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Features

woman stands in colorful classroom.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

This week, Republican lawmakers are hoping to hold a special session to pass a large tax reform package. It would impose new sales taxes while cutting the overall income tax rate, and cutting income tax means cutting more than half a billion dollars in education funding. But a plan for replacing that money isn’t in the bill. 

two ornaments with different designs hang from a tree branch. One is a starry sky and the other is turquoise and says “take pride of being indigenous” with a red handprint beneath it.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Twenty-four custom ornaments made the trip from Montezuma Creek to Washington, D.C. to adorn a Christmas tree across from the White House this holiday season. The tree is part of the ‘America Celebrates’ display, which includes the towering National Christmas Tree, and 56 smaller trees, representing every U.S. state and territory. 

A deer looks at the road while stuck.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

 


BLANDING — Every weekday morning, Derek Bethea drives from his home in Blanding to Monticello, where he works as a therapist at the San Juan County jail. His route — State Highway 191, which runs north-south along the eastern edge of the state — is not prone to traffic. But it can be treacherous.

A steap climbing wall is brightly lit in a dark room.
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

Rock climbing is making its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the U.S. national team is training in Salt Lake City. For the eight elite athletes who make up the team, the games will represent a high point in their career.

An extraordinary discovery in the backyard of Colorado Springs has created a window into an evolutionary period we previously knew very little about.

Against a background of buttes and dry grass, an elderly man in a cowboy hat adjusts a fence post and barbed wire.
David Fuchs / KUER

KANAB — Kane County’s most populous city sits between the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the Arizona Strip. It’s a dramatic landscape of red cliffs and canyons crashing into high desert grasslands — the kind of place where, when driving on backroads, clouds of dust might shoot out of the vents if you turn on the air conditioning.

Woman in prison uniform sits in a classroom.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER

Robin Radcliff has her strategies to deal with distractions when she needs to study for her college-level classes: earplugs and headphones to muffle whatever clatter is happening around her.

A sign points the way towards a labyrinth in Kayenta against a backdrop of red mesas.
David Fuchs / KUER

It’s widely known that Southwest Utah has an abundance of red rocks, scenic vistas and retirees. But off the beaten path, the region is rich in another resource: labyrinths.

Illustration of mormon imagery.
Renee Bright / KUER

Family history work is a major priority for Latter-day Saints. They believe members can do sacred rituals, like baptism, on behalf of their ancestors. Offering them a chance at salvation beyond the grave. Michelle Franzoni Thorley, a Utah based visual artist and ancestry enthusiast, believes those ordinances are important but also sees family history as a way to access generational healing. 

Two women walk up to a house with dogs running around on red dirt ground.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

There is only one measure on the ballot this year in San Juan County. It asks voters if they think the county should explore changing its form of government, which is currently a three-member commission. That could mean more commissioners and new districts. And that’s got some residents concerned. 

Renee Bright/KUER

There’s been some national excitement around Utah Senator Mitt Romney the past few weeks. As one of the few Republicans in Congress willing to speak out against the actions of President Trump, he’s captured the attention of Americans across the political spectrum. And there’s even been some talk about Romney fulfilling an old legend. 

Photo of a bison
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

Are the super wealthy better equipped than the government to save America’s disappearing wildlands? An ex-Silicon Valley entrepreneur is trying to build the next Yellowstone — a 3.2 million acre, privately-funded wildlife reserve in eastern Montana. It's called American Prairie Reserve, and the organization is doing it by purchasing ranches, kicking out the cattle and replacing them with wild bison.  

Photo of a bison
Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

Climate change has been called the new normal. But residents in some parts of the Southwest say after living through the last two years, there’s nothing normal about it. 

Communities in the Four Corners -- where the borders of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet -- have been bouncing between desperately dry and record-breaking moisture since the winter of 2017, forcing people dependent on the reliability and predictability of water to adapt.

Brian Albers / KUER

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is wrapping up her first and only term at the end of this year. She made history as the city’s first openly gay mayor when she was elected in 2015. But she also clashed publicly with members of the city council and Gov. Gary Herbert during her time in office on issues like homelessness and the planned inland port. KUER’s Nicole Nixon went to City Hall to talk with Biskupski about her time in office.  

The Bureau of Land Management is moving more staff and—perhaps most significantly—its headquarters to the Mountain West.

Depending on who you ask, relocating the BLM’s headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado will make the agency more efficient, give preferential treatment to the fossil fuel industry—or even functionally dismantle it.

Photo of city building.
Brian Albers / KUER

Interstate 15 and the train tracks that run alongside it cut Salt Lake City in half more ways than one. 

While the freeway is the physical boundary of the city’s west side, where more than a quarter of the population lives, it’s also where, some residents say, many city service end. 

It's known as the Night of the Grizzlies. Over fifty years ago, two women were killed by two different grizzly bears on the same night. The repercussions of the incident can still be seen in the way bears are managed today. But it also gave birth to a powerful myth—it's dangerous for women to spend time in the woods while menstruating.

Photo of road to Red Knoll.
David Fuchs / KUER

Updated 11:05 a.m. MDT 9/27/19  

KANAB — In the months before being elected to the Kane County Commission last year, Andy Gant paid a visit to a local advisory committee he would soon start working with. His goal: to introduce himself as the newest official in town. 

When it comes to homelessness, it seems all eyes are on California. President Donald Trump is accusing homeless people there of damaging the environment and has suggested shutting down encampments. But Boise, Idaho, is at the center of a case that’s affecting cities across West.


Renee Bright / KUER

Mormon culture influences nearly every aspect of life in Utah. But these days, many long-held values are being challenged, even by the faithful. KUER’s series “Latter-day” examines how Mormon culture is — and isn’t — changing in response.

Photo of Albert Betoudji tying together mustard greens.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER

Farmers’ markets provide customers an abundance of fresh produce, but two Salt Lake County markets that primarily serve refugees also create cultural connections through food. 

Photo of dripping spigot.
iStock.com / Wirachai

In the Uinta Mountains east of Park City, there’s a camp for girls called Aspencrest. It’s run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and its water might be contaminated. In an investigation for High Country News, freelance journalist Emma Penrod details how Aspencrest and another property owned by the church have had problems with water quality, in some cases for years. But the Utah Division of Drinking Water has not issued any citations for non-compliance. 

Photo of Carrick on trail.
Ben Hooley

A Hundred Miles of Heaven and Hell is officially called the Wasatch 100 Mile Endurance Race. Runners have just 36 hours to run a total elevation gain and loss is almost 48 thousand feet from Kaysville to Midway.

Instructor Graham Dunne is holding up some printouts with faces on them. He tells his students they're smaller than real heads.

"Here's some useless knowledge from being a sniper," he says. "The average human head is 6 inches across by 10 inches high. These are probably half that."

We're at the Flatrock Regional Training Center in Commerce City, Colorado. Usually the people training here are law enforcement, but today they're teachers, principals, bus drivers, coaches and school administrators — 13 of them.

Photo of Joe Smith, David Betts and his son James Betts.
Benjamin Bombard/KUER

The Utah deer and elk archery seasons wrap up across much of the state this Friday. The Division of Wildlife Resources says there are more buck deer in the state than at any time in the last 25 years. KUER’s Benjamin Bombard sends this audio postcard of a recent hunting trip in the Uintas.  


Photo of Huckabay looking out her window.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

This story has been corrected.

SPANISH VALLEY — When Marlene Huckabay moved to Spanish Valley in 1994, her two-acre lot was little more than a patch of desert with a tar paper shack surrounded by stark, red-rock cliffs.

You might not know it but there’s a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture whose job includes killing wild animals – to the tune of millions each year.  It used to be called Animal Damage Control. Now it’s simply called Wildlife Services. Depending on who you talk to, the agency is controversial and secretive or, well-managed and essential.

Finding a river in the West that still behaves like a Western river -- one that rises and falls with the annual rush of melting snow -- is tough. 

Many of the region’s major streams are controlled by dams. Their flows come at the push of a button. Instead of experiencing dynamic flows, dammed rivers are evened out. Floods are mitigated and managed, seen as a natural disaster rather than an ecological necessity. 

Photo of vertebrae in plaster.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

WHITE MESA — Just south of Blanding, researchers are excavating seven giant dinosaur vertebrae. They are part of a 70-foot-long diplodocus skeleton that will be on display at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

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