Montana

Smoky Skies Could Linger Until Snow Flies

Jul 20, 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.

Courtesy Silver Little Eagle

Karen Snyder has never been afraid to use her voice. She learned that from the women who raised her on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

"I come from a very long line of strong women. Grandmothers, mothers, a very strong line of women that are very outspoken," Snyder said.

That came in handy in 2016, when she was elected as one of two women on the six-person Eastern Shoshone Business Council.

Going to a bar tonight in Boise, Idaho or Reno, Nev.?

There's about a 50-50 chance someone carrying COVID-19 will be there too.

 


Democrats once again lost ground in much of the rural West. That includes Montana, where Republicans swept the election for the first time in at least two decades. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., will soon be the lone progressive holding federal office in the state. He's also the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate and author of a new book, Grounded: A Senator's Lessons On Winning Back Rural America. He spoke about lessons learned from November's election with reporter Nate Hegyi of the Mountain West News Bureau.

The entire four-person staff of a county health department in northwest Montana resigned this week.

About a week before Election Day, as the Wind River Reservation was bracing for snow, Wyoming state Rep. Andi Clifford squeezed in some roadside campaigning outside of a community hall in Arapahoe.

"Normally we would've been inside," she said. "But we can't, so we're out here."


This time of year usually means the start of college football. Not this year. Without game days and big crowds of tailgaters, college towns across the Mountain West and beyond look different - and sound a lot different, too.

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


Frank Fahland has been slowly building his dream house near Libby, Mont., for the past 15 years. 

"It's an Amish log home with a beautiful stain on it and the best back deck you've ever seen in your whole life," he says, overlooking pine-forested foothills and an open meadow.

Ever since the pandemic ramped up in mid-March, Fahland, 61, has been spending most days up here – away from people. Like hundreds of other folks in Libby, he's vulnerable to complications from COVID-19 because his lungs are scarred from breathing in asbestos-laced dust from a nearby mine for decades. He struggles to climb a small hill near his house before reaching for an inhaler.