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AP-US-SAGE-GROUSE-ENERGY-LEASES

US pushes changes to Western land plans that judge blocked

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Interior Department officials are seeking to bolster their case for easing restrictions on energy development, mining and grazing in seven Western states. A federal judge in Idaho blocked the Trump administration plans last year over concerns that they could harm greater sage grouse, a ground-dwelling bird. Assistant Interior Secretary Casey Hammond says a new set of environmental studies published Friday clarifies the steps the government will take to conserve sage grouse habitat. The Interior Department opened a 45-day public comment period on the studies that cover millions of acres of public lands in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and California.

CHASE-FATAL JUMP

Wyoming patrol: Texas man dies after jumping from vehicle

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming authorities say a Texas man suspected of drunken driving is dead after jumping out of his speeding vehicle while being chased by a state trooper. The Wyoming Highway Patrol says 43-year-old Marshall Acker of Tyler climbed out of his vehicle through his sunroof during Friday's chase and jumped onto Interstate 90 near Sheridan as his vehicle traveled at around 80 mph. The approximately 5-mile pursuit started after troopers were notified of a suspected drunken driver. Acker was initially spotted driving at 97 mph in a 75 mph zone and failed to stop for a trooper who turned on his emergency lights and sirens.

YELLOWSTONE-WORKER HOUSING

Yellowstone plans upgrades to decades-old employee housing

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park plans to replace dozens of decades-old trailers used by park worker. It's part of a major initiative by the park to upgrade employee housing. About half of the Yellowstone's 800 employees live in park housing. Park spokeswoman Morgan Warthin described the quality of the accommodations as “fair to poor.” Costs for the work will run into the tens of millions of dollars.

SEXUAL ASSAULT-PLEA

Utah man pleads guilty to 17 felonies including sex assault

FARMINGTON, Utah (AP) — An Ogden man accused of several rapes in Utah and Wyoming has pleaded guilty to all 17 charges levied against him, including aggravated sex assault, kidnapping and burglary. The Standard-Examiner reported that 69-year-old Mark Douglas Burns pleaded guilty Thursday. Burns was arrested in September after authorities linked him to multiple cases in Utah and Wyoming through familial DNA. Burns, who was dubbed the “Clearfield Rapist,” is being held in the Davis County Jail. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 6.

TEACHER-SEX ABUSE

Ex-Wyoming teacher pleads not guilty to abuse allegations

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A former substitute middle school teacher has pleaded not guilty to multiple felonies after authorities say he sexually abused a then 14-year-old girl he met while teaching. The Casper Star-Tribune reported 36-year-old Jason Waugaman entered the pleas Thursday to two counts of second-degree sexual abuse and one count of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Prosecutors say the teenage girl told police earlier this year that she and Waugaman communicated through Snapchat for years where he is accused of making sexual comments and requesting nude photos. Natrona County School District officials fired Waugaman from Dean Morgan Junior High in Casper following his January arrest.

FOUR-YEAR DEGREES

Four-year degree planning approved for 2 Wyoming colleges

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Community College Commission has given a college district permission to begin planning to offer four-year degree programs. The recent approval applies to Gillette College and Sheridan College in the Northern Wyoming Community College District. The Gillette News-Record reports it's an essential step toward four-year applied science baccalaureate degrees in management and leadership at the two schools. Four other Wyoming community colleges also are pursuing four-year degrees after Gov. Mark Gordon signed a law allowing them to do so in 2019. Two-year colleges in Wyoming also are seeking Higher Learning Commission approval to offer four-year degrees.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Associated Press

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