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, Utah 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.

The editor for the Mountain West News Bureau is Kate Concannon, a long-time NPR regional editor. Stephanie Serrano is the KUNR reporter for this partnership.

Giving and full of light. That's how family and friends described May Bunjes. The 71-year-old community advocate died of COVID-19 in November. Now her family is using her death as a rallying cry.

In Weld County, Colorado – where officials have dismissed state health orders meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 – she was a court-appointed special advocate for abused children for more than 20 years.

A love of apocalyptic horror films may have actually helped people mentally prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. At least, that's according to research published this month in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.


 

Tribes in the Mountain West reached resolutions in two long standing environmental disputes this week. The victories for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and the Navajo Nation could signal a shift toward accountability for corporate polluters operating on tribal lands.

 

State lawmakers across the Mountain West are convening for legislative sessions that will focus largely on the fallout of the pandemic. But without significant precautions, statehouses could become hotbeds for COVID-19 spread.

Legislative sessions typically bring together hundreds of lawmakers, legislative staff, lobbyists, journalists, and members of the public. They travel to and from every corner of a given state and gather indoors, sometimes in cramped meeting spaces.

About a third of Americans living in rural areas say they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.


Last summer, I met up with Ben Barto outside the small town of Dubois, Wyo. He's a huge Trump supporter and we were having a conversation about where he thought America was headed. 

"Revolution," he said. "I think it's headed there."

The EPA is finalizing a rule that says it’ll prioritize science that publishes raw data to make policy decisions.


There are a lot of questions about why the pro-Trump mob was able to breach the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. One pertains to the National Guard: Where were they?


A color coded US map highlighting different rural areas that do not have pharmacies designated to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
Screenshot / RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis

When the COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will partner with retail pharmacies such as Costco and Walgreen to help distribute them. But a new analysis of rural counties finds that as many as 750 counties don't have one of those pharmacies.

The Food Bank for Larimer County’s warehouse in Loveland looks like a factory assembly line. People are busy preparing and packing provisions for when the doors open in an hour.

"Cookies, protein bars, coffee – a little of everything," says volunteer Ruben Marez. "I kind of like to mix and match."

Every year Marez travels to volunteer with the Red Cross and help with disaster relief. This year, he decided he was needed close to home and began volunteering at the onset of the pandemic.

Several people wearing masks standing on a stair case looking at the camera.
Courtesy of the Nevada Public Health Training Center's COVID-19 Crew

Dulce Leyva is a bilingual contact tracer who lives in Reno, Nevada. Her job is to reach out to people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and make sure they're self-isolating. And she tries to help them remember who they've been around and could have been exposed to the virus.

An investigator is examining the snow pack of an avalanche on a mountain.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Avalanches in the Rocky Mountains killed four people late last week, three in Colorado and one in Wyoming. Drew Hardesty is with the Utah Avalanche Center. He says it's been a fairly dry early season for many states around the West.

A landscape with mountain peaks made of volcanic rock and dirt in the foreground. Snowcapped mountains line the background.
Noah Glick

The Sony Handycam, of all things, foretold what may soon be a massive mine on public lands in Nevada.

In the early 1990s, the camcorder became the first product to use lithium-ion batteries commercially. Since then, the technology has been used to power our laptops, smartphones, and now electric vehicles and homes.


Soon after she was elected as one of America's first Indigenous congresswomen in 2018, New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland paid a visit to her constituents at the Pueblo of Sandia, just outside of Albuquerque. 

"She came to the Pueblo for one of our feast days," said Stephine Poston, a tribal citizen and advocate for Native women leadership. "And the young girls, a couple of them were following her around and she stopped to talk to them. It was an amazing thing to see and witness." 

Poston said Haaland may as well have been a celebrity to those girls, but she didn't act like one. 

"She's just that person who will stop and see you," Poston said. 

And she said that's how Pueblo people, and Indigenous people across the country, have been feeling since Haaland was nominated to lead the Department of the Interior: Seen.

Panic buying has slowed down considerably since this spring, but one thing still lingering is higher demand for meat that's easier for people to cook themselves.


Three men installing solar panels.
Unsplash

It's been a tough year for gas and oil prices, but solar power has seen steady growth during this pandemic year. 

This week, the northern spotted owl and the monarch butterfly were denied protections under the Endangered Species Act, even though both animals qualify.

States across the Mountain West are receiving their first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. And the Moderna vaccine will be coming once it's granted emergency authorization by the FDA. But as distribution gets underway, other COVID-19 prevention measures including frequent hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing will still be necessary. 

Evictions have cascading effects, and researchers have found they could be fatal during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new study draws the connection between a lack of stable housing and an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

An illustration of a human mouth opening while it releases contaminated aerosol particles.
Elena Abrazhevich / Adobe Stock

Indoor dining is allowed across the Mountain West. But new research shows that even with current social distancing guidelines, the coronavirus can spread easily inside restaurants.

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