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Jun 21, 2013 - The Associated Press

More fire warnings announced

CHEYENNE -- The fire danger is increasing in southern Wyoming and fire managers are asking people to use caution while recreating outdoors.

The Rawlins Interagency Dispatch area reports that the fire danger is currently moderate and is increasing with continued warm, dry weather. Fire managers track fire danger by monitoring the weather and moisture levels in vegetation.

Fire managers around Grand Teton National Park issued a similar warning earlier this week.

Officials say that fire danger indices are now trending above normal for this time of year.

As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, fire managers are warning the public that fireworks are prohibited in many areas and aren't allowed on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands at any time.

New coal lease OK'd near border

BILLINGS, Mont. -- The U.S. government approved plans by a Montana Indian tribe to lease an estimated 1.4 billion tons of coal to a Wyoming company that's moving aggressively to increase coal exports to Asia, the company and tribe announced Thursday.

The deal between Cloud Peak Energy Inc. and the Crow Tribe involves more coal than the U.S. consumes annually.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs' approval allows Cloud Peak to begin exploration work on the Crow reservation.

Cloud Peak has pending agreements to ship more than 20 million tons of coal annually through two proposed ports on the West Coast. Officials in Washington and Oregon oppose those and other port proposals on environmental grounds, but federal officials said earlier this week they plan only limited environmental reviews of the projects.

Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall said preliminary work in Montana on the so-called Big Metal coal mining project -- named after a legendary Crow figure -- has begun. The company says it could take five years to develop a mine that would produce up to 10 million tons of coal annually, and other mines are possible in the leased areas.

The Crow Tribe's coal reserves are within the Powder River Basin, which accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. coal production. Cloud Peak paid the tribe $1.5 million upon Thursday's BIA approval, bringing its total payments to the tribe so far to $3.75 million.

State issues fish mercury advisory

CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming Health and Game and Fish departments advise residents to remain up to date on the mercury levels in the fish they catch and eat.

Game and Fish Department assistant fisheries management coordinator Mark Smith says the two agencies plan to continue to update the fish consumption advisory for Wyoming-caught fish as new data is analyzed.

New data on fish from Lake Desmet, Boysen, Buffalo Bill, Keyhole and Pallisades reservoirs found a few additions and adjustments to the consumption advisories for fish in those waters.

The majority of additions to the advisory this year are for larger lake trout and walleye at Buffalo Bill Reservoir, where data was previously not available.

Anglers may want to consult the updated advisories by going to the Game and Fish website.

Norovirus in parks hits roughly 200

JACKSON -- A norovirus outbreak believed to have started at Yellowstone National Park may have affected around 200 people at both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.

About 50 visitors have reported symptoms associated with norovirus, a stomach flu that is easily spread by touching an infected person or contaminated surfaces. Up to 150 park employees may have been infected, though not all those cases have been confirmed.

The outbreak is believed to have started with a group of tourists who visited the Mammoth Hot Springs area in Yellowstone on June 7. They complained of stomach flu symptoms and, within 48 hours, employees who work with visitors also reported being sick.

Physician's assistant Michael Takagi said the outbreak is one of the most significant ones he's seen.

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