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September 24, 2013 7:33 am

Royal Tour

Written by Tom Lawrence

Prince Albert of Monaco celebrates ancestor, environmentalism

during 4-day stop in state

A century after his namesake great-great-grandfather came to Wyoming, Prince Albert II of Monaco donned a white cowboy hat and emphasized his love for the West and support for environmental research.

“I can’t thank you enough for the wonderful Western hospitality,” the prince said during a luncheon in Cody Thursday.

Prince Albert, 55, rules the Principality of Monaco, a flyspeck of a nation perched on the coast of France bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the second smallest independent nation in the world, but thanks to its sunny climes, tax-haven status and famed casino in the city of Monte Carlo, its fame outpaces its diminutive size.

In 1913, Prince Albert I hunted with William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. The prince was world-famous for his interests in science and exploration.

A similar interest drew Albert II to Wyoming last week. It was his second stop in the Cody area; he accompanied his father Prince Rainier III to Wyoming 20 years earlier to mark the 80th anniversary of the 1913 hunting trip.

In addition to touring the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and performing other duties of a dignitary, Albert awarded the first-ever Camp Monaco Prize, which bears the name of the camp where Albert I and Buffalo Bill passed the time 100 years ago.

Arthur Middleton, 38, and Joe Riis, 29, will share the $100,000 grant to aid in their research on elk migrations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Middleton and Riis submitted “Rediscovering the Elk Migrations of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: A Project of Transboundary Science and Outreach.”

It stressed the importance of studying the movements, productivity and conservation of the ecosystem’s migratory elk; the climatic influences on their migration; and the potential for long-term monitoring of migration via camera-trapping.

They also launched a public webcam to share live elk migration images at key bottleneck areas, produce a documentary film, and create a photography archive in support of science, education and outreach. Their entry topped those from more than 20 domestic and international organizations, institutions, and agencies.

“One of the compelling aspects of this project is that it attempts to bring scientists, government agencies, policymakers and the general public together around a topic that cuts across ecology, economy and culture,” said Jury Co-Chair Dr. C.R. Preston, the founding curator of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Draper Natural History Museum. “This approach holds real hope for effective biodiversity conservation in the 21st century.”

The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation-USA funded the prize in cooperation with the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Draper Natural History Museum and the University of Wyoming’s Biodiversity Institute.

“My interest in environmental issues comes from my very young age due to the geographical position of my country and my family concerns,” Prince Albert said in prepared remarks released to the press. “This interest led to the launch of my foundation in 2006, which focuses on various threats such as protection of biodiversity of the poles, climate change, renewable energies and water management.”

Albert said during a press conference that climate change is a grave threat, a view that was clear in a short film shown during the luncheon.

“I think it’s undoubtedly the area that is the most concerning to all of us,” he said.

During a luncheon to honor the prize recipients, Albert was given the white Stetson by Barron G. Collier II, chairman of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Board of Trustees. The prince gamely donned it for photographers and the crowd. He said he now has 10 such cowboy hats.

Albert II also received a statue that shows Prince Albert I on horseback, listening as Buffalo Bill makes a point.

“We’re looking forward to a fantastic few days here,” the prince said.

He also wore a brightly colored piece of jewelry over his tie that was given to him by Crow leader Joe Medicine Crow. The prince also gave Medicine Crow, who will turn 100 in October, a gift.

“Welcome to the Crow Country,” Medicine Crow said.

Afterward, the group moved to the Geyser Brewing Company with the rugged landscape and Shoshone River visible through windows, where about 170 people ate rainbow trout, sipped wine and enjoyed Belgian chocolate mousse with candied bacon.

Albert, who was on a non-official, non-state visit, fielded a few questions from the media after the lunch. First, he said his nation offered its “deep condolences” to the victims of the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard and to the people killed, injured and displaced by flooding in Colorado.

He said he came to Wyoming to celebrate what his ancestor and Buffalo Bill Cody meant to each other and to the cause of environmentalism, speaking of the “great legacy that both these iconic figures left us.”

On Friday, Prince Albert toured parts of Yellowstone that could be immediately impacted by the Camp Monaco Prize winning submission. He wrapped up the weekend by celebrating the winners of the prize with other guests at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s annual Patrons Ball Saturday night.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as Wyoming Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Gov. Matt Mead also attended the ball, which is the center’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

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