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Nov 4, 2013 - The Associated Press

Mead may seek more road money

CHEYENNE -- The passage of the state's fuel tax hike earlier in the year has not ended the debate about funding Wyoming's highway needs.

Gov. Matt Mead recently said he may ask for more money in his 2015-16 budget for the roads.

The 10-cent fuel tax hike lawmakers passed earlier in the year went into effect July 1. It is expected to generate $72.4 million a year for the state. But only about $47 million of that goes to highways each year. Most of the rest is sent to local governments.

A new Wyoming Department of Transportation report says the agency still needs $64 million more a year to maintain highways in their current condition.

Without additional funding, the report says, roadways will continue to deteriorate and cost more to repair in the future.

"For every dollar not spent on timely preventive maintenance, $4 to $8 will be needed for complete reconstruction a few years later," the report reads.

About 19 percent of the highways are rated in "poor" condition. That number will rise to 26 percent by 2016 and 28 percent by 2020 under current state funding.

Grouse rules tightened in part of state

SALT LAKE CITY -- The federal Bureau of Land Management has unveiled a set of proposals for tightening protections for sage grouse habitat on about 4 million acres of public land around Utah.

The Utah plan, which includes a tiny part of Wyoming, is among three draft environmental impact statements being put on the federal register Friday. The plans cover three full Western states -- Utah, Nevada and Idaho -- and slivers of three others: Wyoming, California and Montana.

The goal is to protect the dwindling population of sage grouse, football-size birds known for puffing themselves up during elaborate mating dances, without crippling the state's economy by outlawing ranching, mining and energy development on the lands, said Quincy Bahr, BLM Utah's sage grouse project manager.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency is under court mandate to determine by 2015 if sage grouse deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act. BLM officials want to finalize plans by October 2014. The bird is found in 11 Western states.

The issue is hugely important in Utah and other Western states, where conservationists are pushing for more measures to protect sage grouse habitat while ranchers, miners and oil and gas executives are fighting to protect their ability to operate on public lands.

Rig count jumps by six in Wyoming

HOUSTON -- Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose by four this week to 1,742.

The Houston-based company said in its weekly report Friday that 1,376 rigs were exploring for oil and 360 for gas. Six were miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,800 rigs.

Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas gained nine rigs, Wyoming increased by six, Kansas added two and Oklahoma and West Virginia each rose by one.

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