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. 

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 news@kvnf.org.

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NEWS
3:50 pm
Fri July 3, 2015

Conservation Agreement Protects 780 Acres In Unaweep Canyon

A new conservation agreement with the Mesa Land Trust will permanently protect the 780-acre working West Creek Ranch in Unaweep Canyon.
Credit Josh Duplechain

A new conservation agreement will permanently protect a 780-acre working ranch in the heart of Unaweep Canyon. 

Mesa Land Trust worked for three years to make the deal happen.  

Ilana Moir with the trust describes why the nonprofit wants to preserve West Creek Ranch, which is along the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway.

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NEWS
4:17 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Dangerous Hash Oil Production Now Illegal In Colorado

Credit Andres Rodriguez via Flickr

A new law that makes it illegal for individuals to use hazardous materials to make hash oil went into effect on Wednesday.  

Republican Representative Yeulin Willett of Grand Junction co-sponsored the measure. He said it targets ‘home cookers’. 

"We had a problem with explosions all over the state from people trying to manufacture marijuana concentrate using dangerous, explosive, volatile substances such as butane," Willett said. 

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NEWS
2:24 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Recreational Marijuana Is Now Legal In Oregon

In Oregon, people can grow up to four marijuana plants per household.
Elaine Thompson AP

Originally published on Wed July 1, 2015 3:42 pm

Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon as of today.

People 21 and older can now possess up to an ounce of pot when away from home and up to 8 ounces at home. It's also legal to grow up to four plants per household.

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NEWS
12:17 pm
Tue June 30, 2015

Colorado Needle Exchanges Grow To Meet Demand

An example of injecting supplies available at the syringe exchange in Grand Junction.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Needle exchange programs in Colorado are expanding.

The programs are designed to keep illegal drug users from sharing used needles and spreading deadly diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. And, not too long ago they were illegal in this state. 

Five years ago only one needle exchange operated in Colorado and it was illegal. 

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NEWS
8:46 am
Mon June 29, 2015

Embraced Yet Forbidden, Staff Sergeant Comes Out As Transgender

Staff Sgt. Patricia King, who has been in the Army for 16 years, says she decided to start her gender transition in January.
Christian Murdock Colorado Springs Gazette

Originally published on Wed July 1, 2015 2:00 pm

By serving in the Army, Staff Sgt. Patricia King is breaking the rules.

King enlisted 1999 under her birth name, Peter. At the beginning of this year, King — a decorated soldier with three deployments to Afghanistan under her belt — started her gender transition.

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NEWS
3:28 pm
Fri June 26, 2015

Colorado's Evolution Toward Marriage Equality Has Been Incremental, But Quick

An excited crowd outside of the U.S. Supreme Court following the 5-4 decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide, June 26, 2015.
Elizabeth Harball used with permission

Originally published on Fri June 26, 2015 5:25 pm

Current and former Colorado state Democratic lawmakers are praising the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing same sex marriage nationwide. In the 5-4 decision, the court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"Today is an amazing day for America and equality, said Democratic former Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, who served as Colorado’s first gay speaker and helped pass a bill to make civil unions legal in the state.

"I knew we would get to this day in my life time, but never thought it would come so quickly. I am so proud of our nation's ability to move towards full equality for all people. The work is not done to end all discrimination but today was a gigantic step forward."

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MUSIC
6:17 pm
Thu June 25, 2015

97-Years-Old And Still Spinning Tunes On Public Radio

Felix Belmont, 97, of Paonia, Colorado might be the oldest volunteer DJ in public radio and the maybe world.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Guinness World Records lists a 95-year-old woman from Ohio as the world’s oldest professional DJ. However, KVNF’s Felix Belmont turns 97 Sunday, June 28.

Felix has been a volunteer DJ at KVNF for over 35 years.

He hosts a program called Stop Time where he plays big band music from the 20's, 30's and 40's. And, he might just be the oldest volunteer DJ in public radio and...maybe the world.

KVNF’s Laura Palmisano spoke to Felix ahead of his birthday. 

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ENVIRONMENT
1:24 pm
Thu June 25, 2015

How A Historical Blunder Helped Create The Water Crisis In The West

A bathtub ring marks the high-water line on Nevada's Lake Mead, which is on the Colorado River, in 2013.
Julie Jacobson AP

Originally published on Mon July 6, 2015 12:28 pm

In 1922, seven Western states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and California — drew up an agreement on how to divide the waters of the Colorado River. But there was one big problem with the plan: They overestimated how much water the river could provide.

As a result, each state was promised more water than actually exists. This miscalculation — and the subsequent mismanagement of water resources in those states — has created a water crisis that now affects nearly 40 million Americans.

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ENVIRONMENT
5:52 pm
Tue June 23, 2015

iSeeChange: Mushrooms Boom This Spring

Handfuls of black morels.
Credit Darcie Rose

The unusually wet spring has made some mushroom foragers very happy. 

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NEWS
1:41 pm
Tue June 23, 2015

Delta County Sees First Human Case Of Tularemia, Health Officials Concerned

Tularemia is caused by bacteria found in the environment. It’s contracted through cuts, insect bites, handing infected animals, eating or drinking contaminated food of water, or by inhaling it.
Credit NRCS Soil Health

A Delta County man is recovering after contracting tularemia. Although it’s the first reported case of the disease on the Western Slope this year, health officials are concerned.

Last year in Colorado 16 people were diagnosed with tularemia.

That's the second highest number of cases in Colorado since 1983 when there were 20 cases, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

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NEWS
5:30 pm
Mon June 22, 2015

Colorado's IUD Program Remains Confident On Continuing, Still Seeking State Support

Liz Romer, a nurse practioner and director of the family planning program for Children's Hospital Colorado is looking over a list of patient appointments with Rebecca Cohen M.D.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Mon June 29, 2015 2:37 pm

Despite state lawmakers failing to pass a bill to fund the effort, a program to provide long acting reversible birth control to young, low-income women in Colorado is being extended for another year.

The long acting contraceptives, according to state figures, have helped cut teen pregnancy rates in the state by 40 percent. Abortions have gone down too.

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NEWS
6:18 pm
Fri June 19, 2015

Paonia Could Get Waldorf Focused Education Program

The inspired by Waldorf program would be part of Paonia Elementary.
Credit Laura Palmisano

The Delta County School Board has approved a Waldorf inspired education program in Paonia.

For the past three years, a group of parents and educators in the North Fork Valley have tried to open a Waldorf inspired charter school.  

The school board and the state board of education denied their charter recognition.

However, the group worked with district officials and school administrators to come up with a compromise.

It would create a K-4 program inspired by the Waldorf model at Paonia Elementary School. 

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NEWS
4:16 pm
Fri June 19, 2015

FERC Gives DMEA Greenlight To Buy More Local Power

Credit Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

A federal decision issued Thursday says the Delta-Montrose Electric Association is obligated to purchase power from qualifying facilities.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision means DMEA can buy more locally produced power.

Previously, the electric cooperative could only buy five-percent of its energy from providers other than Tri-State, a wholesale power supplier in four states.

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NEWS
10:25 am
Wed June 17, 2015

Black Canyon Astronomy Festival Kicks Off

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park at night.
Credit Courtesy of Greg Owens

The sixth annual Black Canyon Astronomy Festival starts today and runs through Saturday, June 20. 

The festival takes place at the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park outside of Montrose. The event is put on with the help of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.

KVNF's Laura Palmisano spoke to Art Trevena, the group’s vice president, to learn more about this year’s festival. 

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NEWS
10:03 am
Wed June 17, 2015

Ride The Rockies Stops In Hotchkiss

Ride the Rockies participants end the second day of the bike tour in Hotchkiss.

Ride the Rockies kicked off its second day with a 96 mile ride from Grand Junction to Hotchkiss on Monday.

Hundreds of riders braved the heat and a steep climb over the Grand Mesa. 

The ride ended in Hotchkiss where cyclists didn’t descend onto the town all at once. Some rode in small groups and others were riding solo.

Carrie Yantzer, the principal of Hotchkiss K8, and a few other supporters greeted people as they peddled past.

Yantzer said she’s happy to see Ride the Rockies return to town. 

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NEWS
9:28 am
Wed June 17, 2015

Reactions To Colorado's Supreme Court Decision On Medical Marijuana In The Workplace

Colorado Supreme Court

Originally published on Mon June 15, 2015 3:16 pm

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that companies can legally fire employees for using medical marijuana, even off duty.

The decision is based on the case of Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic who takes medical marijuana to control muscle spasms in his legs. Dish Network fired him from his job as a customer service representative in 2010 after he failed a random drug test. Coats then sued for unlawful termination.

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NEWS
3:02 am
Wed June 17, 2015

Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use Among Marijuana Growers

Using chemicals to control bugs or mold is common among commercial cannabis growers. But with no federal oversight, experts are concerned growers may be using dangerous pesticides.
Ted S. Warren AP

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 5:19 am

The marijuana industry has a pesticide problem. Many commercial cannabis growers use chemicals to control bugs and mold. But the plant's legal status is unresolved.

The grow room at Medical MJ Supply in Fort Collins, Colo., has all the trappings of a modern marijuana cultivation facility: glowing yellow lights, plastic irrigation tubes, and rows of knee-high cannabis plants.

"We're seeing a crop that's probably in it third or fourth week," says Nick Dice, the owner.

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NEWS
10:16 am
Mon June 15, 2015

Colorado Supreme Court Says Employees Can Be Fired For Marijuana Use

Brandon Coats works on his computer at his home in Denver in December 2012.
Ed Andrieski AP

Originally published on Mon June 15, 2015 9:27 am

Now that marijuana use is legal in Colorado, can employees be fired for lighting up a joint in their free time?

That was the question before the Colorado Supreme Court this term and on Monday it came to a conclusion: Yes, you can get fired.

The case was brought by Brandon Coats, who sued Dish Network after it fired him for using his "state-licensed ... medical marijuana at home during nonworking hours."

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ENVIRONMENT
10:01 am
Mon June 15, 2015

Despite Spring Rains, Colorado Readies For Fire Season

One of Colorado's two PC-12 Multi-Mission Aircraft that'll be used for fire detection.
Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control

Originally published on Fri June 12, 2015 7:05 am

While Colorado has experienced much needed rain this spring, fire officials are still expecting an average fire season.

"The moisture has helped considerably, at least to forestall the onset of the fire season, which we know is coming," said Paul Cooke, the Director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

The addition of two specialized planes that can spot a wildfire in its very earliest stages means that the state should be better prepared for the fire season. Specialized equipment like this though, means the cost of fighting wildfires in Colorado and the west continues to go up – and officials at every level are planning accordingly.

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NEWS
3:22 pm
Fri June 12, 2015

Rainbow Trout On The Rebound In Colorado

Credit Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

State wildlife officials say rainbow trout populations in Colorado are finally on the rebound after they were hard hit by whirling disease in the 1990's. KVNF’s Laura Palmisano spoke to Eric Fetherman, an aquatic research scientist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, to learn more about the recovery of the fish. 

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NEWS
10:31 am
Fri June 12, 2015

Olathe Gets $226K Grant For Walkway Expansion Project

Olathe got a $226,000 grant to help fund a walkway expansion project from the elementary school to the middle and high school in town.
Credit Flickr/jstephenconn

The town of Olathe recently received a large grant for a walkway expansion project.

Olathe got nearly $226,000 through the federal Transportation Alternative Program. The Colorado Department of Transportation distributes the funds to communities.

"The scope of the project is to provide additional walkway for a section of town that has a high volume of pedestrian traffic," Patty Gabriel, Olathe’s town administrator, said.  "And, it would connect our Olathe Middle & High School with our Olathe Elementary School."

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NEWS
10:03 am
Thu June 11, 2015

From Solitary To The Streets: Released Inmates Get Little Help

Brian Nelson, 50, at his home in Chicago. Five years after he was released from solitary confinement, he says it's still hard to be around people.
Peter Hoffman for NPR

Originally published on Fri June 12, 2015 4:12 am

In prison, Brian Nelson lived in solitary confinement. That meant 23 hours a day in a small cell. No human contact, except with guards — for 12 years straight.

Then, his prison sentence for murder was over. One moment he was locked down. The next, he was free.

NPR and The Marshall Project, an online journalism group that focuses on the criminal justice system, investigated the release of tens of thousands of prisoners from solitary confinement to find out how many prisoners, like Nelson, go straight from solitary to the streets.

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HEALTH
5:18 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Wet Weather Could Lead To More West Nile Cases, Health Officials Say

Credit Mesa County Health Department

May was the wettest month on record, according to federal data. Colorado also saw its fair share of precipitation last month. 

This increased moisture could mean more mosquitoes and this has health officials concerned. 

The insects reproduce in standing water so when it rains a lot in can create ideal breeding habitat for them. 

Thomas Orr, a regional epidemiologist at the Mesa County Health Department, says more mosquitoes could lead to more cases of West Nile.

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NEWS
9:57 am
Wed June 10, 2015

Interior, Agriculture Secretaries Call For Wildfire Funding Reforms

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell came to Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Commerce City to urge a change in how the federal government funds large wildfire suppression.
Bente Birkeland RMCR

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 7:06 am

Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the Interior and Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, came to Colorado Tuesday to urge a change in how the federal government pays to fight catastrophic wildfires.

"The solution is for these fires to be looked upon in the same way we look at tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods, they're natural disasters and they should be funded as such," Vilsack said.

Interior's Jewell agrees the funding mechanism should change.

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NEWS
9:34 am
Wed June 10, 2015

From Bills To Ballots, What's Next At The Colorado Statehouse?

KUNC File Photo

Originally published on Mon June 8, 2015 6:33 am

It's been a month since Colorado lawmakers wrapped up their 2015 legislative session at the state capitol, but the work is far from over. Many of the bills that failed this year will likely be back next session and some long-standing issues may already be poised to go before voters in 2016.

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POLITICS
2:10 pm
Tue June 9, 2015

Advocates Push To Bring Solitary Confinement Out Of The Shadows

A guard looks over an empty inmate cell at the Northern Correctional Institution in Somers, Conn., in 2001.
Steve Miller AP

Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 7:53 am

By last count, the Justice Department estimates about 80,000 U.S. inmates live in some kind of restricted housing.

That means being confined to a cell for about 22 hours a day.

"You are going to eat, sleep and defecate in a small room that's actually smaller than the size of your average parking space," said Amy Fettig, a lawyer who runs the Stop Solitary campaign for the American Civil Liberties Union. "And you're going to do that for months, years and sometimes even decades on end."

Fettig said solitary confinement is brutal and expensive.

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NEWS
2:07 pm
Tue June 9, 2015

The Unfinished VA Hospital That's More Than $1 Billion Over Budget

Sloan Gibson, deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs, speaks in April at the construction site of the VA hospital in Aurora, Colo. The unfinished hospital is more than $1 billion over its original budget and congressional funding runs out this week.
David Zalubowski AP

Originally published on Tue June 9, 2015 4:57 pm

A decade ago, plans were drawn up for a huge Veterans Affairs hospital near Denver intended to replace old and crowded facilities for nearly 400,000 vets in Colorado and neighboring states.

The original budget was $328 million, but that was totally unrealistic, the VA now acknowledges. So how much did it finally cost?

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NEWS
5:09 pm
Mon June 8, 2015

A 'Higher Expectation' Was Part Of One Refugee's Journey From Myanmar To Colorado

Htoo Ler Moo, middle, with his parents at a scholarship award ceremony in Delta, Colo.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Across the United States, millions of high schools seniors have just graduated. With diplomas in hand, they are getting ready for what’s next. 

In the rural community of Delta in western Colorado, three Karen refugees recently graduated from the local high school. Their families had to leave behind their homeland in Myanmar, once known as Burma, where the Karen people face violence and persecution.

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NEWS
2:51 pm
Mon June 8, 2015

Lunch Lady Knows There's No Quick Fix For Feeding Hungry Kids

Dakota Valley Elementary School kitchen manager Della Curry said she "knew the whole time it was a firing offense" to give out free lunches.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue June 9, 2015 9:25 am

Della Curry gave a free lunch to a hungry child that may be costly.

Curry is the kitchen manager — the lunch lady — at the Dakota Valley Elementary School in Aurora, Colo. She set off a national debate this week when she said that last Friday, "I had a first-grader in front of me, crying, because she doesn't have enough money for lunch," Curry told Denver's KCNC TV. "Yes, I gave her a lunch."

And shortly thereafter, Curry was fired.

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NEWS
10:48 am
Mon June 8, 2015

Paonia Alternative School Officially Stops Classes

Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

A deadline passed last week for several students in the North Fork.

The Vision Charter Academy announced plans earlier this school year to stop all classes at the Paonia campus, reverting back to a resource for homeschooling families.

Avery McJunkin just finished up his sophomore year at the alternative school.  He was one of several students that campaigned to keep the classes going. 

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