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New West Daily Roundup for Sept. 14, 2016

Today in New West news: federal protections denied for American pika, Secure Cloud busts code crackers, and an update on the Wyoming Capitol renovation.

Late this August, we reported a new study from the U.S. Geological Survey had concluded climate change was negatively affecting American pika habitat. The pika, one of the most unique natives of the Rocky Mountain region, thrives in cold and cool conditions, and is being adversely affected by rising temperatures across the American West. Indeed, its habitat has shrunk in Utah and across the Great Basin, among other locations.

Keeping that study in mind, according to the Billings Gazette, federal officials rejected protections for the pika and five other species endangered by climate change:

Temperatures of 80 degrees or higher can kill the mountain-dwelling mammals, wildlife officials say.

But the study was not available when a student from New York petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April to protect the animal under the Endangered Species Act, agency spokesman Brian Hires said.

“We always try to use the best available science for our decisions,” Hires said.

He didn’t provide further details on why the petition was rejected. The government denied a prior request for pika protections in 2010, saying not all populations were declining.

The wildlife service is unlikely to pursue further action on pikas on its own, officials said, citing a heavy workload of other imperiled species.

President Barack Obama mentioned the plight of the pika this summer when he spoke at Yosemite National Park about the damage climate change is inflicting on national parks. He said the pika was being forced further upslope at Yosemite to escape the heat.

Wildlife officials also rejected petitions to protect the Wyoming pocket gopher, two species of Alaskan birds known as eiders, a Caribbean iguana and a salamander found in Arkansas.

Four other species are being considered, including the Joshua tree, found in Arizona, California, Utah, and Nevada.

Down in the Centennial State, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado Springs-based Secure Cloud Systems Inc. is using its MicroTokenization technology to securely transmit information in the most unexpected way, “sandwiching” information between lines of code:

That bit of data, called the token, is sandwiched between hundreds of lines of code in an encrypted packet of data sent between the devices and expires after each use – Secure Cloud’s software can generate thousands of new tokens a second.

The company last year won a key subcontract with partner MicroTechnologies LLC in a $5.79 billion Air Force contract for network operations and related information technology services to provide cybersecurity technology to the Air Force, Army, Navy, the Defense Department and other federal agencies.

Secure Cloud also is expected to soon receive task orders under a key subcontract valued at $200 million to $300 million to PD-Systems Inc. to provide its MicroTokenization technology under the Army’s Tank and Automotive Command’s $3.5 billion Strategic Services Solutions contract.

Under the Army task order, Secure Cloud’s MicroTokenization technology would be used to help Army autonomous supply vehicles, designed to carry ammunition and critical supplies in combat zones, to communicate with command centers that would operate them, said David Schoenberger, the company’s co-founder and chief innovation officer.

The order would come in two parts, he said: a research, development, test and evaluation phase valued at about $6 million in which the technology must be demonstrated and a deployment phase valued at more than $200 million.

“Governments are adding security to their existing firewall protection to data mobility and defense with the implementation of (Secure Cloud’s) CertainSafe services,” Steven Russo, Secure Cloud’s executive vice president, said in a news release. “These two contracts acknowledged our emergence as an industry leader in the deployment of technology that allows for data defense resiliency and total protection.”

Finally, over in Wyoming, we’ve been following developments in the state’s Capitol Building Restoration project, part of a larger project set to revitalize the capitol square in Cheyenne. We also reported that the project could potentially be delayed due to issues with the building’s foundation. According to the Wyoming Business Report, however, progress is being made on the project. Among the positive gains? No more 1970s-era carpet in the Legislature chambers—and no more drop ceilings—all removed to restore some of the building’s original masonry and decorative painting. From the Report:

When the restoration and renovation work to the Capitol and nearby Herschler Building are complete in 2019, many of the historic elements from the original 1888 building and 1890 and 1917 additions will be returned.

Sen. Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, a co-chairman of the Capitol Restoration Oversight Group, said the Capitol will look “fundamentally different” when work is complete.

“We can restore the original grandeur of the building,” he said.

More importantly, the Capitol will be more easily accessible to people with disabilities and will be much safer, with modern wiring and fire suppression systems.

There will also be more room in meeting spaces to accommodate more members of the public.
New elevators will be added, as will restrooms on all floors.

Cheyenne residents have been watching for months as crews and scaffolding have enveloped the Capitol and Herschler Building, including the recent gutting of the east wing of the latter.

But the construction site has been closed to the public, and so project managers led a media tour of the building’s interior Tuesday to show what’s been done so far.

Paul Brown, a representative of MOCA, the firm serving as the project manager for the Capitol, led the tour.

Brown said that the team is “trying to preserve what’s here” when it comes to historic elements. That includes restoration of windows, including those in the back of the House chamber, arched windows and doorways and the reopening of a two-story-high meeting room that the Wyoming Territorial House, and later, the Wyoming Supreme Court once used.

Restoration of that room will make it the largest meeting room in the Capitol proper.
Skylights in the rotunda and corridors of the building will be brought back, allowing more natural light into the building.

A few elements will be moved, including a massive vault once used by the state treasurer. The vault and its 12-ton door will be taken from the second floor to the ground floor to provide for additional space.

Workers are also repairing the stone on the exterior of the Capitol, replacing sections that are damaged. Replacement sandstone is coming from a quarry near Rawlins, which is near where much of the building’s original sandstone was quarried, Brown said.

Meanwhile, the Herschler Building will be expanded on its southern edges by 17 feet and the atrium in the center will be removed.

The west wing of the building is still open and contains working offices.

Once construction is finished on the east wing, the west wing will be renovated.

New, modern meeting rooms will also be added to the underground corridor connecting the Capitol and Herschler.

A grand opening ceremony is planned in July 2019.

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