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.

Colorado has experienced massive population growth in the last few years, a that trend is projected to continue. Finding enough water to meet the demands of the booming Front Range has city planners closely looking at how new developments can be built with conservation as a key component.

"The 2040 forecast for Colorado is about 7.8 million people, increasing from about 5 million in 2010," said Elizabeth Garner, the state demographer. "How will we deal with it? Where will we put them? How will we provide water resources and other resources, whether it takes 20, 30, 40, 50 years to get there?"

The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service has announced a new plan to protect the greater sage grouse from extinction, while hoping to prevent the bird from being added to the endangered species list.

The sage grouse population has dropped from 16 million birds to less than half a million, mainly due to lost sagebrush habitat. The bird's range spans 11 western states including Colorado.

"As land managers of two-thirds of greater sage grouse habitat, we have a responsibility to take action that ensures a bright future for wildlife and a thriving western economy," said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at the announcement in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Earlier in May a majority of state lawmakers signed a letter to the governor expressing concerns over what they said are disturbing issues within the Colorado Department of Human Services. The letter states that the state is over prescribing psychotropic drugs to youth in corrections and foster care, and that the department fails to adequately supervise the county run foster care system.

In their first public appearance since lawmakers called for overhaul – or possibly firing the executive director – Gov. John Hickenlooper stood by Reggie Bicha.

"They are among the best in the United States, [that] doesn't mean they're perfect," said Hickenlooper. "Running a Department of Human Services is the hardest job in state government, because there's zero tolerance, it's like public safety. We all expect absolute perfection."

driving
Flickr/cryptozoologist

The state’s Division of Motor Vehicles immigrant ID program is once again scheduling appointments. And next week the DMV will reopen two locations to handle applicants. 

The program started last year. It allows undocumented immigrants in Colorado to get a driver’s license, learner’s permit or ID card. 

Originally, five DMV locations offered these IDs . And, the program is self-sustaining through fees.

License plate scanners have become a fact of life. They're attached to traffic lights, on police cars — even "repo" staff use them. All those devices have created a torrent of data, raising new concerns about how it's being stored and analyzed.

Bryce Newell's laptop is filled with the comings and goings of Seattle residents. The data comes from the city's license plate scanner, acquired from the police through public disclosure requests. He plugs in a license plate number, uncovering evidence of long-forgotten errands.

Energy development is always a hot topic at the statehouse, but 2015 was oddly quiet. Even with recommendations from a task force studying the issue, state lawmakers did little this past session where oil and gas drilling is concerned. As a result, some of the more long-standing issues as local control and public health concerns are still simmering.

Paradise Theater
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The Paradise Theatre in Paonia is now a Historic Landmark. Last November, the Friends of the Paradise Theatre applied for the designation. And, last week the Delta County Commissioners approved it. KVNF's Laura Palmisano spoke to Tom Stevens, the vice president of the theatre's board, about the designation.

It’s May in Rocky Mountain National Park, but on a mountainside 10,829 feet above sea level, snow is falling. It’s pelting Jim Cheatham, a biologist with the National Park Service. Shrugging off the cold, Cheatham seizes a teachable moment. This snow, he said, holds more than just water.

“Chances are it’s carrying the excess nitrogen we’re talking about,” mused Cheatham.

For the past eight years, the biologist has spent most of his time thinking about how nitrogen pollution is changing the park’s forests, wildflowers, and alpine lakes. He’s also been looking for a way to stop it.

The Colorado Department of Transportation Commission voted unanimously to approve $1 million to help preserve the Southwest Chief rail line in southern Colorado. It's part of a route that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles.

The aging track needs major upgrades or Amtrak will have to reroute the line out of Colorado and parts of New Mexico and Kansas. The train stops in Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad, in southeastern Colorado.

Haven House
Haven House

A transitional housing program for homeless families on the Western Slope now has a permanent home. 

Haven House will remain in Olathe. 

"We are happy to report that the housing authority that owned the building has agreed to our contract for the purchase," Larry Fredericksen, the executive director of the nonprofit faith-based shelter, says. "The closing is set for May 28."

Earlier this month, Haven House got a notice from the Montrose County Housing Authority saying it had sold the two-acre site.

Tannille Van Vleet

The Paonia High School Girls Track team are state champions, again.  Last weekend the Eagles won their third state championship in a row.  To talk about the event, KVNF's Jake Ryan sat down with Ashley Van Vleet and Chelsea Meilner.

African-American women can be at risk of heart disease even if they don't have metabolic syndrome, a study finds.

That's a problem, because the current thinking is that metabolic syndrome — defined as high triglycerides, bad cholesterol, abdominal fat, high blood pressure and impaired glucose metabolism — is the big risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

The picture with women appears to be a lot more complicated, especially when you compare women in different racial or ethnic groups.

As 2016 campaigns heat up, Republicans are working to boost their momentum among Latino voters, and the numbers make it easy to see why.

no smoking sign
Flickr/smartsignbrooklyn

A college on the Western Slope is joining the growing number of higher education institutions that ban tobacco products.

The Delta-Montrose Technical College will be a tobacco-free school.

"All forms of tobacco products including smoking and smokeless tobacco or chew and e-cigarettes are banned," John Jones, the college's director, said.

He said it was a two-year process to get the policy in place.

Several counties across the Western Slope have supported the Thompson Divide lease swap.  Delta County was one of the last holdouts, but they made their decision on Monday.

workplace
flickr/ashkyd

Six counties on the Western Slope have received a large grant to promote workplace wellness.  

The $630,000 grant is from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

Over the next three years, Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray, and San Miguel counties will share the funding to create a workplace wellness program. 

Haven House
Haven House

The future of a transitional housing program for homeless families on the Western Slope is uncertain. 

Haven House needs to raise $345,000 by Friday to buy the property where it operates. 

The shelter opened in Olathe four years ago. It has 30 units where homeless families and individuals can stay for an extended period.

"Certainly between Grand Junction and Durango there is nothing like it," Larry Fredericksen, the president of the nonprofit faith-based shelter, said.

Keeping food out of sight could be a way to keep it out of your mouth. That's the hunch of Charles Emery, a psychologist at Ohio State University, anyway. His latest research suggests that how food is set up around the house could be influencing how much people eat and, ultimately, how heavy they might be.

There are a lot of factors that scientists say explain obesity — defined as a body-mass index over 30 — from genetics to lifestyle changes to socio-economic status.

Don Coram
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The 2015 state legislative session has come to an end. KVNF's Laura Palmisano caught up with Republican Rep. Don Coram at a recent bill signing event in Montrose. He represents House District 58, which covers Montrose, San Miguel, Dolores and Montezuma counties.

Grand Junction Police Department
Nathan Lopez Photography

This week is National Police Week. It is an occasion to honor officers who died in the line of duty. 

The time of remembrance this year comes on the heels of protests against police in major cities across the U.S. and a national debate on police tactics. 

In a local effort to increase understanding between law enforcement and the public, a Western Slope photographer is trying to get people to look beyond the badge and see the person in uniform.

Photographer Nathan Lopez moved to Grand Junction seven months ago from Oregon.

Montrose Library
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The Great Recession officially ended in 2009, but communities on the Western Slope are still feeling its effects.

In Montrose County, unemployment remains high and property values have not returned to pre-recession levels.

Paul Paladino, the director of the Montrose Regional Library District, said low property values affect the libraries.

"We are funded 90 percent from property taxes," said Paladino.

He said since 2013, the library system has faced a $420,000 budget deficit and is dipping into reserves to help make up for that loss.

El Paso County Commissioners have voted to approve two settlements in claims brought against the Sheriff’s office, former Sheriff Terry Maketa, and former Undersheriff Paula Presley.  The claims allege lost income and benefits due to a hostile work environment.

 

County Attorney Amy Folsom said at Tuesday morning’s commissioner’s meeting that her office has analyzed the risk of liability and evaluated the potential cost of litigation in each case.

Governor John Hickenlooper
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

On his tour of the Western Slope this week, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill to create a grant program to help communities fight invasive plants that threaten riparian areas in Colorado.

House Bill 1006 creates the Invasive Phreatophyte Grant Program.

Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill at a ceremony in Montrose on Tuesday.

Has American English become homogenized? Have our regional ways of saying particular things — sometimes in very particular ways — receded into the past? Or do we talk as funny as ever?

Sheep ranchers, feedlot owners, and processors in states like Colorado, Nebraska and Illinois are banking on America becoming a more diverse place.

Specifically, they want American Muslims to buy more of their lamb.

Last weekend saw the Western Colorado Climate Challenge in Paonia.  It was a conference focused on the impacts of climate change on the Western Slope, and what could be done to address them.  This event was a little different than others like it.  This is Rob Menzies, one of the facilitators.

Flickr User colorob

Spring is in full effect, and for quite a while birds have been migrating through the area.  One listener, Marylin Stone, commented on the iSeeChange website that she noticed, for the first time this year a Bullock's oriole and a hummingbird, she wasn’t positive which species.  I brought this observation to Jeff Birek, a biologist with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

cameo, grand valley
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The state collects severance taxes from companies that extract nonrenewable resources in Colorado. Some of this money goes to communities in the form of large grants. Most of these grants go to communities to help build fire stations, upgrade water systems, restore historic sites, and aid with other infrastructure or economic development projects. The program is also providing funds for a shooting range on the Western Slope. 

Roger Granat is the 73-year-old mayor of Palisade. He grew up there. And as a boy, he would often visit the neighboring community of Cameo. 

"The general store and the post office sat over here on our right," Granat said on a recent visit to the old town site.  

State lawmakers waited until the last minute to decide some of the biggest issues hanging over the capitol for the 2015 legislative session. They worked overtime to get everything wrapped up before a Wednesday midnight.

Reducing the number of standardized tests public school children take has been a top priority for lawmakers in both parties this session. The Governor even mentioned it during his January State of the State Address. Despite overall agreement on the problem, the issue wasn't resolved until the final moments of the session, after months of negotiations and numerous bills on the topic.

Test reform wasn't alone, priorities such as a felony DUI bill, reauthorization of the Office of Consumer Counsel, a change in the law for rain barrels, and a salary increase for elected officials were all on the docket in the waning moments of the General Assembly.

ouray hot springs pool
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

    

Severance taxes are a vital source of funding for communities across Colorado. This tax applies to revenue the state collects from mining and energy extraction. Half of these funds go directly to communities affected by those activities. The other half goes towards grants for infrastructure and economic development.  

"We have just under a million gallons of hot, natural spring water that flows into the pool," said Patrick Rondinelli, the city administrator of Ouray, while visiting the city's hot springs pool. 

"There’s always been ponds in the early years that were in this location and then finally in the late 1920’s a formal swimming pool was built on this very site," he said.  "And, it’s been maintained in that condition in some variation. There’s been some changes made to it but basically in this same very site all these years."  

Rondinelli said Ouray closes the pool in the spring for about a week to clean it and do basic repairs. The site attracts about 135,000 visitors a year and is a major tourism draw for the small mountain community.

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