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Features

“The snow’s going sideways, it’s swirling,” said Billy Barr, from the abandoned silver mine he lives in at more than 12,000 feet in altitude in the Rocky Mountains.

We’re all social distancing these days, and it’s unclear when exactly that will end. But Barr has been doing this for almost 50 years. He’s the only full-time resident of Gothic, Colorado. 

“I'm the mayor and chief of police,” he said. “I hold elections every year but I don't tell anybody when they are, so it works out really well.”

Sometime around Valentine's Day, a box arrived at a lab on the western edge of Fort Collins, Colorado. It contained vials full of coronavirus and it was just what Lindsay Hartson and her colleagues had been waiting for.

"We were really excited because it meant we could start doing the work," said Hartson.

Photo of two women looking at presctriptions.
Jon Reed / KUER

When Stephanie Arceneaux and Raune Palmer met for the first time, it was to trade prescription drugs. 

It’s no secret that Michael Bloomberg is spending a lot on his Democratic presidential campaign, from Super Bowl ads to social media influencers. But he’s also spending a lot of that money to hire staff in the Mountain West. 


Bernie Sanders standing at a podium on a stage surrounded by thousands of people.
Whittney Evans / KUER

When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders visited Utah during his 2016 presidential campaign, he drew a crowd of thousands.

Photo of a man and dog in a hemp field with mountains.
Matt Herp for KUER

On a recent cold and snowy day in Logan, Nathan Snow’s harvest was in full swing. He wore sunglasses to shield his eyes from rows and rows of bright lights growing hundreds and hundreds of bushy plants. This hemp “farm” is located inside a large, nondescript warehouse where the air smelled tropical and loamy. 

Renee Bright / KUER

It’s 6:30 a.m. on a recent weekday morning, and Caroline Keeney is trying to get her two teen daughters ready for school. She knocks on the door of her younger daughter, Eden, and the 13-year-old middle schooler jumps right out of bed. 

Photo of billboard that reads "Seraph Young, First Woman To Vote."
Nicole Nixon / KUER

Utah is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the centennial of women’s voting rights and other suffragist anniversaries. Advocates and lawmakers have planned celebrations, lectures and events throughout 2020.

In his latest budget proposal, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis requested $7.2 million to begin transitioning the state away from private prisons. A big part of that plan was to close the Cheyenne Mountain Re-entry Center in Colorado Springs. It’s a medium security facility run by the GEO group, one of the largest prison companies in the country. 

For years during the Cold War, large swaths of land in Nevada were used for atomic weapons testing. Nuclear bombs were dropped just miles from small towns and the people living in them.

Over time, men, women and children started getting sick, and three decades ago, a federal law offered a formal apology and eventually created a program to both reach out to affected communities and pay partial restitution when appropriate. That program is ending soon, but the nuclear tests’ health effects are not.

Photo of large pile of material to be recycled.
Jon Reed / KUER

Utah has a recycling problem: we're not very good at it.

That was easy to see while walking among the crowded conveyor belts and mountains of trash on a recent tour of the Waste Management Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in West Jordan.

Photo of Utah valley.
Sonja Hutson / KUER

Speaking before the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in 2018, Gov. Gary Herbert hailed the Utah tech industry’s contribution to the state.

Photo of dogs pulling a sled in the snow.
Brian Albers / KUER

The excited barks and whines of more than a dozen sled dogs get louder as Fernando Ramirez and his team of mushers prepare their sleds on a snowy afternoon in the Utah mountains.

Every time thick, dark rain clouds move over the deserts that surround Las Vegas, there's an anticipatory buzz. Flora and fauna alike begin preparing for the rare event, lying in wait for the first few drops.

Todd Esque is usually waiting for them too from his office in Henderson, Nevada. He knows how much desert life depends on their arrival. So when they do come, he's smiling.

Photo of apartments under construction in snow.
Leia Larsen

HERRIMAN — When Aurora and Seth McCausland went looking for a new apartment for their growing family, they wanted a place with the trappings of modern life. 

Photo of a man sitting behind the wheel of a car
Sonja Hutson / KUER

Doug Hronek was driving home to Heber City through Provo Canyon about five years ago when he tuned his car radio to a conversation about unique investment opportunities. 

Photo of a sign that reads UVU: Utah Valley University.
Brian Albers / KUER

Utah Valley University field botany Professor Jim Harris remembers the last time he saw his long time colleague Mike Shively. 

On a recent walk along a trail north of Boise, Idaho near dusk, photographer Glenn Oakley stopped and pointed.

“Oh, over there. See that owl?”

A great horned owl was flying out over one of the hills.


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.  

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