Regional News

Weekdays at 8 a.m. & 5:50 p.m.

KVNF's original reporting covers a variety of issues affecting the Western Slope - everything from environmental and energy issues to breaking news and statewide legislative debates. We also feature content from our Rocky Mountain Community Radio partner stations and Inside Energy

Our news team is always looking for leads. Let us know what's happening in your area, what issues you care about and what you'd like to hear us cover - email us at

For plein-air painters - that's French for "open air" - creating a work of art can be tough. Even just pronouncing it. Some say "plane air."

"The French call it 'plen air' – 'en plein air,' actually, and they are the ones who coined the term," said plein air painter Danna Hildebrand.

As a retired professor of 28 years from Sheridan College in Wyoming she would know, though she won't fault you for mispronouncing it. Pronunciation is the least of the challenges artists face when they hit the trail with their easels.

Whole Foods Market has announced that by April of next year it will stop sourcing foods that are produced using prison labor.

The move comes on the heels of a demonstration in Houston where the company was chastised for employing inmates through prison-work programs.

Michael Allen, founder of End Mass Incarceration Houston, organized the protest. He says Whole Foods was engaging in exploitation since inmates are typically paid very low wages.

The cost of getting into some national parks increases on Thursday.

The rates will go up despite the fact that visitation at parks is up, which means bigger crowds, congested traffic and busier visitor centers. But more people aren't translating into a big boost for park budgets. For example, visitation at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is up 20 percent so far this year and Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion are also seeing double-digit increases. The parks are also seeing the strain. About 100 parks are planning an entrance fee hike.


A coal mine near Paonia is laying off more workers.

Bowie Resource Partners announced on Tuesday that it's eliminating nearly 100 jobs at the Bowie #2 Mine.

Stephen Butler via Flickr (CC-BY)

In the 2016 legislative session, Democratic state Representative Millie Hamner will chair the Joint Budget Committee. Hamner represents House District 61. It covers parts of Delta and Gunnison counties along with Summit, Lake and Pitkin counties. As part of a district tour, she stopped in Paonia over the weekend. KVNF's Laura Palmisano sat down with Hamner in the studio to discuss school funding, the state budget and the upcoming legislative session.

Lake Fork Valley Conservancy, Hemson Creek, Lake City
Lake Fork Valley Conservancy

A Hinsdale County nonprofit recently received a sizable state grant to help it with a public access easement along the Lake Fork of the Gunnison.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife awarded the Lake Fork Valley Conservancy $33,000.

Montrose County in western Colorado is an agricultural community. Everything from apples to zucchini is grown there. However, not everyone knows what’s in season, how they can access it or how to prepare it.

The Local Farmacy Rx program is trying to change that. Through it low-income families learn how to eat healthy locally. 

Elsewhere Studios
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

This week Colorado Creative Industries, the state’s art agency, announced this year’s recipients of its Colorado Creates grant program.

It awarded 168 grants to organizations across the state. In the KVNF listening area, groups in Delta, Gunnison, Mesa, Ouray and San Miguel counties got funding.

Take a look at the latest obesity data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and you can see that the country's obesity epidemic is far from over.

Even in Colorado, the state with the lowest rate, 21.3 percent of its population is obese. Arkansas tops the list with 35.9 percent.

black bear
U.S. Forest Service

State wildlife officials have concluded that a bear didn’t attack and maul a hunter over the weekend on the Grand Mesa. 

On Saturday, a man in his late 60s reported he was attacked by a bear. He told Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials he was parked on his ATV near Powderhorn Ski Resort when a bear attacked him causing him to drive over a small cliff into rocks below. CPW says the episode left him  with extensive but non-life threatening injuries.  

The U.S. Department of Interior decided Tuesday that the greater sage grouse does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act. The bird spans 11 western states including Colorado, where it lives in pockets along the western slope, but is mostly concentrated in the northwest part of the state.

Gov. John Hickenlooper was one of the many people working to avoid a federal listing for the bird. While the sage grouse decision is a win for the governor, a few other initiatives – and longtime battles in Colorado – still need his attention.

Colorado Department of Transportation

The trees are starting to turn and the mornings are getting colder.  Fall is here, and that means increased animal activity. 

Colorado's South Platte River basin is a powerhouse for crops and cattle. Massive reservoirs quench the region's thirst, with farm fields generally first in line. Wildlife? It's often last.

A small win-win though is giving waterfowl a little more room at the watering hole. It's a program that creates warm winter ponds for migrating ducks — then gives the water back, in time for summer crops.

The U.S. Department of Interior has decided that the greater sage grouse, a peculiar and distinctly Western bird, does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

In a statement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that an unprecedented land conservation effort has already significantly reduced the threats to sage grouse.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the conservation marked a successful effort by the government and ranchers on public and private lands.

bull moose
Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The Grand Valley had an unusual visitor last week. Colorado Parks and Wildlife received calls about a moose in Grand Junction near Orchard Mesa. 

"As curious as that may sound it turned out to be true," said JT Romatzke, the area wildlife manager. "We did respond and did indeed find a young bull moose in the Grand Valley."

Imagine a city with hundreds of liquor stores but no bars to drink in. That's the situation for marijuana in Denver.

Pot is legal in Colorado, but the capital city has outlawed pot bars like those in Amsterdam, leaving the tourists who flock to Denver to get high with no legal place to do so. But the city is trying to find a solution.

On a recent Friday afternoon at LoDo Wellness Center, a recreational pot store downtown, budtender Delaney Mason is talking up a Parmesan-scented marijuana strain called Space Queen.

Colorado's ban on collecting rain from residential rooftops has been a contentious topic at the statehouse, and a proposed bill for 2016 means it will likely be debated once again.

"Colorado is the only western state where rain barrels are illegal," said Drew Beckwith, a water policy manager with the nonprofit Western Resource Advocates.

"Every other western state that has our water laws has them legal, and it has not caused the Earth to come crashing to a halt."

So why is there so much controversy over collecting rainwater? The sticking point is whether doing so impacts downstream water users.

On Wednesday, the Census Bureau gave Obamacare some good news: the number of people without health insurance dropped to 10.4 percent in 2014, down from 13.3 percent in 2013.

Colorado may be doing even better. When the Affordable Care Act launched two years ago, about 1 in 7 of the state's residents, or 14 percent, were uninsured, according to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute. That figure is now 6.7 percent, according to the organization's latest data.

Marijuana Plant

The state of Colorado is having a pot holiday, well sort of, on Wednesday, Sept. 16. It's lifting the 10 percent sales tax people pay on recreational marijuana and the 15 percent excise tax paid by the industry.

This is a result of the voter-approved Tax Payers Bill of Rights, known as TABOR. To help explain how this law works and is applied, KVNF's Laura Palmisano spoke to Richard Collins, a law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

medical equipment, health

A significant increase in syphilis cases in Colorado has health officials concerned.

Between January and July of last year, there were 164 early stage syphilis cases recorded in the state. During the same period of this year, there were 255 early syphilis cases. That’s a 56 percent increase.


Dr. Daniel Shodell, with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, says across the U.S. infection rates are going up including here in Colorado. 

Sherbino Theater
Sherbino Theater

This year the Sherbino Theater in Ridgway turns 100 years old. The theater is known for the musical acts and guest lecturers it brings to the Western Slope. On Friday, there will be an anniversary celebration at the theater that includes vaudeville style performances, silent films and of course a birthday cake. 

Colorado has largely been spared from the political wrangling ahead of the 2016 presidential race. But as Republicans nationally are working to narrow the presidential field, the Republican Party in Colorado wants to widen its field of candidates to run against incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet.

"The numbers tell us Senator Bennet is vulnerable," said Republican state party Chairman Steve House. "It would be great to hold onto the U.S. Senate. Republicans have to defend a number of seats more than the Democrats."

Over the past four decades, Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver, Colo., has become an institution — known for its vast selection, its knowledgeable sales staff and the comfy chairs that fill the many nooks and crannies among the bookshelves.

"You can sit and read. And the people are friendly ...," says regular customer Robert Norris. "I just like the atmosphere myself."

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Courtesy of Greg Owens

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is now an International Dark Sky Park. 

"Being an international dark skies park means the Black Canyon has exceptional starry nights [and] an environment that's great for people and wildlife, but it’s also a place where an exceptional amount of astronomy education takes place," said Nick Myers, a lead interpreter at the site.

Hours before it was scheduled to screen at the Telluride Film Festival, the Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace has been pulled, after a federal court granted the singer an injunction. The film centers on footage shot by late director Sydney Pollack at a 1972 Franklin concert.

Feeding a caffeine habit is no sweat in our day and age: Just raid the office kitchen for some tea or hit one of the coffee shops that pepper the landscape.

But 1,000 years ago, Native Americans in the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest were getting their buzz on in landscapes where no obvious sources of caffeine grew, according to new findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

vote, flag, voting
Laura Palmisano

Voters in Cedaredge will decide on two ballot questions this November. The town’s board of trustees unanimously approved the items last week.  

The first question deals with Senate Bill 152. It’s a decade old state law that prevents local governments from providing internet service to residents unless the people over turn it. 

On a research farm north of Fort Collins, Colorado, in a secret location, buried in the middle of a corn field, grows Colorado’s newest and most buzzed about commodity crop -- industrial hemp.

It’s almost harvest time at the farm, and soon researchers at Colorado State University will be adding bushels of hemp next to the usual, familiar piles of corn, wheat and oats.

Hemp is a member of the cannabis family, but it’s lacking in psychoactive properties. Instead, it’s grown more for fiber and oil. But decades of prohibition have left academia lacking in published scientific research about the plant’s very basic properties.

John Hickenlooper
Laura Palmisano

On this episode of Local Motion, we’ll hear from Governor John Hickenlooper and members of his cabinet who spoke at a forum in Montrose last month. First, Irv Halter, the director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, speaks. Then John Swartout , a senior advisor to the governor, talks about sage grouse. And lastly, Hickenlooper delivers his remarks. 

tissue box, sick, illness, cold

Delta County is seeing a spike in pertussis, also known as whooping cough, cases. The highly contagious respiratory disease causes uncontrollable coughing and can make it difficult for people to breathe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says whooping cough can be fatal, especially to young children under a year old.

Between July and August, Delta County saw seven confirmed cases of the disease.

Bonnie Koehler, the deputy director of the county health department, says this uptick in cases is concerning.