Nate Hegyi

Nate is UM School of Journalism reporter. He reads the news on Montana Public Radio three nights a week.

The Mountain West News Bureau is taking questions from listeners across the region about the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a question, email us at mountainwestnewsbureau@gmail.com or give us a call at 208-352-2079 and leave us a message. This service is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.


This story is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

It's a sunny, spring afternoon and Holly Spriggs and her teenage son, Sawyer Michaud, are digging around in her giant garden outside of Lander, Wyo.

"We're working on planting some potatoes and onions before we get some moisture here," she says. 

Spriggs is having a great time, but Sawyer would rather be snowmobiling.

The Mountain West News Bureau is taking questions from listeners across the region about the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a question, email us at mountainwestnewsbureau@gmail.com or give us a call at 208-352-2079 and leave us a message. This service is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

Hoan Nguyen lives in Salt Lake City and he's concerned his wife may be immunocompromised, making her more vulnerable to COVID-19. So Nguyen and his family have taken self-isolation very seriously.

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

Shelby, Mont. is home to a lot of wheat and barley fields, a decent high school football team, and an Amtrak train that passes through town twice a day. It's a place where almost everyone knows everyone. 

"The people here are fantastic," says William Kiefer, CEO of the only hospital in the county that offers 24/7 emergency medical services. "There's a huge sense of community."

So when people began getting sick and even dying from COVID-19, it hit hard. 


This story is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

On a recent rainy day in Rockville, Utah, cars roared down the highway as Dutch cyclists Marica van der Meer and Bas Baan huddled together underneath the awning of a post office, trying to fix a flat tire.

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative. 

Sitting at his desk within the small office of the Sandpoint Reader, a weekly newspaper in northern Idaho, publisher Ben Olson is exhausted. 

Restaurants, bars and major ski resorts have begun to temporarily shut down across the Mountain West this week in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. But economists said it’s still too early to fully understand the breadth of how these closures will impact the region’s booming tourism economy.

Four women from the nation's second largest Indian reservation have turned to the federal court system after they were banished by tribal leadership last year.

"It changed our lives," Ute tribal member Angelita Chegup said. "One moment, I had a job, the next moment I didn't."

Banishment is a severe and rare form of punishment in Indian Country. It has its roots in pre-Colonial America, when tribes would banish murderers, thieves or mutineers from their community and into the wild.

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

A privately funded, nonprofit organization is creating a 3.2 million-acre wildlife sanctuary — American Prairie Reserve — in northeastern Montana, an area long known as cattle country.

Ryan Zinke has stepped down as interior secretary, resigning as planned amid a series of ethics investigations. In a tweet he said it's been a "high honor" to serve, adding that the agency has restored public lands, improved public access and "shall never be held hostage again for our energy needs."

So far the president has not nominated anyone as a permanent replacement. The acting secretary is Zinke's deputy David Bernhardt, a lawyer and former lobbyist for the oil industry with longtime experience at the agency.

Lyle St. Goddard, 56, is running along a dirt trail on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana.

"It takes me about a lap to loosen up," he says.

Being a hotshot is a young man's game and St. Goddard believes he's one of the oldest hotshot crew members in the country.

"I still can do it," he says. "I just got to keep in shape. I'll be okay."

St. Goddard supervises the Chief Mountain Hotshots, one of the big employers of young men and women on the reservation. They only hire Natives and they can promise good pay and the chance to travel all over the country.

Ranking U.S. House Democrats are calling for an ethics investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. They want to know more about a land deal between Zinke's family foundation and a real estate project with ties to the oil and gas giant Halliburton.

Family photos cover the walls of a ranch house in eastern Montana. There are pictures of a dad holding a baby and a son playing high school football.

That son, Juan Orozco, sits on a couch next to his mother. He says after his dad came home fromjail a few years ago he just wasn't the same.

"He has bad depression," he says. "He can't sleep, he doesn't want to eat."

On a windy and unseasonably warm winter day in Yellowstone National Park in Montana, spokeswoman Morgan Warthin stands in the middle of a massive, empty valley.

"Yellowstone is so big," she says. "Where do you begin to look?"

She is searching for any of the 52 bison that were set free from two holding pens in mid-January.

Authorities say the bison escaped after somebody used bolt cutters to open up a fence. They soon scattered across an area larger than Delaware, and officials have launched a criminal investigation to find out what happened.

In central Montana, drones are dropping peanut butter pellets on prairie dog colonies. It's part of an effort by biologists to save North America's most endangered mammal — the black-footed ferret (or as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls it, the BFF).

Prairie dogs make up the vast majority of a BFF's diet. Save the food and you save the ferret, biologists wager.

Huddled behind his white pickup truck in northwestern Montana, Roland Kennerly stuffs his hands into his coat pockets.

"Oh, this wind," he says. "It's starting to snow now."

The road had turned into a muddy slop leading towards a pocket of socked-in mountains and roadless grassland known as the Badger-Two Medicine area.

"You can only get in there by walking or by horseback, so it keeps it in its natural state," Kennerly says. "I hope it stays that way, for my kids and my kids' kids."

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