The Mountain West News Bureau

The Mountain West News Bureau team, from left to right: Amanda Peacher, Judy Fahys, Ali Budner, Rae Ellen Bichell, Maggie Mullen, Nate Hegyi and Kate Concannon.

In addition to a full news department serving just Wyoming, Wyoming Public Media is a founding partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Wyoming, Colorado Idaho, Montana, and Utah. Our mission is to tell stories about the people, places, and issues of the Rocky Mountain West.

Many of these stories and issues are regional and affect all people living in the Mountain West. From land and water management to growth in the expanding West to our unique culture and heritage, the Bureau addresses issues that define us as a region. Part of the Bureau’s charge is to submit stories to NPR and other national and global distributors, thus sharing the Mountain West culture more broadly.

Contributing stations include Boise State Public RadioWyoming Public MediaYellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

The editor for the Mountain West News Bureau is Kate Concannon, a long-time NPR regional editor. Maggie Mullen is the lead Wyoming reporter for this partnership, with contributions from all Wyoming Public Media reporters. The partnership is overseen by news directors in all participating stations and networks.

The Mountain West News Bureau is supported in part by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Regional Journalism Center program. Matching or contributing donations for the support of this initiative or for general WPM reporting are welcome. For more information, contact Christina Kuzmych, Wyoming Public Media General Manager at ckuzmych@uwyo.edu.

A series of small forest fires that started this week in northern Utah and southern Wyoming are being investigated as arsons.

If the measure passes in November, the town of Golden, Colorado may join a handful of cities that allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections. The idea is part of a growing conversation to lower the voting age for state and federal elections as well.

The Trump Administration has finally nominated a director for the National Park Service. The new director will manage a public lands system facing record-breaking visitation and $11 billion in maintenance backlog.

 


Walking through forests across the Mountain West, you might not realize you’re walking past historical artifacts big enough to crush you. These artifacts are pine and cedar trees that have had their bark peeled off in a special way. The trees are a bit of a mystery to archaeologists, and one they’re running out of time to solve.

6:00 p.m. update: A federal judge has put the freeze on grizzly bear hunts near Yellowstone National Park while he mulls reinstating Endangered Species Act protections for the animals. They will now be pushed back at least two weeks. 

A federal judge is taking his time deciding whether or not to reinstitute Endangered Species Act protections for Yellowstone-area grizzly bears.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has released more details about his plan to reorganize the Department of Interior. The plan could have big impacts for public lands in the west.

 


A U.S. district court hearing Thursday could decide the fate of grizzly bears living around Yellowstone National Park.

A new report out of Idaho shows the number of children without a permanent roof over their heads is increasing.  This trend is mirrored across much of the Mountain West. 

According to a new report by the World Wildlife Fund, recent low crop prices mean some ranchers are shifting their lands from crops back to grassland for cattle.


Maggie Mullen

It's no secret that water is a problem in the West. Historically, the humble beaver helped maintain wetlands and ponds across the arid landscape but their populations were decimated during the fur trade and their numbers dropped dramatically from 400 million to just 100,000 by the turn of the twentieth century. But Canada's national animal is making a comeback and scientists think they have an important role to play as our region fights drought.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) may be the most successful, and little-known, conservation program. That obscurity could contribute to it's downfall. 

Western firefighters were working the biggest wildfire in California’s history when they encountered a surprising obstacle: slow internet.

The Colorado River is running low on water. The lifeline that slakes the thirst of 40 million southwestern residents is projected to hit a historic low mark within two years, forcing mandatory cuts to water deliveries in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.   

Facing exceptional drought conditions, cities throughout the watershed this summer have imposed mandatory water restrictions, ranchers have begun selling off cows they’re unable to feed, and the river’s reservoirs are headed toward levels not seen since they filled decades ago.

With wildfires burning through much of the West, there’s high demand for big aircraft to come in and battle the flames from above.

Representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are becoming more active in their opposition to a medical marijuana initiative in Utah this November.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported record drug overdose numbers in 2017, but a handful of states saw a decrease last year including here in the Mountain West.

The Trump administration announced a new rule on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, called the ‘Affordable Clean Energy Rule.’ It would put regulatory power in states’ hands.

The Obama administration had previously tried to enact something called the Clean Power Plan, which was considered the country’s primary strategy for lowering emissions to meet its 2030 target under the Paris climate agreement.

Colorado is called “the mother of  rivers” for a reason: it’s one of the most popular states for river rafting in the country.  But like the rest of our region, unprecedented growth, a changing climate, drought, and wildfires are taking their toll on this multi-million-dollar industry.

Wildfire smoke reached dangerous levels across the Mountain West Monday. Eastern Washington had the worst air in the country and all 56 counties in Montana were under an air quality alert – possibly the first time that’s happened in the state’s history.

Over the last 30 years, the West has seen an uptick in the size and frequency of forest fires. Scientists have typically attributed the change to low snowpack and high summer temperatures. But researchers writing in the journal PNAS say the trend could have more to do with rain.

Researchers pulled up maps of forest wildfires from 1979 to 2016 and compared those maps against data on snow, rain, temperature and humidity.

People for and against abortion rights are watching what happens with President Trump’s nominee to fill an empty seat on the Supreme Court.

Anti-abortion groups including March for Life and National Right to Life Committee have commended the president’s choice, Brett Kavanaugh, whose Senate confirmation hearings are set to begin in early September. Abortion-rights advocates worry that adding a perceived conservative justice like Kavanaugh will tip the court’s scales when it comes to views on abortion, opening up the possibility that a 1973 Supreme Court case protecting that right might be overturned.


Measles is making a comeback in the U.S. as more parents choose not to vaccinate their children. The childhood disease is a major killer in much of the developing world, but now the public health community is trying to re-educate families about the importance of childhood vaccinations. That includes a new program in Utah.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking media organizations to stop using the terms "LDS Church," "Mormon Church" or even "Mormons" when referring to the faith or its members.

A major outdoor apparel company is moving its global headquarters to Colorado. The move comes amid the growing economic and political power of the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry in our region.

The Bureau of Land Management has issued draft proposals outlining the uses the federal government wants to allow in the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments in southern Utah.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting a record 72,000 people died from opioid overdoses last year. Meanwhile, a newly published study from the University of Colorado shows pet owners may be intentionally hurting their animals to get the drug for themselves.   

Low water levels on the Colorado River could force water shortages in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico in 2020, according to a new forecast from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

A shortage on the river is tied to the level of its main reservoir, Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Nevada. If the lake drops past an elevation of 1,075 feet, water users downstream have to start cutting back how much water they use. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects the lake to drop below that level next year, triggering water cutbacks in 2020.

Some Republicans are angry with a concert poster by iconic rock band Pearl Jam.

It’s an absurdist cartoon featuring an apocalyptic scene with an eagle picking at the skeleton of President Donald Trump, a UFO and Montana’s Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester flying a tractor over a burning White House.

Alexi Hubbell Photography

With its breathtaking views, the Mountain West has long been a destination for weddings. But now, some wedding industry workers are seeing fewer couples wanting to get hitched in late summer months because of an increasingly smoky backdrop.

U.S. Air Force

Historic church bells seized in the Philippine-American War and brought back to the Mountain West may soon head back home. But Wyoming's delegation is not happy with the possible move across the ocean.

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