Former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in Wyoming’s closely-watched Republican primary for the state’s lone congressional seat might not have that much impact on the race. That’s according to the first independent, in-state poll about the election published by the Casper Star-Tribune this week

State politics reporter Victoria Eavis has been covering Trump’s influence in the race between his endorsed candidate, Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman, and incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney.

“It’s probably not as significant and as important to Liz Cheney’s defeat as some people thought,” Eavis told KHOL. “26% of respondents said it made them less likely to vote for Harriet Hageman, and then 44% indicated that it had no effect on their decision.”

Eavis said Trump might have kicked off Cheney’s downfall in the Republican party but that he’s no longer the main reason for her poor polling. For example, eight in 10 Wyoming Republicans disapprove of Cheney’s service on the House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Overall, the poll found that Hageman has a commanding 22-percentage point lead over Cheney about a month ahead of the Aug. 16 primary.

Asked about the potential role of crossover voting by Democrats to support Cheney, Eavis said the significance there is less about numbers and more about the message it sends.

“It’s not necessarily gonna win it for Cheney but it is kind of creating this unprecedented moment in recent Wyoming political history.”

The Casper Star-Tribune poll surveyed 1,100 registered Wyoming voters likely to participate in the primary and has an error margin of plus or minus 3%.

Guidance for managing wildlife smoke

As hazy skies return to the valley due to smoke from nearby wildfires, the Teton County Health Department is reminding folks how to mitigate potential negative health effects. All residents should avoid prolonged outdoor exercise when the air quality index (AQI) exceeds 200 on the online resource AirNow.gov. Older adults and young children are also more likely to be impacted by wildfire smoke. 

More information is available on the county health department’s website.

Seat opens on Driggs City Council

A position on the Driggs City Council in Teton County, Idaho, has opened up after Council Member Scotty Stuntz announced that he will be moving out of the area. Stuntz was elected to the council last November and is the second city council member to resign in six months because they’re moving out of the state, according to the Teton Valley News

Stuntz’s replacement will be appointed by Driggs Mayor August Christensen and will serve through at least January 2024. Interested residents who live within the Driggs city limits can submit an application now through July 26.

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About Kyle Mackie

Kyle is a multimedia journalist who joined KHOL as news director in January 2021. Prior to moving West, she reported on education, immigration, racial justice and more for WBFO, the NPR affiliate in Buffalo, NY. With a background in international reporting, Kyle has also worked in Israel and the Palestinian territories and the Western Balkans. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and geography from The George Washington University and master’s degree in journalism from the City University of New York. When not out reporting, Kyle can usually be found trail running, climbing, skiing or grooving to live music.

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