The Mountain West News Bureau

Left to right: Matt Frank, Digital Editor (Missoula, MT); Rae Bichell, Reporter (Greeley, CO); Nate Hegyi, Reporter (Salt Lake City, UT); Kate Concannon, Managing Editor (Seattle, WA); Noah Glick, Reporter (Reno, NV); Ali Budner, Reporter (Colorado Springs, CO); Maggie Mullen, Reporter (Laramie, WY) and Amanda Peacher, Reporter (Boise, ID).
Credit MATT BLOOM, KUNC

The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, 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.

The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration between Wyoming Public MediaBoise 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.

A little boy in an orange shirt walks up to a grab-and-go meal site at an elementary school in Salt Lake City, Utah. A school worker wearing a mask uses a bullhorn to let kitchen staff know the boy's there. Then a staffer sets a bag lunch and some extra strawberries on a table and backs away.

 


Weekend protests drew crowds across the country including in the Mountain West, from hundreds in Boise and Reno to thousands in Denver. Some city leaders now worry such gatherings could lead to new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Sunday that the city will be offering free tests to demonstrators. 

The Mountain West News Bureau is talking to friends and relatives of those who lost their lives to COVID-19.

Luis Frias was an international dancer who took his two daughters wherever he performed on tour. His eldest, Luisa, remembers playing on the beach in Australia and watching packed stadiums from the Superdome in New Orleans to Madison Square Garden.

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

A number of county commissioners have been challenging the constitutionality of statewide stay-at-home orders in recent weeks. The latest opposition comes from North Idaho. 

The Bonner County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday adopted a proclamation calling Idaho's second phase of stay-at-home orders "unconstitutional."

 


Forty-two states are not prepared for a pandemic-induced recession. That’s the finding of a recent analysis from Moody’s Analytics. In the Mountain West, the prognosis isn’t as bad as it might seem at first.

In July, a transgender woman in Idaho will make history. 

Adree Edmo will become the first trans inmate in the nation to receive gender confirmation surgery through a court order. Edmo's legal case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and now, a ruling in her favor stands as precedent in the 9th Circuit. 

The U.S. Census Bureau had just begun field operations when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Now, as the agency is preparing to restart, it’s focusing on rural and tribal communities.

Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world's largest outdoor rodeo, has been cancelled for the first time in its 124-year history.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a virtual town hall Tuesday that the reservation hit its peak number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and emergency room visits a few weeks early thanks to social distancing and mask-wearing.

 


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

Some rural communities in the Mountain West are reopening without the widespread testing and contact tracing needed to identify and isolate outbreaks of COVID-19. Absent federal dollars, local fundraising can help.

 



Sam Sweney said he started to worry about his dad, Bill, when he didn't hear from him for a few days.

"He hadn't called. It was strange - like I texted him and he didn't text back and usually he's a pretty avid text messenger," he said.

Researchers in Utah are in the process of testing about 10,000 people for COVID-19 and antibodies against the virus that causes it.

“People have talked about how we see the tip of the iceberg with the formalized testing that we have,” said Dr. Stephen Alder, a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah and one of the project’s leaders. “We're trying to look at, ‘All right, how much of the iceberg is underwater?’ This is a good way to do that.”

When I was little, my dad and I would walk behind our house in west-central Montana and stare at the ground. And then walk. Stare. Walk. Stare. We'd do this for hours, searching for that tasty, edible and highly prized morel mushroom.


In a 7-2 ruling, the United States Supreme Court has denied Idaho’s appeal to halt the sex reassignment surgery of a transgender inmate.

Typically, grizzly bears give birth to single or twin cubs. But Grizzly 399 is not a typical bear. She's given birth to multiple sets of triplets. And this spring, the Yellowstone region's most famous bear showed up in Grand Teton National Park with four cubs by her side.

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

If you want a hearty breakfast in the small town of Thompson Falls, Montana, Minnie's Montana Cafe has you covered.

 


The Mountain West News Bureau is talking to friends and relatives of those who lost their lives to COVID-19. This memorial is for 67-year-old Nancy Heitz who was likely the first person to die in an assisted living facility in Idaho.


Nursing home residents and workers account for about one-third of all coronavirus deaths in the U.S., as The New York Times reported last week. Testing every resident and worker could help slow the spread in nursing homes – but it's expensive.

The Bureau of Land Management is charging back-due rent on renewable energy projects on public lands, as the Department of Interior simultaneously works to give oil and gas operators financial relief.

Everyone knows that living in the Rockies can get expensive. Headwaters Economics wanted to know why. The non-profit published new research this week that examines what causes housing to become so expensive in places where outdoor recreation is a main economic driver.

A few weeks ago, Lesley Dickson, a psychiatrist in Las Vegas, says she started feeling concerned for the hospital workers treating COVID-19 patients. 

The United States is seeing its highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression. And nurses, doctors and other health care workers are not immune to pay cuts and furloughs.

Nearly half of all counties in the Mountain West have largely been spared from COVID-19, according to recent data from the nonprofit organization USAFacts. Many of these communities weren't untouched, but all have had fewer than five confirmed cases of the virus. 

Many parts of the Mountain West are predicted to have above normal wildfire potential this summer. The coronavirus promises to make fire season abnormal in other ways, too.

When you think about Doctors Without Borders you may picture the medical humanitarian NGO working in war-torn countries like Syria or Yemen. But as the COVID-19 crisis lays bare inequalities and vulnerabilities in the U.S., the organization's working here, too, assisting the Navajo Nation in fighting the disease.

Most of us have never experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic in our lifetime, and that's especially true for children. The Mountain West News Bureau spoke with five kids about what's on their minds: 6-year-old Emerson, 10-year-old Eleanor, 11-year-old Wren, 11-year-old Brennan, and 10-year-old Olivia. Amanda Peacher shares their voices in this audio postcard.

At the end of April, the national unemployment rate hit 14.7% – the highest rate since the Great Depression. On CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett predicted the rate will exceed 20% when the Department of Labor issues May's numbers.

Depending on the estimate, the U.S. needs between 100,000 and 300,000 contact tracers to help fight COVID-19. Some say these new jobs could be an opportunity for some of the millions of Americans who've been laid off or furloughed.


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

It's Cinco de Mayo in Sandpoint, Idaho, and a downtown pub is giving away free meals to families in need. Not many people are out. A few are wearing masks. Outside the pub, a teenager is playing the Beatles' song "Yesterday" on his violin.

A recent study shows that humans have been living in a specific temperature "niche" for at least 6,000 years, but climate change could force billions of people to live in areas outside of the niche by 2070. That could be intolerably hot, even lethal, for many of them.  

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