Mountain West News Bureau

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. Ali Budner is the Mountain West News Bureau reporter based at 91.5 KRCC.

Larry Lamsa / Wikimedia Commons

Federal and state agencies are struggling to pay for much needed maintenance and conservation on public lands so they’re turning to things like park fees and hunting permits to raise the cash.

Ali Budner / 91.5 KRCC

Across the country students walked out of school Wednesday morning, including in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah. In Colorado Springs, several hundred people surrounded Palmer High School for 17 minutes to honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting.

If it weren’t for the snowy alpine peaks in the background, camels would look perfectly at home in the undulating yellow sand hills of Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

“It’s really a very special place. And it is very unusual. It’s almost like an alien landscape when you happen upon it,” says Vanessa Mazal, who has been visiting the national park since she was a kid and now works with the National Parks Conservation Association.

It began in 2014. Doctors noticed a cluster of mysterious cases in Colorado and Wyoming. Children were coming in with weak and paralyzed limbs. Eventually, 120 patients across the U.S. came in with similar symptoms.

Ali Budner / 91.5 KRCC, Mountain West News Bureau

The national conversation we’re having on guns is particularly painful in Colorado, where Columbine and Aurora are still active wounds. And like the rest of the country, this Mountain West state is deeply divided over what measures to take.

Life’s been tough on Chris Marchion. There was the high school football injury and the knee replacement.

“Unfortunately I got a hip that’s wore out,” he says.

We’re standing alongside a gravel road near a cow pasture. Nowadays, this is about as close as Marchion can get to the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area. It’s a clump of rolling, grey mountains in the distance.



The federal Clean Power Plan is currently on hold due to various legal challenges. Not one of the Attorneys General from the Mountain West States has signed on to a brief by a coalition of states supporting the plan.

Photo by Sierra Coon / Canyonlands National Park

Many are calling it far-fetched, but a mountain west entrepreneur is reviving a proposal to draw water from Utah's Green River and funnel it to Colorado's growing and drought-prone Front Range. The pipeline would move billions of gallons of water across hundreds of miles from Utah through Wyoming and down into Colorado.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office / Creative Commons

Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment is  calling for a repeal of the Dickey Amendment - the law that essentially limits federal funding for gun violence research. Mountain west states have some of the highest rates of gun-related deaths in the country.

A fierce debate is taking place across the country right now: What to do about immigrants who came here illegally as children. Up until recently, they qualified for a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protects them from deportation. But the Trump administration rescinded that Obama-era rule and Congress is debating what will take its place.  

We talked to three people affected by that debate right here in the Mountain West.

Colorado Springs, Colorado

David Shankbone / Creative Commons

A recent report by The National Safety Council estimates annual traffic fatalities are down slightly across the country.  But Wyoming and Colorado seem to be bucking that trend.  

In the spring of 1942, official posters went up across the West Coast and Arizona. All people of Japanese ancestry had one week to report to assembly centers. Ultimately, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly imprisoned in internment camps, many of them located in the Mountain West. This week is when we remember those camps and the people who lived in them.

One of them was a 13-year-old boy named Minoru Tonai.