In 1869, women in Wyoming were granted the right to vote; the first in the nation and beyond! Recognizing the rights of women paved the way for the creation of our beloved “Equality State”. It was a historical achievement to be proud of.
But now the future of the state and the women and men of Wyoming is at risk.
The greatest threat to the future of Wyoming is climate change. No, not from the direct effects of rising sea levels or unbearable heat, but as a result of actions taken by other people to curb the effects of climate change. The technology to replace coal, oil, and gas with alternative energy sources is advancing in leaps and bounds across much of the planet. When the price of coal, oil, and gas declines below the cost of production, this sector will wane, along with the bulk of Wyoming’s revenue. We are watching the beginning as coal mines and coal-fired power plants are closing and our communities are losing residents and loved ones.
Of course! We need to diversify the state’s economy. We have been discussing it for decades, but accomplished only incremental change. The development of new extraction methods of fossil fuels mitigated some of the economic downturns over the years. Wyoming’s rugged terrain (the feature we love so much) combined with harsh weather, isolate us from major hubs of commerce and limits agricultural production. Our remote location, lack of infrastructure, and low population, discourage many entrepreneurs and companies. But now we have to act! If we stopped viewing ourselves solely as an energy producing state, state, and think more broadly, we can become attractive to a variety of industries. New technologies developed to curb the rise in greenhouse gases are spurring other types of innovations that rely on Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, DNA computing, Material Science, Integrative Planning. Just consider all the components required to build and operate an electric off-road truck, or hydrogen-cell vehicles. Or the expertise that will be needed to maintain caravans of self-driving trucks on our highways. Or what will happen when we merge Artificial Intelligence and DNA computing. Imagine such innovation as the future of Wyoming!
Wide-open spaces, clean air and water, breath-taking scenery, abundant wildlife and fish, vast tracts of public lands; unparalleled quality of life for outdoor lovers… and rugged, adaptable and compassionate people who strongly believe in “live and let live”.
What do we need to add?
•Infrastructure – modern data connectivity from every town in the state; data storage and high computing power; cheap, reliable and locally produced renewable energy; well-maintained, wildlife-friendly roads and other transportation modes.
•Services – Reliable and accessible healthcare system (not only insurance, but rather doctors and nurses, hospitals and clinics) providing high-quality care throughout the state. Top-notch education from pre-school to college (through our community colleges and the University of Wyoming). Professional training and job guarantee programs for people transitioning to new careers or dignified retirement and healthcare plans for those who can’t.
How? It will take holistic vision and careful planning to build our diverse human capital while maintaining what we cherish. We can learn from the Front Range of Colorado where open spaces have turned into a vague memory. We do not want to create the Jackson housing crisis in other parts of the state. We will need to empower our people, plan our investments, avoid failing endeavors, save revenues for the future, and consider all potential sources of income.
How can Wyoming achieve all this? Where do we get the money? We start by selecting the right advocates who are interested in turning this vision into reality. We start the process now realizing that it will take years to accomplish. We start by sending the right representatives to Washington, D.C., where support and incentive programs for innovations will be created. We start by electing me, Merav Ben-David, to represent Wyoming in the United States Senate.
In the past few months, our world has abruptly changed. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis have exposed vulnerabilities in Wyoming and the rest of the country that should move us to rethink our present and reimagine our future. To overcome the challenges we face, we need a holistic vision and the bold leaders who can turn it into action.
Together, we can protect Wyoming’s future. As your senator, I will fight to:
The greatest threat to Wyoming today is our state's economy's heavy reliance on fossil fuels and the extractive technology they require. As the world transitions to alternative energy sources at a rapid pace, Wyoming risks losing more than half of its revenue. When the price of coal, oil, and gas drops below the cost of renewables, the fossil fuel sector will wane, leaving Wyoming close to bankruptcy. We saw the early effects of this even before the COVID19 pandemic. As coal mines and coal-fired power plants closed, Wyomingites lost their jobs, and our communities lost residents and loved ones. The situation has only gotten worse. Over the past year, most of Wyoming's oil wells have shut down, entire companies have gone out of business, and thousands of workers in the fossil fuel and supporting industries have been laid off.
Yes! We need to expand our economy, and we need to do it as soon as possible. We will need to do this in three stages: Rescue, Reimagine, Rebuild.
Rescue: In the immediate term, we need to provide Wyoming residents and businesses with income and loans so that hard working Wyomingites can feed their families and keep their homes. The 2020 CARES Act, with its more than $2.7 trillion in stimulus funds, is an important initial stopgap measure, but it's not enough. Indeed, the US Congress is considering proposals that would provide each American supplemental income, freeze rent, mortgage and loan payments, and help small businesses during the COVID19 crisis. This would allow us to catch our breath and prepare our state and the nation for the next step: reimagining our future.
Reimagine: Wyoming has so much more to offer than coal, oil and gas; if we stopped viewing ourselves solely as an energy producing state and think more broadly, we can be attractive to a variety of thriving industries that would bring high paying, secure jobs. Think, for example, of the new technologies developed to curb the rise in greenhouse gasses and the innovations they have spurred; innovations that rely on a smart and skilled workforce like we have here in Wyoming. Just consider all the components required to build and operate electric trucks and hydrogen-cell vehicles, or the expertise that will be needed to maintain caravans of self-driving trucks on our highways. Advances in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, material science, and integrative planning, together with serious progress redesigning semi-nuclear reactors and methods to combine solar and hydroelectric power generation, can fuel the future of Wyoming.
Rebuild: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “There are many ways of going forward but only one way of standing still.” In the wake of the Great Depression, FDR’s New Deal put millions of Americans to work creating the country’s infrastructure, building bridges, roads, railroads, hydro-electric dams, electric grids, schools and hospitals. The investment it required ($6 billion, or 10 percent of the GPD at the time) repaid itself many times over, both economically and by making the United States a global superpower for decades. The success of the New Deal illustrated that when we have a coordinated and actionable federal plan – and the political will to implement it – our country can emerge from a crisis stronger than it was before. Imagine what a smart federal plan, combined with the technological strides of the past century, can help us do in the upcoming decade.
Diversifying our economy and our workforce while “keeping Wyoming Wyoming” will require a holistic vision and careful planning. Some ideas for rebuilding the state’s economy are clearly delineated in ENDOW (Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming), a 2016 initiative created by former Governor Matt Mead. Others will need to be added. Broadly, we need to address:
Wyoming has some of the country's most beautiful wide-open spaces, breath-taking scenery, clean air and water, abundant fish and wildlife, vast tracts of public lands, and an unparalleled quality of life. Most importantly, we have Wyomingites, who are rugged, adaptable and compassionate. To protect our way of life we should prioritize:
To achieve this, any development plan will require a thorough understanding of our environment. Wyoming's scientists are leading the country in environmental planning - check out the Wyoming Migration Initiative, the Sage Grouse Task Force, and "Wind Power in Wyoming: Smart from the Start" (Resources tab).
As your senator I will use these priorities and my science background to garner support in the US Senate for rebuilding and expanding Wyoming's economy while protecting everything we love about our great state.
The national unemployment rate jumped to 14.7% in the last 3 months, leaving more than 30 million Americans jobless. Many states, including Wyoming, are running out of unemployment funds. Wyoming is projected to lose more than 25,000 jobs (12 percent of the private-sector workforce) by this summer, mostly in the fossil fuel and hospitality sectors. In the short term, Congress’s Paycheck Guarantee Act may provide relief, but long-term we need to think bigger. It is time to implement the Federal Job Guarantee program FDR first proposed more than 70 years ago. It was intended to use federal funds to support state-based job creation while guaranteeing employment with a livable wage. Adaptation of this initiative to our times will help job creation and retraining programs in Wyoming. Oil-field workers who lost their jobs when the number of oil rigs dropped from 32 to 4 in the past year can be re-hired to install solar panels at hydro-electric dams, plug up abandoned wells (Resources tab), or build wind farms and electric micro-grids. Coal miners can join the proposed Rare Earths and Thorium mines in Bear Lodge Mountain, or help WYDOT repave our roads and improve them with wildlife overpasses. Such efforts will bring together laborers, planners, engineers, heavy equipment operators, wildlife biologists and more.
The short- and long-term options are vast and should be promoted and supported through federal, state and private-sector partnerships.
As your senator, I will propose and support legislation that will guarantee jobs, livable wages, and new opportunities for Wyoming workers.
In the 20 years I have lived in Wyoming, I have had at least six different general physicians. They were all excellent, but none of them stayed here very long, in large part because their spouses could not find jobs. Although Laramie is a University town of over 30,000 people, many Laramigos have to go to Cheyenne or even Ft. Collins, CO to receive specialized treatment. Rural Wyomingites have even less access to healthcare. If we want to retain our young people and attract new folks who are searching for a high quality of life, we must design a first-rate, accessible healthcare system, one that includes mobile services to reach our far-flung ranchers. To get there, Wyoming should join the rest of the country in expanding Medicaid. In 2019, nearly 54,000 Wyomingites were enrolled in Medicaid and the Children Health Insurance Program - a far cry from the 73,000 who would have been eligible under a Medicaid expansion. While some were able to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, at least 6,000 Wyomingites were left without access to any health insurance. This number has likely risen due to the recent layoffs throughout the state.
Leaving people uninsured during the COVID19 pandemic, in which complications have left people with lasting heart and kidney damage, is unconscionable. Further, by refusing to expand Medicaid, Wyoming is expected to lose $1.3 billion over the next decade. This is money that can cover uncompensated medical costs for the state, and support our rural hospitals during this crisis. Previous attempts to pass the bill have failed because the state legislature was unwilling to provide the required state matching funds (10 percent of the total), against the will of a majority of Wyomingites.
The recent COVID19 pandemic and the resulting job losses have shown that linking healthcare insurance to a job is a bad idea. The United States must adopt Universal Healthcare: a system that ensures a basic level of care for all people, where health insurance is independent of employment.
As your senator, I will argue forcefully for Universal Health Care, and ensure that any health care plan will address Wyoming’s specific needs.
Article 7 (1) of the Wyoming constitution states that “The legislature shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of a complete and uniform system of public instruction, embracing free elementary schools of every needed kind and grade, a university with such technical and professional departments as the public good may require.” Indeed, Wyoming has many excellent schools that have been nationally recognized. Continued support for Wyoming education should remain a priority, and recommendations by independent review panels to keep schools properly funded should be adopted by our legislature.
Wyoming’s dedication to education is reflected in the state’s community colleges and the University of Wyoming. Their relatively low tuition, combined with Governor Dave Freudenthal’s Hathaway Scholarship, enable the majority of Wyomingites to obtain a high-quality education without accruing crippling debt. In this, Wyoming should be seen as an example to the rest of the country: a state in which education is viewed as a worthwhile investment and where funding for scientific and other disciplines is a priority.
As your senator, I will support laws that reduce student loan burdens and bolster our higher education system, so as to deliver top-notch instruction in the sciences and the arts and to fuel scientific discovery.
I am a wildlife ecologist who has studied the various effects of invasive species, logging, pollution, and climate change on animals from polar bears and mountain lions to river otters and chipmunks for over 30 years, and I have seen the effects of climate change with my own eyes. While studying pumas in California in the early 2000s, my colleagues and I detected a clear increase in greenhouse gases in those cats’ bones that were collected over a 150 year period. As the chief scientist on a US Coast Guard Icebreaker expedition in 2009, I witnessed vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean completely ice-free at a time of year it should have been frozen over. When I returned to Wyoming, our pine forests had been devastated by an unprecedented bark beetle outbreak.
My observations and data added to a vast body of existing research pointing to humans’ role in increasing greenhouse gases (Resource tab).
Interestingly, our collective efforts to stay at home during COVID19 only managed to reduce carbon emissions by a fraction. It is clear that as long as we continue releasing greenhouse gasses on an industrial scale, we will not be able to address this crisis. Solving it will require national programs and global coordination.
But regardless of opinions about the reality and urgency of climate change, the rest of the world’s transition to clean energy will leave Wyoming behind if we don’t act now. Countries from Peru to Tunisia and Scotland to South Africa are adopting new energy sources at an accelerating rate. Scotland, for example, is expected to reach 100 percent renewable electricity this year. And Sweden accomplished the same two years ahead of schedule.
The past few months have shown us how vulnerable Wyoming’s economy is to crashes in demand for fossil fuels. That is why I am committed to using my science background and knowledge to work with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to enhance renewable energy policy and boost our economy in ways that will secure the future of Wyoming, our nation and the globe. I will endorse legislation that will mitigate the rise in greenhouse gases like a “carbon fee and dividend”, and participate in crafting new ones that ensure we address the effects of climate change.
Between 2015 and 2018, as oil wells and coal mines closed and people were laid off, Wyoming lost fully 1.3% of its population, much of it to out of state migration. Working families leaving Wyoming translates to further economic shrinking and loss of revenue for the state.
Economic anxiety is also one of the main drivers of suicide: at 24 per 100,000 inhabitants, Wyoming’s suicide rate is 1.7 times higher than the rest of the country. Eighty percent of Wyoming’s suicides are committed by men, with the highest rates among those who work in construction and the extraction industries, as well as among farmers and ranchers. Among women, homemakers exhibit the highest rate (Resources tab). In addition to the incredible emotional toll on families and communities, suicides leave substantial financial strain as well.
Twice since arriving in Wyoming, I have assisted close friends as they struggled with crippling anxiety that drove them to substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. In both cases, my intervention brought them back from the brink, for which I’m grateful. I’ve known others who unfortunately succeeded in taking their own lives; it is hard to describe the devastation their actions left.
We need to address this economic anxiety and hopelessness to keep our children and young people in the state and offer them opportunities to build their lives and raise their families here, as well as to prevent substance abuse and self harm.
As your senator, I will work to address economic anxiety by supporting economic plans that future-proof Wyoming's and the nation's economy.
While the majority of suicides in Wyoming are caused by economic anxiety, the most common method used is firearms (64 percent). On two separate occasions when I helped friends who had suicidal thoughts, my first action was to help them secure their guns. There are some cases, however, where people may not recognize that they need help to prevent them from hurting themselves and others.
I’m a hunter and own two rifles and a shotgun, which I intend to keep. I have also used guns for bear safety in many of my research projects and was trained to shoot semi-automatic and automatic rifles during my military service; I know the level of training required to safely operate these weapons and am personally familiar with their devastating capacity to kill.
Our laws should support responsible gun ownership to reduce incidents of suicide and mass shootings. We require people to learn to safely handle guns as part of our hunter training programs; there is no reason we can’t do the same for gun ownership more generally.
As your senator, I will support research into the causes of gun violence in the US and participate in crafting legislation that will promote responsible gun ownership.
There are over 6,000 active duty and reserve military personnel in Wyoming, mostly serving in the Air Force and the National Guard. Together with the nearly 50,000 veterans, they constitute about 10 percent of Wyoming’s population. Many of them have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and returned home with lasting health problems. Quite a few of my students at the University of Wyoming were veterans, many of whom told me of their struggles with physical and emotional disabilities and of their deep frustration trying to navigate the bureaucracy of Veteran Affairs.
As someone who has lived through several wars and served in one, I understand the cost of war. Far beyond the price of tanks and bombs and the obvious devastating loss of lives, the injuries, grief, and economic hardships of the families of our men and women in uniform are not always entered into the equation when we send our troops to war. Indeed, many veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and face a higher likelihood of suicide. As lawmakers, we should consider the true cost of war before deciding to launch any hostile operations. And whenever possible, diplomacy should take precedence to war.
As your senator, I will work to curb the excessive spending on the military industrial complex, to end our protracted wars while maintaining our strategic alliances, and to bring our troops home. In addition, I will work to improve benefits for veterans and their families.
In 1869, Wyoming was the first territory in the nation that recognized women’s right to vote. In 1890, our legislature even wrote: “We will remain out of the Union one hundred years rather than come in without the women.” Wyoming was the first state governed by a woman, Nellie Tayloe Ross in 1924. Article 1(2) of the Wyoming constitution states that “in their inherent right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, all members of the human race are equal.”
Today, we are failing in our commitment to equality. The gender wage gap in Wyoming is larger than in most of the country: women in Wyoming make 71 cents on the dollar compared to men for the same job. In the current pandemic, unemployment claims filed by Wyoming women rose from 25.4 to 51.5 percent, illustrating the disparity in job opportunities in the state. And although I have seen a shift towards acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in my 20+ years in Wyoming, our neighbors, friends and family can still be refused access to housing and employment based on their sexual orientation.
As your senator, I will join efforts to ensure equality for all, as outlined in Wyoming’s constitution. One of my first priorities will be to pursue legislation to close the gender wage gap both nationally and in Wyoming.
I am a Wyomingite, and as such, I strongly believe in individual liberty and personal choice – the choice to express one’s opinions, to peacefully practice one’s religion, to responsibly bear arms. And because I believe in personal freedom, I recognize every person’s right to choose if and when they want to have children. That includes their right to decide to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, which is never an easy choice. But it is a choice that should belong to a woman and her physician, and not be dictated by any politician or party.
A big step in reducing abortions is to minimize the occurence of unwanted pregnancies through science-based sex education, access to birth control, and by creating a society of equality where sexual assault is non-existent.
As a senator from a state that believes in personal freedom, I will support a woman's right to exercise control over her own body.
Historically, five main indigenuous tribes called Wyoming home. Today, the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone are forced to share the small Wind River Reservation (1.8 million acres, down from the original 400 million acres) in the middle of the state. Our failure to meet treaty commitments to indigeous tribes dates back to the 1800s, when lands originally assigned to the tribes were reallocated to homesteading and Land Grant Institutions including the University of Wyoming. Much of southwestern Wyoming sits on land that was originally part of the 1863 treaty with the eastern Shoshone Tribe. And the indignities continue today: as recently as this year, a district court ruled against the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes’ attempt to include Riverton as part of the Wind River Reservation.
The inequities play out on a national scale as well: The Trump administration is attempting to disband tribes, politicians only recently began to pay attention to the problem of missing and murdered indigenous women, and Republican attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act will disproportionately impact tribal members.
Wyoming’s tribal members are our neighbors and friends; they share our values, hopes and aspirations. For the past three years, I’ve mentored dozens of young people from the Wind River Reservation as an instructor at the University of Wyoming Native American Summer Institute. Their engagement, motivation, and enthusiasm for exploring our forests have been an inspiration.
As your senator, I will be sensitive to the rights and responsive to the needs of tribal leaders and allocate funds with an eye towards righting historic wrongs.
As an outdoor enthusiast, I am in love with everything Wyoming has to offer. It’s one of the main reasons I came to teach at the University of Wyoming over 20 years ago. I learned to skijor in Alaska, and I still do it here in Wyoming every year. My research projects have taken me to some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the state. I feel fortunate to have experienced these incredible places, and to have met many of the people who share my love of them.
Forty-eight percent of Wyoming’s land (about 30 million acres) is managed by federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. An additional 4.2 million acres are state owned. Wyoming public lands are a significant source of income for the state: the tourism and recreation industry is our second largest source of revenue. In many cases, however, mineral leasing and other developments by private entities limit public access to these lands. The current administration is expediting the auction of public land leases to fossil fuel conglomerates, all the while limiting the opportunity for public input.
A coalition of 78 businesses, 41 non-profit organizations, and over two thousand Wyomingites signed the petition to keep public lands in public hands. Many more participate in our yearly gatherings to celebrate Wyoming Public Lands Day (which was declared a state holiday in 2019).
As your senator, I will work to protect our public lands from being sold and keep them in public hands. I will fight to protect public lands and ensure they provide Wyomingites with clean air and water, access to recreation, hunting and fishing, grazing, and other non-disruptive uses. I will demand that public lands be kept in public hands and managed based on best practices as established by scientific research and by engaging all stakeholders.
Wyomingites are blessed with some of the cleanest water and air in the nation; our levels of air pollution are about half the national average, and most of our water sources are free of contaminants. Much of this can be attributed to the relatively low levels of development in the state, the high prevalence of public lands, and our wide open spaces.
Despite the overall high quality of our water and air, some communities experience severe incidents of pollution. The town of Pinedale, neighborhoods around Cheyenne, and areas near Douglas have been exposed to poor air quality, mostly because of oil and gas extraction. Residents of Laramie, Pavilion, Jackson Hole, and the Wind River Reservation are concerned about contamination of drinking water from various sources. Some of these concerns can be addressed at the state level, but others require enforcement of federal laws.
As your senator, I will fight to enforce environmental protection laws such as the clean air and the clean water acts. I will work to restore regulations that were repealed by the current administration, and close loopholes like the definition of “waters,” which allows mining companies to designate lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands as waste treatment systems.
Hunting, fishing, and other wildlife experiences contribute more than $1 billion dollars a year to Wyoming’s economy. These activities support thousands of jobs in the hospitality sector and fund conservation efforts by state and federal agencies. Hunting and fishing guides, restaurant and hotel owners, outdoor equipment stores and numerous others rely on revenue from residents and out-of-state hunters and anglers. Maintaining viable native fish and wildlife populations is pertinent to preserving our livelihood and way of life, and over the years we have realized that this work is best conducted by professionals like the nationally recognized Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD).
Wyoming has also been a leader in resolving wildlife management conflicts between state and federal agencies and other stakeholders, by creating task forces like the sage grouse task force and the migration initiative) to create coordinated management and recovery plans. Often, the University of Wyoming Ruckelshaus Institute facilitates solutions by encouraging discussion and collaboration, giving all Wyomingites a voice to reach a compromise. Recently, such successful efforts to resolve conflicts have been hampered by political interventions, often leading to protracted and contentious legal fights.
I am a hunter myself - I believe it is the most humane way to obtain meat. When I can’t hunt and the freezer gets low, I buy only locally raised, grass fed, free-ranging Wyoming beef. Meat from free-ranging animals is healthier and has a much lower carbon footprint than animals raised in feedlots or factory farms. Grass-fed cattle produce less methane than animals fed corn and fermented products. The recent legislation allowing Wyoming ranchers to sell their products directly to our residents is a step in the right direction. It also helps circumvent the problems arising from the COVID19 pandemic where workers in meat packing plants are infected at alarming rates.
As your senator, I will support continued funding of federal agencies responsible for protecting our environment, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Geological Survey.
I will ensure sustainable funding for Pittman-RobertsonFederal Aid Programs, recovery of endangered species, and continue to insist on mediated taskforce-driven solutions to ensure the best outcomes for all stakeholders.
I will also pursue legislation that will promote the success of the Wyoming cattle industry through provisions in the Farm Bill and others.
Women and Men: Including non-binary members of our community. In the 20 years I have lived in Wyoming I have seen a shift to treat LGBTQ+ and other groups as equals. But we still have to do more to accept and respect everyone. One of my first priorities will be to pursue legislation that will ensure closing the gender wage gap. It is hard to believe that in the Equality State women earn less than men for the same job. Similarly, we’ll need to reduce income inequality in Wyoming and across the nation. On a more personal note, I was outraged at the abuse experienced by some of the students from the Wind River Reservation who came to Laramie for the Native American Summer Institute these past 3 years. I had the pleasure of working with these fantastic young people on the Chipmunk Project (a hands-on, locally based, long-term research and education program), and strongly believe they deserved all the respect for their initiative and motivation. There is no room for racism in the 21st century. To face the challenges of the future we’ll need to join forces and work together.
Climate Change: I am a wildlife ecologist who has been studying the various effects of global change (invasive species, logging, pollution, and climate change) on animals (river otters, martens, chipmunks and polar bears). While studying mountain lions in California in the early 2000s, my colleagues and I detected the increasing signal of anthropogenic carbon emissions over the past 150 years in their bones! I also personally saw vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean free of ice while serving as the chief scientist on an icebreaker cruise in 2009. Therefore, I find it pointless to continue arguing whether climate change is real. However, my personal views on climate change, as are the views of any other Wyomingite, are irrelevant. With less than 600,000 residents (or 0.18% of the overall US population), we are a mere “drop in the bucket of humanity”. When improved alternative energy sources become available (see examples on the Resource tab) the majority of countries and states will adopt them faster than we can oppose them.
Planet: Countries from Peru to Tunisia to South Africa are adopting new renewable energy sources at a fast rate. For example, Scotland is expected to reach 100% electricity generation from renewable resources in 2020. The Navajo Nation is exploring a new system where solar energy will be used to pump water from Lake Powell into a reservoir. The water will be released at night to maintain continuous energy production (I really like this particular idea!)
Sector will wane: Many past flourishing US industries have disappeared over the decades including the fur industry that contributed to the establishment of the state of Wyoming (remember the Louisiana Purchase?). Although some people still trap in Wyoming and elsewhere, the income from this activity is barely measurable at the scale of the state overall revenue. Similarly, the famous whaling industry, once a major global economic driver in North America, is now limited to harvest by Japan and Norway and subsistence harvest by indigenous people. From a thriving industry it declined to a controversial practice. The same can be the case for the fossil fuel industry. A very important point to remember is that we heavily subsidize the coal, oil, and gas industries. We do not collect reclamation fees upfront and often have to cover those from the state’s budget after these companies declare bankruptcies. If we stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industries and properly charge them for the environmental damage they inflict on the planet, they will go out of business quickly.
Bulk of Wyoming’s Revenue: 52-66% of the state revenues in Wyoming are derived from the coal, oil and gas industries. Although tourism (including hunting and fishing) provides some income to the state it is only a small fraction of the overall revenue stream. Other current sources of income are insufficient to replace income from the fossil fuel industry. See the Resource tab for more information.
Losing Residents and Loved Ones: Between 2015 and 2018, Wyoming lost 7,931 residents (or 1.3% of our 2018 population – 577,737 people). We are also sadly forever losing loved ones at much higher rates than the rest of the nation. For information on suicide rate in Wyoming see the Resources tab. Economic anxiety and lack of hope for the future are factors we need to address by expanding the state’s economy.
Diversify the State’s Economy: Governor Matt Mead established the Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming (ENDOW) initiative in November 2016 (see Resources tab for link to the ENDOW website). The goal is to develop plans and initiatives to attract new businesses and revenue sources to Wyoming. Governor Mark Gordon is continuing that initiative.
Hydrogen-Cell Vehicle: Are you interested in some of the new innovations? Check out the links in the Resources tab for examples of innovations that we can attract to Wyoming. When I was a safari tour guide in Kenya over 30 years ago (1985-1990) there were no landline phones in much of that country. Today, pastoral Masai herders download weather forecasts using their cell phones charged by solar panels (more on this at the Resources tab).
Energy Producing State: According to experts, Wyoming has good wind resources (see Resources tab) but our capacity to generate solar energy is limited compared to neighboring states to our south. Having said that, we have incredible capacity to grow in production of solar energy for local use. If every public and private building in the state had a solar roof, we would be able to generate a lot more energy than we do now without harming our wide-open spaces! Indeed, several towns in Wyoming are exploring ways to be carbon neutral in the near future!
Quality of Life for Outdoor Lovers: I am an outdoor enthusiast and the recreational opportunities in Wyoming was the main reason I accepted the job offer from the University of Wyoming 20 years ago. My favorite sport, which I learned while living in Alaska (1990-2000), is skijoring. To see my dog, Chilkoot, and I enjoying some of Wyoming’s trails click here. My various research projects took me to some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the state. I feel fortunate to have been able to experience these incredible places and meet many of the people who share these feelings with me. I’m also a hunter and own 2 rifles and a shotgun. I believe hunting is the most humane way to obtain my meat, which is why I usually eat wild game. When the freezer gets low, locally raised, grass fed, free-ranging Wyoming beef is the preferred alternative. For several years in Israel (where hunting is prohibited) I was a vegetarian. To hear what made me start eating meat again, catch me at one of my campaign events – it’s a story about serving in the Israeli military and participating in a war...
“Live and Let Live”: We in Wyoming like to be “left alone” as one of my friends said when I asked what makes Wyoming special. Indeed we do! It is for that reason that we should be inclusive of people with differing backgrounds, beliefs and orientations. As my 88 years-old mother told my gay nephew when he came out: “I don’t tell you what I do in my bedroom and don’t expect you to tell me what you do in yours. I love you for who you are”. The same principle is true for intervening with decisions that should be made privately. No elected official has the moral authority to decide what one does with their body, their health or their family (abuse notwithstanding). In Wyoming, we pride ourselves on being there to help our neighbors when they need it, and then letting them live their lives as they wish.
Locally Produced Energy: An example of potential future energy sources are molten salt reactors. This technology, using small facilities to generate energy by converting Thorium to low amounts Uranium in the presence of liquid fluoride, are receiving increased attention (there are multiple resources online and the Resources tab). Thorium deposits are found in the Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming (see Resources tab) although Idaho has the largest deposits in the United States.
Healthcare System: In the 20 years I have lived in Wyoming, I had at least 6 different personal physicians. They were all excellent, but didn’t stay very long. Although I live in Laramie, a University town of about 30,000 people, I often have to go to Cheyenne or Ft. Collins to receive specialized treatment (thankfully, I’m a healthy person! so it doesn’t happen too often). I have met many in Wyoming who have even less access to health care than those of us living in the bigger towns. If we want to attract people who are searching for high quality of life and if we want to ensure that the young people of Wyoming find a future in the state, we need to design an excellent and affordable healthcare system; a system that also includes mobile services to reach our far-flung ranches. As a first step, Wyoming should join the rest of the Union in expanding Medicaid and be part of the discussion and planning of revised plans for healthcare and social security at the national level.
Job Guarantee Programs: This idea was first proposed decades ago. It is intended to use federal funds to support state-based job creation programs (instead of unemployment benefits and food stamps). It involves guaranteed employment after job losses and a minimum livable wage while working. Adaptation of this initiative to our times may help job creation and retraining programs in Wyoming (see Resources tab for more information).
Careful Planning: Over the past few decades, we have developed excellent planning tools that allow us to identify important area for conservation while fostering economic development. For examples of innovative use of science to plan future development while conserving our wide-open spaces and wildlife populations check out the Wyoming Migration Initiative or Wind Power in Wyoming: Doing it Smart from the Start (see Resources tab for links).