The Mountain West News Bureau

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, Neveda, New Mexico, 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.

The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico with support from affiliate stations across the region.

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 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.

Polls show Americans are increasingly interested in getting vaccinated against covid-19, but such surveys are largely national, leaving a big question: When the vaccines become available to the general public, will enough people get it in your county, city or neighborhood to keep your community safe?

Last week, Texas joined Montana and a handful of other states in lifting its statewide mask mandate, a move that runs counter to warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Senate committee vote Thursday brought Deb Haaland one step closer to becoming the nation's next Interior secretary. If she's confirmed she'll face myriad big decisions, including whether to move the Bureau of Land Management headquarters from Colorado back to Washington, D.C.

Chris Bruton said his dad got sick in 2017 and just never got better. 

"He had fatigue and we didn't know what it was," he said. 

By January 2018, they had an answer.

Health officials hope the newly approved Johnson and Johnson vaccine will accelerate progress in vaccinating rural and homebound residents in the Mountain West. But there’s some unnecessary confusion over the shot’s efficacy.

Vaccine appointment frustration is pretty common these days. And because of challenges with hospital systems, a lot of people are turning to pharmacies to get their COVID-19 vaccine. However, it's still a pain to track down information on every pharmacy's website.


Dangerous conditions in the backcountry this winter highlight a potential cause that scientists continue to study: the connection between avalanches and the climate crisis.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center counts at least 33 avalanche deaths across the country so far this season. That number eclipses the 23 fatalities for the entire winter the year before – and several years prior.

Over the weekend, the FDA approved a third COVID-19 vaccine. The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe disease, promises to boost inoculation rates in Mountain West states, including rural areas. 

University of Wyoming Black Studies Center

Racist "Zoom bombings" have attacked virtual meetings on college campuses in Wyoming and Utah this month.

USFS Rocky Mountains

Two Western lawmakers have reintroduced companion bills to establish a federal conservation corps. It would invest $9 billion in a civilian workforce dedicated to public lands, part of a $40 billion package focused on conservation, restoration and rural economies.

Roman Tiraspolsky / Adobe Stock


The pandemic has caused huge revenue shortfalls in state budgets across the Mountain West and the country, renewing heated debates over taxes. That's true in Wyoming, too, though one tax issue before lawmakers is "still something that, you know, gets whispered about."

A recent snowstorm that blew through the Mountain West was a welcome sight for states facing extreme drought. But across the southern half of the region, it may not have been as beneficial as it looks. 


 

Jazmine Wildcat is a star student in Riverton, Wyoming. Not the type to skip class. But on Tuesday morning, a piece of history was unfolding that the 17-year-old just couldn't miss: A congressional hearing to consider the confirmation of Deb Haaland as the first Indigenous secretary of the Interior.

"It is just super monumental and so inspiring, not only to just me, but probably other Native women," Jazmine said.

Diane Huntress, 74, lives in Denver and says trying to get a COVID shot for her and her husband David is like applying for a job.

“I can't talk to anyone," she said. "There's no phone number and all the emails we get say, ‘Do not reply.’ And the problem is, where can I go, can I get there, and when are they going to have it?”

She says vaccines take up all the oxygen among her social circle, too: "I can't see anybody, an acquaintance on Zoom without the question, ‘Have you gotten the vaccine yet?’”

Latino and Black people are generally more vulnerable to COVID-19, yet they remain far less likely to have received a vaccine, according to the latest demographic data from the CDC.

The Senate confirmation hearing for Deb Haaland, nominated to lead the Interior Department, began Tuesday. If confirmed, she'll be the nation's first Indigenous cabinet secretary and oversee federal public lands management and tribal affairs.

Zigmar Stein / Adobe Stock

The Centers for Disease Control has said proper ventilation in indoor settings can cut down the spread of COVID-19. But how can you tell whether a space is in fact well ventilated?

The pandemic's economic toll has left many in the Mountain West struggling to feed their families. In fact, Nevada and New Mexico have some of the highest rates of child food insecurity in the country, according to a report published last fall by the nonprofit Feeding America.

The House Natural Resources Committee is one of the most powerful congressional bodies when it comes to managing the West's public lands. But the committee's first meeting of the year devolved into an argument over guns. 

The National Park Service just dropped an early version of its new app.

Frank D. Lospalluto/Flickr

While there's an insect named after Lady Gaga, and a lichen named after former President Barack Obama, a lot of the time species get named after scientists - especially white men.

The Biden administration reopened enrollment for the Affordable Care Act this week. But enrollment details aren't the same everywhere.


Aspen, Colo., has agreed to host the 2021 FIS Snowboard and Freeski World Championships in March after the original host city in China canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In the Mountain West and across the country, states are rolling back COVID-19 restrictions like mask mandates and allowing more people to gather. While this was largely a response to reduced infection numbers, new strains of the virus are on the move.


 

 

New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland is poised to become our nation's first Indigenous cabinet secretary. As some prominent Mountain West lawmakers oppose her confirmation to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior, many of their Indigenous constituents are pushing back.

Gun sales have spiked during the pandemic, and retailers are running low on ammunition all around the country.


It's a Wednesday evening in December. Five o'clock means the end of my work day, and the start of Wampanoag language class.

"Wunee wunôq," my language teacher, Tracy Kelly, greets me as I join the Zoom call from my kitchen table in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The number of hate and extremist groups declined last year, but that doesn’t mean the threat from these groups is diminishing.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual report “The Year in Hate and Extremism” counted 838 active hate groups in 2020, an 11% decline from the previous year. Despite a decrease in the number of hate groups, the report notes that overall they are still at “historic highs.”

Bloomberg News broke the story this week about a very bleak outlook for a big industry in the West: Morgan Stanley is predicting coal will completely leave the U.S. energy mix by 2033, replaced largely by renewables.


The Biden administration is considering an increase in royalty rates on oil, gas and coal development on public lands for the first time in more than a century.

 


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