Mountain West News Bureau

The Mountain West News Bureau team, from left to right: Amanda Peacher, Judy Fahys, Ali Budner, Rae Ellen Bichell, Maggie Mullen, Nate Hegyi and Kate Concannon.

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.

Contributing stations include Boise State Public Radio, Wyoming Public Media, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

States in the Mountain West sell everything from beef to computer parts to China.
J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Ranchers and farmers in the Mountain West ship a lot of products overseas to China. Now the Trump administration is expected to hit China with $60 billion dollars worth of annual tariffs.

Last year China opened its doors to U.S. beef for the first time in more than a decade.

Montana ranchers jumped at the opportunity. They signed a multi-million dollar deal with a large Chinese company to sell beef.

George Haynes, an economist with Montana State University, wonders what the retaliation is going to be if the Trump administration slaps these tariffs on China.

In parched states like Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, water is a big issue, especially with growing populations that constantly need more and more. But there’s a big question: How do we accurately forecast the amount of water that will be available any given year? It’s not easy. But some Colorado scientists think they’re onto a possible solution -- inspired by Pokemon.

Study co-author Philip Higuera holding a burn severity map near Lolo, Montana.
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

I’m marching through a stand of blackened, towering pine trees with fire ecologist Philip Higuera. He stops and sniffs the air.

“We can smell the charcoal here,” he says. “You smell that?”

Higuera is a low-key guy with a trimmed beard and sporty sunglasses. But when I ask him whether the massive wildfire that raced across Lolo Peak in Montana last summer was bad, he corrects my choice of words. 

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.

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.

Matthew Allen used to lead the communications team at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Washington headquarters a couple of blocks from the White House.

Then he got demoted.


What do you get when three ranchers, a school teacher, a real estate agent, and one community development coordinator walk into a bank? In Guernsey, Wyoming—a possible solution to the affordable housing problem that’s plaguing many parts of the nation, including the Mountain West.

The Trump administration's aluminum tariffs could cost thousands of dollars for breweries in the Mountain West.
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

There are hundreds of microbreweries scattered across the Mountain West. In fact, in parts of our region there are more breweries per capita than most anywhere else in the country.

Many of them sell their beers in aluminum cans. So with the Trump administration’s proposal to slap a steep tariff on imported aluminum, the beer industry is feeling nervous.

Chris Marchion takes a look at the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area in southwestern Montana.
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

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.

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.

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