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 KUNR in Nevada, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, Nevada Public Radio, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana and Wyoming Public Media, 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.

Two years ago, more than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries declared a climate emergency. They did so in a report that said scientists have "a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to 'tell it like it is.'"

Now, they say things look even worse.

On Wednesday, an updated version of the report was published in the journal BioScience, and included an additional 2,800 scientists' signatures.

Another heat wave is gripping much of the country this week, including areas in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. And research shows that's bad news for trees in high-elevation forests.

Cases of the COVID delta variant are surging nationwide, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week to issue new guidance for vaccinated people to mask up in areas with high transmission rates. But if infections continue to rise, some Western states have limited how officials can respond.

Idaho, Montana and Utah recently passed laws softening local or executive authority during a public health crisis.

News Brief

Low vaccination rates make many counties in the Mountain West especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 delta variant right now, according to data from the public health research group PHICOR. That’s prompting tough new action from some state and federal officials.

On Thursday, President Biden announced he’s asking all federal employees to “attest” to their vaccination status. Those who aren’t vaccinated will also need to submit to weekly testing and will be mostly banned from travel. There are roughly 160,000 federal employees living in the Mountain West.

News Brief

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland faced lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday as she advocated for an $18 billion budget increase for her department next year. The money would go towards advancing renewable energy projects, expanding wildland fire programs and boosting public safety on reservations.

But questions from senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee went far beyond the scope of her budget. They grilled Haaland on everything from endangered grizzly bears to her department’s review of oil and gas drilling.

Brendan Paul has got the look. The dyed black pompadour. The bedazzled suit. The sunglasses. He’s an Elvis impersonator and, on a recent Wednesday, he guided two young women – Jess Sandoval and Alana Stroebel – through some special vows at the Graceland wedding chapel in downtown Las Vegas.

“Jess, I want you to look Alana in the eyes and say, ‘I promise to always love you tender and never leave you at the Heartbreak Hotel,” Paul said to laughter.

News Brief

Federal pandemic aid has helped a lot of industries recover from the pandemic, like airlines and live music venues. But now, loggers and timber haulers can get help, too.

News Brief

The U.S. Energy and Employment Jobs report came out Tuesday, showing an overall decline in energy jobs around the nation.

Before the pandemic, job numbers in the energy sector were growing twice as fast as the economy, according to the report. But by the end of 2020, about 840,000 jobs were lost (about 10%).

Life for DACA recipients in the U.S. is anything but assured, and a recent federal ruling has unleveled the shaky ground they navigate and drawn sharper curves into their paths.

The day that Kate Sherrod got vaccinated against COVID-19 was an emotional one.

"It was my first time around strangers in like a year," she said.

Sherrod is immunocompromised, which limits her ability to fight off infections. So she had been stuck at home during the first year of the pandemic. It also meant she was in one of the early priority groups for the vaccine. And after the first shot in March, Sherrod let herself imagine some of the things she'd do once she hit full immunity.

Smoky Skies Could Linger Until Snow Flies

Jul 22, 2021

Wildfire season began earlier than usual across the region this year, and with it came smoky skies. That's led to problems like unsafe air quality, and hundreds of delayed flights out of Denver on Monday. Now, meteorologists and air quality experts say hazy conditions will likely stick around until fall for many Mountain West communities.

Schools Get Mixed Messaging On Mask Policies

Jul 21, 2021

News Brief

Experts largely agree that schools should open to in-person learning this fall, but there’s disagreement on masking policies.

The CDC recommends, “Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.”

A coalition of elected officials, farmers, conservationists and tribal leaders gathered at the Hoover Dam Thursday and called on lawmakers to place a moratorium on “wasteful” new pipelines or dams that would divert water from the parched Colorado River. The announcement came as a severe drought deepens across the West and as a massive infrastructure bill is slowly moving through Congress.

Severe wildfires across the West have prompted the nation’s top fire agency to increase its preparedness level to the highest and most critical stage. This is the earliest the agency has done so in a decade.

“It’s an all hands on deck approach,” said Stanton Florea, a spokesperson with the National Interagency Fire Center. “We’re a full month ahead of where we were last year.”

On Monday, July 26, Dave Rosenthal joins Boise State Public Radio as Managing Editor of the Mountain West News Bureau, which is a public media news collaboration across several Western states.

Launched in 2018, this collaboration serves the intermountain West, from sites in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.

For Denver parent Heidi Laursen, the $250 federal payment couldn’t have come at a better time.

Laursen lost her hospitality job at the height of the pandemic. Months later, she managed to find a new one, but at a significantly lower wage. The financial strain made it difficult for Laursen to afford child care for her 8-year-old son Jack Laguna. He has special needs and she says not just any facility will do. After a lot of angst, money from the expanded Child Tax Credit hit her bank account on Thursday.

Updated July 19, 2021:

Federal officials laid out details of how reservoirs upstream of Lake Powell will release water in an attempt to keep producing hydropower. On Friday the Bureau of Reclamation published new forecasts for reservoir operations in the Colorado River basin.

News Brief

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hasn’t been following its own health protocols, possibly resulting in detention center deaths. That’s according to University of Southern California researchers’ review of 55 available death reports from ICE detention centers between 2011 and 2018.

ICE documents revealed that medical aid was slow, inadequate or completely lacking in some cases.

On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency included a category of chemicals known as PFAS in a new draft list of water contaminants.

News Brief

Oil production is ramping up on federal public lands despite President Biden’s promise to end new drilling. The Bureau of Land Management has signed off on roughly 2,200 applications for new projects so far and approvals are on pace to hit their highest levels since the last year of the Bush administration.