Yellowstone Bison Slaughter

In this Monday, Feb. 17, 2020 file photo, a bison walks through the snow in Yellowstone National Park's Lamar Valley near Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyo. Park officials said hundreds of bison were removed from the park's herds this winter by hunters and a controversial slaughter program. 

MONTANA

Yellowstone slaughters wild bison to shrink park's herds

BILLINGS — Yellowstone National Park is done capturing wild bison for the year after rounding up almost 550 of the wild animals and sending most to slaughter as part of a population control program, park officials said.

The culling is carried out under a legal agreement between federal and state officials aimed at preventing the spread of an animal disease to cattle.

In addition to those captured, about 270 bison have been killed by Native American tribal hunters as the hulking beasts migrated outside the park to graze at lower elevations in Montana, according to figures released March 27.

The annual slaughter of an iconic animal that's featured on the National Park Service logo has long drawn criticism from wildlife advocates and some members of Congress.

Officials insist the program is necessary to prevent cattle in the Yellowstone region from being infected with brucellosis, which can cause abortions in pregnant animals.

Park officials had sought to reduce Yellowstone's approximately 4,900 bison by 600 to 900 animals this year. At least 822 animals have been killed or removed, according to figures provided by park officials.

Of the animals that were captured, 105 were kept alive for potential enrollment in a quarantine program that transfers disease-free animals to locations outside the park. One bison died in the park's holding pens.

Members of some American Indian tribes with treaty hunting rights in the Yellowstone region were expected to continue harvesting bison through the end of this month and possibly longer.

WYOMING

Special session likely as lawmakers look to solve COVID-19 woes

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Legislature appears likely to hold its first special session since 2004, as state lawmakers look to address the long list of problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While an official decision has not yet been made on a special session, many lawmakers have acknowledged the increasing likelihood that one will be held.

It remains to be seen how a special session would work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Mark Gordon has the ability to call an emergency session to convene outside of the Capitol, which would allow lawmakers to meet via a virtual format. The Legislature also has the constitutional power to call itself in, but that route requires the session be held in Cheyenne.

The primary task of a special session, which could be held in late May or early June, would be to manage the funding provided to Wyoming in the roughly $2 trillion stimulus relief bill recently passed by Congress. Wyoming will receive $1.25 billion through the plan, and since none of the state's cities have populations over half a million, all of those funds will go to state coffers.

Gordon said the state could receive some money from the federal stimulus as soon as April 24.

Meanwhile, the Legislature's Management Council, made up of leadership from both parties, will meet virtually April 16 to consider topics for joint interim committees to work on. The committees assigned topics related to COVID-19 will then meet in May to develop draft legislation for a potential special session.

OKLAHOMA

Ex-Sen. Tom Coburn, conservative political maverick, dies

OKLAHOMA CITY — Former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn was stubborn as a mule and conservative to his core. But the Oklahoma family doctor, known for railing against federal earmarks, didn't let political differences dictate whom he called friends — even if it didn't sit well with some of his supporters.

Obit Tom Coburn

In this March 28, 2018 file photo, former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn speaks at a news conference in Oklahoma City. Coburn has died. He was 72. The Oklahoma Republican railed against federal earmarking and earned a reputation as a political maverick.

Coburn, who died March 28 at age 72, joined the U.S. Senate the same year as President Barack Obama, and the pair became fast friends despite their contrasting ideologies. In Oklahoma, where Obama failed to carry a single county in his 2008 presidential bid, voters took note.

But the Republican senator shrugged off complaints in 2009, when the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman, ran a front-page photograph that showed him hugging Obama after the Democratic president gave a speech to a joint session of Congress.

"I'm not aligned with him politically,” Coburn, who was re-elected the following year, said at the time. "But you need to separate the difference in political philosophy versus friendship. How better to influence somebody than love them?"

Coburn had been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer for years.

Coburn earned a reputation as a conservative political maverick in Congress. He also delivered more than 4,000 babies while an obstetrician and family doctor in Muskogee, where he treated patients for free while in the Senate.

Known for bluntly speaking his mind, Coburn frequently criticized the growth of the federal deficit and what he said was excessive government spending endorsed by politicians from both political parties.

Born in Casper, Wyoming, on March 14, 1948, Coburn grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma. After graduating from Oklahoma State University, he went to work at his family's business in Virginia, Ophthalmic Division of Coburn Opticals, from 1970 to 1978. He later attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma.

NEW MEXICO

City to promote businesses along historic Route 66

ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico's largest city will be investing a half-million dollars to promote businesses that line its stretch of historic Route 66.

Albuquerque announced the effort March 27, saying it's looking for a marketing firm to develop a plan to promote the corridor as a destination. The plan also will highlight the city's rapid transit bus route as a way to access the area.

City officials said the campaign would be aimed at bringing back locals to Central Avenue and attracting new visitors. Shop owners along the road had complained as years of construction related to Albuquerque Rapid Transit, or ART, hampered business and forced some stores to close.

Albuquerque is home to the longest urban stretch of Route 66. City officials say it's a critical driver of small business and job creation. It includes some of Albuquerque's most prominent arts and culture attractions.

Known as the "Mother Road," Route 66 was created in 1926 after the Bureau of Public Roads launched the nation's first federal highway system, bringing together existing local and state roads from Chicago through St. Louis to Los Angeles. Small towns opened shops, motels and gas stations to pump revenue into local economies just as the nation's car culture took off.

IDAHO

Governor signs affirmative action ban into law

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed into law legislation banning affirmative action for state agencies, state contracting and public education.

The Republican governor on March 31 signed the measure that adds a new section to laws that opponents said negates another section prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or age.

The bill originated in the House and was amended in the Senate to avoid losing federal funding.

Backers said the measure is needed so that everybody will be treated equally.

Opponents said Idaho has a history of discriminatory behavior against marginalized groups that persists, and the measure allows that behavior to continue.

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