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Frank Fahland has been slowly building his dream house near Libby, Mont., for the past 15 years. 

"It's an Amish log home with a beautiful stain on it and the best back deck you've ever seen in your whole life," he says, overlooking pine-forested foothills and an open meadow.

Ever since the pandemic ramped up in mid-March, Fahland, 61, has been spending most days up here – away from people. Like hundreds of other folks in Libby, he's vulnerable to complications from COVID-19 because his lungs are scarred from breathing in asbestos-laced dust from a nearby mine for decades. He struggles to climb a small hill near his house before reaching for an inhaler. 

Savannah Maher / Wyoming Public Media

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When mass protests erupted across the country in late spring, the first Wyoming community to join that national movement was the city of Riverton. On June 1st, 150 or so people gathered in Riverton City Park to honor George Floyd's life and demand justice. 

Riverton is conservative and rural, with a population of about 11,000 people. But it's also surrounded by the Wind River Reservation. The June demonstration was led by a young Arapaho person from Wind River, Micah Lott. 

Taylar Stagner

Lately I've been spending my Wednesday mornings in Riverton City Park. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, it's safer to interview people outdoors, and I've been asking everyone I run into the same question: Is Riverton, Wyo., on the Wind River Reservation?

Antwon McMullen / Shutterstock

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The U.S. Census Bureau has announced it's ending the 2020 count a month early, a move that's likely to have a big impact on Indigenous communities in the West.

 

Jacob W. Frank / NPS

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Tourism to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks is humming along this summer despite the pandemic, but it appears that out-of-staters are bringing more than just their money with them.

 

Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

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For Dr. Lori Drumm, the trouble began after she cancelled a rodeo in rural Deer Lodge, Mont.

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

Fake news and misinformation about the pandemic run rampant these days. One of the culprits is the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns more than a dozen popular television stations across the Mountain West.

 

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This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

A physician based in Missoula, Mont., has a message for libertarian-minded skeptics of the pandemic – cowboy up and mask up.

 

Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau

This is part of a collaboration between the Mountain West News Bureau and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation looking at how U.S.-Canada border towns are fairing during the pandemic. Read the second part here.

The U.S.-Canada border crossing north of Eureka, Mont., is quiet these days. No buses or vans packed with mountain bikes and vacationing families. Just a single logging truck. 

"No traffic hardly at all," says David Clarke, owner of the First & Last Chance Bar and Duty Free Store.

Colby K. Neal / BLM

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Lots of wildfire smoke in the summer can lead to more flu outbreaks in the winter, according to a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environment International

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This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

As Black Lives Matter rallies continue across the country, some counter protesters and militia members are giving new life to an old racist myth – that white Irish people were enslaved in the Americas just like Africans and Indigenous people.

 

J. Stephen Conn / Creative commons

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

Short-term vacation rental bookings are surging across the Mountain West, even as the region grapples with a growing number of coronavirus cases.

 

Brett Davis / Flickr

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

A surge of out-of-staters are fleeing major cities and purchasing homes in Montana, Wyoming and other parts of the Mountain West, according to real estate agents.

 

"These out-of-state buyers are just coming in droves," said D.J. Smith, president of the Missoula Organization of Realtors. 

Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

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Justin and his buddies look like they're from a special ops team – they're wearing flak jackets and carrying assault weapons. But they aren't military and they aren't police. 

"I see myself as a concerned citizen who happens to be armed," he says.

 

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A number of county commissioners have been challenging the constitutionality of statewide stay-at-home orders in recent weeks. The latest opposition comes from North Idaho. 

The Bonner County Board of County Commissioners on Thursday adopted a proclamation calling Idaho's second phase of stay-at-home orders "unconstitutional."

 

Russell Tate / United Nations COVID-19 Response Creative Content Hub

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Some rural communities in the Mountain West are reopening without the widespread testing and contact tracing needed to identify and isolate outbreaks of COVID-19. Absent federal dollars, local fundraising can help.

 

Logan Weaver / Unsplash

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If you want a hearty breakfast in the small town of Thompson Falls, Montana, Minnie's Montana Cafe has you covered.

 

Elizabeth Camp / Unsplash

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

The number of U.S. airline passengers is creeping up as states begin to relax their stay-at-home orders, according to the latest data from the Transportation Security Administration.

USAFacts

Nearly half of all counties in the Mountain West have largely been spared from COVID-19, according to recent data from the nonprofit organization USAFacts. Many of these communities weren't untouched, but all have had fewer than five confirmed cases of the virus. 

Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

Most of us have never experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic in our lifetime, and that's especially true for children. The Mountain West News Bureau spoke with five kids about what's on their minds: 6-year-old Emerson, 10-year-old Eleanor, 11-year-old Wren, 11-year-old Brennan, and 10-year-old Olivia. Amanda Peacher shares their voices in this audio postcard.

Need An Absentee Ballot For Idaho's Primary? You Have To Apply Soon! Here's How

May 13, 2020
Jens Alfke / Flickr

There will be no in-person voting in Idaho’s upcoming May 19 primary election. Instead, all voting will be through absentee or mail-in ballots.

But that means voters have to keep a few key deadlines in mind: May 19 and June 2. Here’s what to know:

Nate Hegyi / Mountain West News Bureau


This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

It's Cinco de Mayo in Sandpoint, Idaho, and a downtown pub is giving away free meals to families in need. Not many people are out. A few are wearing masks. Outside the pub, a teenager is playing the Beatles' song "Yesterday" on his violin.

Jafar Ahmed / Unsplash

The Mountain West News Bureau is taking questions from listeners across the region about the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a question, email us at mountainwestnewsbureau@gmail.com or give us a call at 208-352-2079 and leave us a message. This service is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

NIAID

The Mountain West News Bureau is taking questions from listeners across the region about the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a question, email us at mountainwestnewsbureau@gmail.com or give us a call at 208-352-2079 and leave us a message. This service is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

Photo courtesy of Holly Spriggs


This story is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative.

It's a sunny, spring afternoon and Holly Spriggs and her teenage son, Sawyer Michaud, are digging around in her giant garden outside of Lander, Wyo.

"We're working on planting some potatoes and onions before we get some moisture here," she says. 

Spriggs is having a great time, but Sawyer would rather be snowmobiling.

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