Mountain West News Bureau | KUER 90.1

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.

The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.  Our mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues of the Rocky Mountain West.

From land and water management to growth in the expanding West to our unique culture and heritage, we’ll explore the issues that define us and the challenges we face.

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

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

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National Park Week is an annual celebration of what many people call America’s best idea, beginning with a fare-free day, April 21.

It’s International Dark Sky Week, a time to look up and enjoy the night sky across the globe.  Our region is home to many dark sky parks and communities. We’re also home to lots of growth and that means growing light pollution.  

Judy Fahys/KUER News

A new report from the American Thoracic Society shows how tightening federal air-pollution standards would pay off in better health and longer lives.

The Federal Communications Commission starts dismantling net neutrality regulations on April 23, 2018. That could mean when you’re watching that next episode of ‘The Crown” it could buffer endlessly or not. No one really knows yet.  

Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for an investigation into the National Park Service, pointing to a report they say follows a "pattern" of censoring scientists who study climate change. So I checked in with the scientist who wrote the latest report and is now worried about her future.

The dry and arid climate of the Western U.S. is marching eastward, thanks to climate change.

That’s the conclusion of a set of studies from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Institute. 


The tamarisk plant, also called saltcedar, is infesting waterways across the West. The scaly-leafed shrub can grow taller than a person. It sucks up a lot of water and spits out salt, making the soil around it too salty for other plants to grow.

“It’s very bad, yes,” says Alex Gaffke, a graduate student in land resources and environmental science at Montana State University.

Too many decisions about the West get made in Washington, D.C. At least, that's what the Secretary of the Interior thinks. Ryan Zinke plans to move thousands of the department’s employees out west to manage water, public lands and energy from there. How might this seemingly dull, bureaucratic plan affect the West in interesting ways? Here's how people with a vested interest responded–starting in Wyoming.  


Judy Fahys/KUER News

What we know about air pollution and health has roots in the mountain valleys of Utah. Winter smog episodes here are legendary.

Animal rights advocates are asking the federal government to protect certain wild horses as an endangered species. It’s not their first attempt, but this time it’s a specific herd.

The Patagonia website recently took another swipe at the Trump administration over its decision to shrink national monuments in Utah. This political activism may be the new norm for the outdoor recreation industry.

A new question on the 2020 census about citizenship is heading to court.  The U.S. Conference of Mayors is filing a suit contesting its inclusion. But not everyone in the region is on board.  

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's call to increase peak-season entrance fees at 17 popular national parks appears to be an unpopular idea. The overwhelming majority of submitted comments were strongly opposed to it. Now, the National Park Service is rethinking the plan.

The Environmental Protection Agency just announced its plan to roll back vehicle emissions standards. That could be cause for concern in Mountain West communities with poor air quality.

The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last month earmarked billions of dollars for fighting wildfires.  Many conservationists and politicians celebrated that change.

But the legislation also rolls rolls back some environmental protections and that has split the conservation community.

The Chinese government has retaliated in what appears to be an escalating trade war. The government says it will slap tariffs on a long list of American goods including pork and fruit, a move that could put producers across the region in a bind.

China buys a lot of American pork. And while Iowa may be this country’s pig-producing colossus, tariffs would hit producers everywhere, including states in the Mountain West like Utah and Colorado.  

Retired electrical engineer Lisa Hecht loves nerding out about solar energy.

The Boise resident has a solar light for emergencies, a solar battery pack she uses to charge her cell phone and a solar oven she swears makes top-notch steel cut oats.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Drought has basically divided the Mountain West into two separate regions this year.

Storms kept Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wet over the winter, and the national Drought Monitor shows no drought in those states.

A new Gallup poll shows the majority of Americans do believe in climate change. The poll shows 66% of Americans believe that most scientists think global warming is occurring, 64% believe it is caused by human activities, and 60% believe its effects have already begun.

Over the past decade, the market for Mountain West coal has cooled. Renewables and natural gas in the U.S. are cheaper, stocks are tumbling and some coal companies are even teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

In parched states like Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, water is a big issue, especially with growing populations that constantly need more and more. But there’s a big question: How do we accurately forecast the amount of water that will be available any given year? It’s not easy. But some Colorado scientists think they’re onto a possible solution -- inspired by Pokemon.

Details are unfolding about how British data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica influenced national elections. Meanwhile, a newly surfaced document suggests the group also had a hand in our region -- and in one especially tight Senate race in Colorado.

Following Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's repeated calls for more management of public lands, this spring the Bureau of Land Management is giving certain ranchers more say and options in grazing their cattle on public lands.


Judy Fahys/KUER News

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he’s putting new limits on which scientific studies can be factored into the nation’s environmental laws and policies. He told the conservative web site, The Daily Caller, last week that he wants more “transparency” in scientific research.

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The U.S. Interior Department still doesn’t have a top lawyer, even though Interior Secretary Zinke put forward Ryan Nelson’s name last summer.

U.S Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, says it’s time for the Senate to confirm Nelson for the post.

This Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people are expected at rallies for gun control across the country. And no one is speaking louder than those who inspired the rallies and who feel they have the most at stake: teens.

For years, Western lawmakers have been trying to change the way we fight wildfires, or at least the way the government funds such work. Now, they may finally get that wish. Congress just passed a measure that would do just that, creating an emergency fund of $20 billion for the Forest Service to fight wildfires over the next decade. It's part of a sweeping new spending deal that the President signed on Friday.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has been pushing for years to make this change.

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of teens are expected to march on Washington D.C. and around the country, calling for gun control. The Mountain West News Bureau spoke with two students in Montana and Wyoming who do not plan to march, and are worried gun control reform could change their way of life.

Ranchers and farmers in the Mountain West ship a lot of products overseas to China. Now the Trump administration is expected to hit China with $60 billion dollars worth of annual tariffs.

Last year China opened its doors to U.S. beef for the first time in more than a decade.

Montana ranchers jumped at the opportunity. They signed a multi-million dollar deal with a large Chinese company to sell beef.

Judy Fahys/KUER News

The Bureau of Land Management held an online auction Tuesday for oil and gas leases in southeastern Utah. Conservation groups and Native Americans protested drilling in places that are also rich with cultural meaning.

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