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Mountain West News Bureau

Support for news stories from Mountain West News Bureau comes from Kalamaya – Goscha, a boutique mountain law firm specializing in family law, criminal law, and personal injury.

Firefighters have long studied how fires behave to figure out where they’re going and how to keep people safe. But wildfires are becoming more unpredictable.


The Tri-County Health Department in Colorado is a marriage between three counties. But after 55 years together, the pandemic has them on the brink of divorce.

The relationship started with a devastating flood. Lora Thomas remembers it vividly.

“I remember sitting on Ruby Hill in Denver watching this wall of water coming down the Platte River,” said Thomas. “There were actually horses in that water that had come from a racetrack.”

A bipartisan group of Western lawmakers have signed onto a new federal bill that aims to reduce the damages of wildfire.


Winter is coming, and COVID-19 is still here. That means socializing is about to get harder as temperatures drop and activities move indoors.

One potential tactic is to form something called a “social bubble,” also known as a “pandemic pod” or a “quaranteam.” The gist is to join forces with another family, or small group of people, and socialize exclusively with them while maintaining a safe distance from others.

For months it appeared that the Mountain West had COVID-19 somewhat under control. But now the positivity rate is skyrocketing in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Utah.

"I feel despair," says Christine Porter, an associate professor of public health at the University of Wyoming.

Antigen testing is expected to become a more common way to test for COVID-19. It looks for the virus’ surface coating, rather than pieces of its genetic material. It’s faster and easier to administer than other tests.


When Joyce Farbe saw how many cars were parked at the Iron Creek Trailhead when she pulled in, she knew it would be a busy day. It was a warm, late summer morning, and her destination – Sawtooth Lake – is one of the most popular day hikes in Central Idaho. Cars were spilling out of the parking lot and lined the dirt road for a quarter mile. Farbe tightened her boot laces and pulled her backpack onto her shoulders. Before she could get going, her work began: She approached two men as they printed their name on a wilderness permit at the trailhead. 

Colorado regulators are now requiring oil and gas operators to monitor fracking emissions earlier and more often, and provide that data to local governments. Both industry officials and regulators supported the move. But concerns persist, like the fact that the rules allow oil and gas operators to choose how to monitor their own emissions. Regardless, environmental groups see Colorado as a leader in emission monitoring in the region and hope other states follow suit.

Over the past few months, a number of Japanese health officials have praised their country’s contact tracing approach, saying it’s one of the “secrets” to their early success in containing COVID-19.

A federal program called Pandemic EBT has been a lifeline for many low-income families recently. But unless Congress acts, it’ll expire at the end of the month.

 


Large numbers of migratory birds have reportedly dropped dead in New Mexico and Colorado.

There’s still confusion over the deaths, like how many died and what exactly killed them. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes the bird deaths in Colorado and New Mexico were caused by an unusual cold front.


The controversial kind of study is called a “human challenge study” and it’s controversial because it involves researchers purposefully infecting (or “challenging”) healthy volunteers with the virus after giving them an experimental treatment or vaccine, to see if it worked.

A few years ago, Arnold Levinson and his colleagues found themselves in what he calls an ethical “pickle.”

They’d been compiling reports to distribute to Colorado schools that had participated in a state-wide anonymous survey, where students would answer questions about their drug use, food access and suicidal ideation, among other topics. The researchers had made a practice of sharing a school’s results as a courtesy for participating in the survey, but they didn’t tell them how they stacked up relative to the norm. Until 2013, when an analyst spotted something.

The Mountain West has seen plenty of wildfires this year, but nothing like the catastrophic large fires still burning along the West Coast. That's largely thanks to a relatively wet spring.

The poll came from the Colorado Health Foundation but national polls over the past few months paint a similar picture.

Researchers recently investigated three outbreaks of COVID-19 at child care centers in Salt Lake City. Their findings are helping to fill a knowledge gap on how younger children might spread the virus.

Two of the outbreaks started after staff came to work while their sick relatives were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms at home. In the third outbreak, it’s unclear who brought it in, but in the end children in that particular outbreak seemed to have passed the virus to at least five people at home, including a parent who had to be hospitalized.

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


When mass protests erupted across the country in late spring, the first Wyoming community to join that national movement was the city of Riverton. On June 1st, 150 or so people gathered in Riverton City Park to honor George Floyd's life and demand justice. 

Riverton is conservative and rural, with a population of about 11,000 people. But it's also surrounded by the Wind River Reservation. The June demonstration was led by a young Arapaho person from Wind River, Micah Lott. 

The lab going up in Boise, Idaho, will be part of a new, larger U.S. Geological Survey building. And it would test environmental DNA, or eDNA, from around the nation. That is, instead of trying to find an invasive animal, like a single mussel or fish in a lake, scientists could just sample water to test for DNA of certain species.


William Perry Pendley’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Land Management may have been pulled, but he’s still effectively leading the organization. Two lawsuits are still trying to put that to an end. 


COVID-19 infections are waning slightly in the rural U.S., but the number of deaths there is still climbing. 


Daniel Bear lives in Kenilworth, Utah, a small community of around 200 people between Salt Lake City and Moab. Earlier this year, Bear suffered a woodworking accident that involved his hand and a tablesaw. It was messy.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has greenlighted the expansion of hunting and fishing access to more than 2.3 million acres and 147 wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries across the nation.


When it comes to immigration, Americans have a lot of misconceptions about immigrants.  That’s one of the findings from a new national survey released Thursday from Public Agenda, USA Today and Ipsos Hidden Common Ground.

President Donald Trump says an executive order he signed on Saturday funds a $400 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits. But it likely won't be as helpful as it seems.



There's a lot to consider with schools reopening this fall. That's especially true for teachers and other staff members. Take Ken Hiltonhe's a middle school counselor in Laramie, Wyoming. He also has a daughter going into the seventh grade. He says he's not sure what the best approach is. This piece was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau's Maggie Mullen and was made possible with the support of America Amplified.

Lately I've been spending my Wednesday mornings in Riverton City Park. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, it's safer to interview people outdoors, and I've been asking everyone I run into the same question: Is Riverton, Wyo., on the Wind River Reservation?

Elise Dantzler has been working in restaurants since she was 15. But, like many in her industry, she was laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That forced the 25-year-old Coloradan to rethink her living situation.

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

The U.S. Census Bureau has announced it's ending the 2020 count a month early, a move that's likely to have a big impact on Indigenous communities in the West.

 


President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill being hailed as the biggest public lands and conservation legislation in a generation.

A vaccine against the virus behind COVID-19 offers the only certain return to normalcy. Even so, misinformation and conspiracy theories abound – and a vaccine hasn’t even been developed yet. It’s an issue people have been trying to combat for other vaccines that do exist. Colorado researchers are taking an interesting approach to bridge the gap.

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