Judy Fahys | KUER 90.1

Judy Fahys


Judy Fahys is KUER's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, a journalism collaborative that unites six stations across the Mountain West, including stations in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Montana to better serve the people of the region. The project focuses its reporting on topic areas including issues of land and water, growth, politics, and Western culture and heritage.

Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.

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Photo of Capitol Reef closed.

As the partial government shutdown appeared likely to enter its third week, Utah’s tourism office assembled plans to fund another week of skeleton services at the state’s two busiest national parks.

Photo of wildland firefighters.
Courtesy: Dollar Ridge Fire

Utah experienced its driest year on record in 2018, leaving forests and range that had little soil moisture to begin with even more vulnerable to igniting in what turned out to be an extraordinary — and costly — fire season.

Year-end picture
Renee Bright / KUER

It was a year of big — big fires, big ballot initiatives and big political upsets — that collectively defined Utah in 2018 as the state continued its growth spurt. The Beehive State added another 50,000 people this year, owing both to the state’s healthy economy and low unemployment. But Utah also weathered more troublesome headlines, whether through the rushed creation of a controversial Inland Port in northwest Salt Lake City or the publication of sexual abuse allegations implicating leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Church.

KUER reporters picked out some of the top stories of this year and explain why they mattered.

Photo of snowy mountain scene
Casey Sutcliffe/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

Sporadic storms since Thanksgiving have resulted in precipitation levels throughout Utah that are, in general, above normal for the beginning of the year. It’s a welcome trend following the state’s driest year on record.


Utah tourism officials were braced  for a partial government shutdown that threatened to close the gates at the five national parks in the state – Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Zion. KUER’s Judy Fahys spoke with Vicki Varela, director of tourism for Utah, about preparations in case of a shutdown, which ultimately did begin over the weekend.

Renee Bright / KUER

Sen. Orrin Hatch will retire next month, winding down a political career spanning four decades ... longer than any elected official in Utah's history. The 84-year-old will likely be remembered for his role in bruising Supreme Court nomination battles, passing the Children's Health Insurance Program and funneling millions of dollars back to Utah.

But this week, KUER is remembering lesser known parts of Hatch's legacy. 


Few, if any, would call Orrin Hatch an environmentalist.

Photo of Bishop and Reyes.

Several Mountain West Republicans are reportedly on the short list to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, after President Donald Trump announced his imminent departure over the weekend.

Photo of vehicles at Arches National Park entrance.
Judy Fahys / KUER

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has appointed a Utahn to the revamped advisory board for the National Park system.

Photo of Mark Austin.
Cory Dinter / KUER

ESCALANTE — The Highway 12 corridor between Escalante and Boulder, a sweeping landscape of wind-carved and uplifted redrock, has been Mark Austin’s entrepreneurial workshop for nearly half a century.

Photo of burnt trees.
Pole Creek Fire

The Trump administration released the fourth and latest version of the National Climate Assessment on Friday. The congressionally mandated quadrennial report zeroes in on hazards nationally and region-by-region. For the Southwest, the assessment predicts more extreme wildfires and less reliable water supplies.

Photo of smog.
Judy Fahys / KUER

In one small sign that the state’s air-quality cleanup plan is working, the Cache Valley has attained national clean-air standards for winter smog for three years in a row.

Photo of Hansen portrait.
Judy Fahys / KUER

Utah Republican and Democratic leaders remembered former Congressman Jim Hansen, Utah’s longest-serving member of the House, who died Wednesday at age 86.

Photo of truck in Utah.
iStock.com / bluebeat76

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unveiled plans Tuesday to develop next-generation regulations to reduce a key pollutant from heavy-duty diesel trucks, but officials offered no details on what those changes will entail.

Photo of Rep. Rob Bishop.
Brian Albers / KUER

The Utah congressional delegation’s public lands agenda took a hit Tuesday when Democrats won a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. But Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart remain optimistic that some of their legislative priorities will move forward.

Photo of Sen. Hatch.
Brian Albers / KUER

As U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch prepares to retire from the political stage, the Utah GOP paid tribute to the longest-serving Republican senator in history during an election-night watch party Tuesday in downtown Salt Lake City.

Photo of 6 Taylor brothers.
Utah National Guard

North Ogden is rallying this week around its late Mayor Brent Taylor, days after learning that the Utah National Guard major was killed in action while on a military deployment in Afghanistan.

Photo of Taylor family.
Utah National Guard

North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who was a major in the Utah National Guard, was killed Saturday while deployed with a Special Operations team in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Department of Defense confirmed Sunday.

Photo of Will Hicken.
Renee Bright / KUER

Utah is the youngest state in the country, with a median age of 30 years old. So what does the future look like through the eyes of Beehive State millennials? In a series launched this week called “This is 30,” KUER asked voters around the state how they’re feeling ahead of a critical election.

Photo of firefighter cutting burned tree.
Inciweb / Brian Head Fire

Cedar City — State officials held the last of five open houses Tuesday on their proposal to seek looser federal restrictions in roadless areas.

Photo of protestors outside of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City.
Judy Fahys / KUER

Three dozen Utahns joined activists nationwide in rallying behind a landmark climate lawsuit even though the U.S. Supreme Court has put the case on hold.

Photo of Holland waving from truckbed.
Marsha Holland 2018 Campaign

He’s a Republican candidate with a criminal conviction and name recognition that make him a local hero. She’s a political novice who’s raised four times as much campaign cash while running without any political party affiliation.

Photo of Yucca Mountain.
U.S. Energy Department via Wikimedia Commons

A Utah state senator wants his fellow lawmakers to go on record opposing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in neighboring Nevada.

Picture of two people enjoying a vista.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said Thursday that Congress will not pass his bill this year on managing public land in the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Photo of smog over SLC.
iStock.com / Bric Anderson

A Utah toxicologist has been appointed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

photo of storm
Brendan Waterman/Natural Resources Conservation Service

A series of water conservation open houses winds down next week on the heels of national weather data showing that Utah just ended its driest year recorded history.

photo of truck in lab.
Judy Fahys / KUER

The Trump administration is scaling back many Obama-era environmental regulations, but the list does not include clean car-clean fuel standards that are considered crucial for improving Utah’s air quality.

Inciweb/Bald Mountain-Pole Creek Fire

A new report from the United Nations says mankind must act fast to slow global warming, a message that is particularly urgent in Utah and throughout a scorched Mountain West that saw a devastating fire season and patches of severe drought.

Photo of mountain bikers and cloudy sky.
Brian Hopewell

The 2017-18 “water year” ended yesterday with a record dry September. But now the new water year, which began today, is bringing storms that are expected to deliver heavy rain.

Map highlighting northwest region of Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake County GIS

A draft spending plan for the Inland Port Authority board drew criticism for having few details, especially on how the massive transit hub might affect the environment.

photo of algal bloom at panguitch lake.
Utah Division of Water Quality

Dangerous levels of toxic algae prompted health officials to close Panguitch Lake on Monday, as Utah arrives at its annual peak for harmful algal blooms.