Mountain West News Bureau | KUNR

Mountain West News Bureau

KUNR Public Radio is a proud partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. The mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues of the Mountain West. 

Contributing stations include 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.

Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

When headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) relocated from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, CO, it was a controversial move.

The Trump Administration and some Mountain West lawmakers said the idea was to get decision-makers closer to the land and resources they manage. But critics, including Democrats, conservationists and former BLM employees, saw it as a way to gut the federal agency in favor of Trump’s "American energy dominance" agenda.

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

When police took Carlos Yazzie to jail on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico after his arrest on a bench warrant in January 2017, he needed immediate medical attention. His foot was swollen and his blood alcohol content was nearly six times the legal limit.

Young people have struggled to adapt to new realities wrought by the pandemic. That is especially true for LGBTQ youth.

A recent survey by the national nonprofit the Trevor Project found 42% of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

At a recent rally in support of Palestine that drew hundreds of people to the Colorado state Capitol, Palestinian American women energized the crowd. They led call-and-response chants until their voices were hoarse. They also spoke of the realities their family members face living under Israeli occupation.

A massive hacking incident against beef processing giant JBS caused an estimated 20% of U.S. beef packing plants to grind to a halt earlier this week. JBS was quick to get things back online, but the attack raises questions about cyber security and market consolidation.

Cattle ranchers across the region have expressed concerns about certain companies getting too much power and affecting too much of the market. According to USDA estimates, only four companies control about 80% of the beef processing market.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that tribal police can search and detain non-Native people traveling on public roads through reservation lands.

Across Indian Country, a jurisdiction maze has meant that when a tribal police officer pulls over a non-Native person, the officer most likely can't detain them or even search them – even if the cop has a strong suspicion that the driver was committing a crime.

A bright red siren sits atop a steel frame behind the fire department in Minden, Nevada.
Paul Boger / KUNR

Many communities across the Mountain West were once known as “sundown towns.” Those are places that once had policies to force people of color to leave town by nightfall. If they didn’t, they could be arrested or worse. One town in Nevada is grappling with its racist legacy.   

With the FDA and CDC signing off on kids as young as 12 receiving Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, young people around the region tell the Mountain West News Bureau about what's motivating them to get the shot.

Ezra Visser, 14, Laramie, Wyoming

"I wanted to get [the shot] pretty much right away. Because that way I knew I had at least some type of protection against COVID. And that way I could see friends more freely and, eventually, not have to wear a mask in most places."

Parts of the Mountain West are experiencing the worst drought conditions in more than a century, prompting the Biden administration to pledge a government-wide response to the crisis.

On Tuesday, administration officials testified during a virtual congressional hearing on the drought. They included Craig McLean, the acting chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

Five people died from overdoses in eight days in Kootenai County in North Idaho this month. They all likely involved the extremely potent opioid fentanyl, which laced what appeared to be blue or greenish-blue oxycodone 30mg pills. Otherwise, the deaths were not connected, which is far more concerning than if they were.

John Kempf is district commander for the Idaho State Police in Coeur d'Alene. He says they’ve had troubles with overdoses from black tar heroin, “but just not to the degree of fentanyl.”

The Weber Reservoir at the Walker River Paiute Tribe. A lakefront along a sandy, flat landscape.
Stephanie Serrano / Mountain West News Bureau

The Walker River Paiute Reservation is situated in remote western Nevada, surrounded by a sequence of mountains layered with shades of brown, red and green. In the middle of it, up a long dirt road, sits the Weber Reservoir, near the town of Schurz. At the moment, it’s very quiet, and that’s because it’s closed to non-tribal citizens.

Communities across the West typically have wildfire plans. They lay out how to evacuate, where to send people and what to do. But those may need an update.

“We need to step up and start planning for worse scenarios than we’ve planned for in the past,” said Thomas Cova, a University of Utah geography professor.

An upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case could result in some states in the Mountain West moving to severely limit or even ban abortions.

The high court will examine a disputed Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks, challenging a precedent that goes back to Roe v. Wade. That 1973 Supreme Court case protects a woman’s right to an abortion.

At the Early Care and Education Center at the University of Wyoming, there's a lot of what one would expect to see at a daycare - toys, books, and cubbies for tiny shoes. And that's not all.

COVID-19 infection rates in the rural parts of the Mountain West continue to drop, despite the fact that public health officials in the region are struggling to get more people vaccinated.

Across the country the number of new cases in rural counties are at their lowest levels since July 2020, according to data from the nonprofit aggregator USA Facts that was analyzed by The Daily Yonder.

Some YouTubers and Instagram influencers recently found an unlikely champion in a Republican lawmaker.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso introduced a bill Friday that would waive fees and permits for content creators to film on federal public lands and in national parks.

COVID-19 vaccine supplies are now abundant – nationally about 60% of adults have had at least one shot.

“At least here in Casper, (Wyo.), you can go to the clinic and pick one of the three vaccines. It’s like a menu: I want Moderna, I want Pfizer, I want Johnson & Johnson. We have that much vaccine now,” said Mark Dowell, an infectious diseases physician and Natrona County health officer.

Several wildfire projections for this summer aren’t looking good. And the Mountain West is facing a number of water shortages, according to Mojtaba Sadegh, who leads the Hydroclimate Lab at Boise State University.

“We are down on river flows, we are down on dam storage, we are down on soil moisture. It’s hotter. Everything is converging,” he said.

Christopher Gauntlett was incarcerated at the Washoe County Detention Facility in Nevada for 525 days, waiting for his trial.

“A lot of stuff happens in there that’s not right, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I had to stay in there,” he said. “It hurts.”

Delays came from pandemic lockdowns, but also when a witness got COVID-19. They kept telling Gauntlett he’d go to court soon, and it kept getting pushed back.

“It was kind of miserable, you know?” he said. “A lot of stress, a lot of pain.”

At the same time, he said COVID-19 was all around him.

The term "critical race theory" has made its way into public debates over education in the Mountain West, and how students should be taught about race and racism. But it's not clear that any K-12 schools in our region actually employ the decades-old academic framework. And as right-wing officials portray it as radical, those who study critical race theory say its meaning is being misconstrued.

Critical race theory is, in short, an approach to understanding structural racism in the United States.