Smoke, school and cyber

Aug 23, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

Is it simply selective memory, or was there a time when summer in Fremont County didn't feature week after week of our beautiful Wind River Mountains all but invisible because of smoke from wildfires?

One of the regrets of this week's big surge of visitors coming to the area to view the solar eclipse is that so many of them might not have known the Wind Rivers are even there. For most of August, the mountains have been obscured by smoke.

Air pollution is a big and important topic of conversation nationwide, with huge economic impacts for energy producing states including Wyoming as air-quality standards are imposed, challenged, debated and dealt with. Fair enough. Clean air is important. But a continuing question also seems fair enough: If we are so worried about pollutants coming from a power plant smokestack, why are we so calm about letting a forest fire fill a multi-state region with smoke?

We haven't done the calculations, and we know the substances are not identical, but the fires in other states that have obliterated the view of the Wind River Range for a month surely must be putting as much pollution into the air as the power plants that burn Powder River Basin coal.

Limiting coal emissions is important, but it's worth examining what the let-it-burn strategy applied to so many western fires is doing to air quality as well. When smoke dominates a thousand-mile stretch of a weather satellite photo, its polluting impact can't be ignored.

School's in

This week marks the end of summer vacation for just about every public school student in Fremont County. Some schools started classes last week, and Central Wyoming College is about to welcome the fall semester students as well.

The start of school requires a change from summertime habits for everyone, even if we don't have children in school or don't work at a school. The rest of us still need to take note of changing traffic patterns around town, and of pedestrian patterns as well.

If your morning drive can be put off until after the rush of school-related traffic, then wait awhile. The cars and buses heading to our schools will be off the streets soon enough. Don't add extra pressure to traffic flow between about7:45 and 8:45in the morning, and about 3 to 4 in the afternoon, unless there's no choice.

As for pedestrians, lots of students walk to and from school, walk to and from a bus stop, and walk to and from an after-school activity. There are recommended routes, and pedestrian paths and marked with crosswalks, but none of that does much good unless drivers are attuned to the new presence of our young citizens on foot. Be careful out there.

On the web

The new-look dailyranger.comwent "live"on Tuesdayafternoon. Our emphasis remains our print edition, but the website is an important part of our news reporting mission. Craig Blumenshine reworked the old site into the new. Claire Peart has the primary responsibility of day-to-day updates, with Alejandra Silva and Dan Bendtsen contributing to our online products as well.

Look it over. We think users will embrace the improvements - and for the time being it's free.