KUNC

Dan Thompson says he has seen wolves at their best, and their worst.

As the big carnivore supervisor for Wyoming Fish and Game, Thompson has gotten to step within a few feet of a wolf after biologists prepared to tranquilize the animal in a trap.

“Just to see that yellow in the eyes and that little bark and howl, I mean, it kind of penetrates your soul quite honestly,” Thompson said last month from his home in Lander, Wyoming.

But on the flip side, Thompson says he has seen a more unflattering side of wolves.

Democrats at the state Capitol have tried for several years to create a paid family and medical leave program, but concerns from small businesses and Gov. Jared Polis have kept it from becoming law.

Now the political battle is moving from the state Capitol to the ballot box, where voters will have the final say.

Kris Garcia, who has spent more than a decade advocating for stronger paid leave benefits, is attending virtual rallies and sharing his story about what life is like without family and medical leave programs.

The Colorado River’s largest reservoirs are expected to keep struggling over the next five years due to climate change, according to the federal agency that oversees them.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s new modeling projections, which include this year’s record-breaking heat and dryness in some parts of the southwestern watershed, show an increasing likelihood of an official shortage declaration before 2026.

State Rep. Jeni Arndt joined a very exclusive club in the world of Colorado politics last year when one of her bills became so controversial, it triggered the first statewide referendum since 1932.

“I got a lot of feedback (on the bill) … some death threats,” Arndt said of her bill to put Colorado in the National Popular Vote Compact, a growing group of states that want to award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who gets the most votes nationwide.

Luke Runyon/KUNC

Many communities in the West are growing, and in some places that’s putting pressure on already scarce water supplies.

That’s the case in northern Colorado, where a proposed set of reservoirs promises to allow small suburbs to keep getting bigger. The project, called the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), has stirred up a familiar debate over how the West grows, and whether water should be a limiting factor.

Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

This article comes to HPPR from KUNC's Capitol Coverage. Click here for a link to the original article. 

Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday the state will spend $2 million of federal coronavirus relief money on a new effort to bring high-speed internet to tens of thousands of students who still do not have it at home.

Luke Runyon/KUNC

Tracking coronavirus pandemic could soon be a bit easier because of one simple fact: everyone poops.

Around the world, wastewater plants have become unlikely sentinels in the fight against the virus, allowing scientists to track the disease’s spread at the community level. The practice of testing sewage samples is spreading across Western U.S. states as well, with programs currently running in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California.

Colorado's legislative session is just over two weeks old, and lawmakers have already introduced more than 270 bills and counting. With hundreds more bills expected to land in the coming weeks, here are some of the ones we are starting to watch at the state Capitol.

When the package arrived in Holly Smith’s mailbox from the Windsor Post Office, it was falling apart. A rubber band had been wrapped around the box, barely holding it shut. The note taped on its side read “delivered to wrong address.”

Inside, someone had rummaged through the contents, taking a $50 gift card, Smith wrote in a complaint filed with the town of Windsor last year. The incident was just one of many, she said.

As officials chalked up dozens of "mystery drone" sightings to things like reflections on jets at Denver's airport, residents in Colorado and bordering states continue to post grainy videos that they insist are evidence of large drones flying in groups. Meanwhile, a legal expert is voicing concerns about privacy.

Cowboys are synonymous with the West and Colorado's agricultural heritage. And this weekend, an event in our area celebrates that lifestyle through poetry.

Colorado ranked third in states most bothered by robocalls in 2019. The data was compiled by Let's Talk, a cell phone analytics firm that compares different carriers and plans.

In the wake of Congress passing new regulations on robocalls last month, Let's Talk decided to track which states received the most calls. They did so by looking at reported complaints and the number of blocked calls by robocall blocking apps.

Safety advocates worried about injuries at Colorado's ski resorts say months of talks with the state and industry about the hazards of riding chairlifts and other issues went nowhere. One group, concerned about children who fell out of lifts, says the state's Ski Lift Safety Working Group lacked focus and a mandate.

The opening days of Colorado's legislative session are typically jovial and largely free of partisan politics. The governor capitalized on that mood during his roughly hour-long speech. After an interruption from a heckler in the gallery shouting, "Ban fracking now!" Polis started with a recap of his first year in office.

There were the usual jokes and friendly banter between the House and Senate.

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle exchanged hugs in a chamber that felt a bit like a school getting back to work after an eight-month break.

But amidst the pomp and circumstance of the opening day of Colorado's 2020 legislative session, lawmakers also drew some clear battle lines.

Starbucks in hand, Nicole Towne sat on the bus hoping to get to work on time. The recent Colorado State University grad had recently started an internship with the Town of Windsor. Keeping up with the shuttle’s schedule, she said, was a good motivator.

“I think ideally I’ll take it twice a week,” Towne said. “The seats are nice.”

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, all state parks in Colorado will require campsite reservations. You can reserve a site up to six months in advance, or even the moment you get to a campsite, cell service permitting.  

Travis Duncan, communications specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, told KUNC’s Colorado Edition about why the new system was put in place. 

Back in mid-December, three children were hospitalized with measles after passing through the Denver airport and the emergency department of Children’s Hospital Colorado. The concern was that others might have picked up the disease at those locations. 

Drivers tired of navigating traffic across Northern Colorado finally have a new option. A first-of-its-kind public bus route opens its doors to riders today, connecting Fort Collins, Greeley and Windsor.

Feral pigs cause an estimated $1.5 billion in damage each year, especially to crops. Now concern is mounting they could be at the doorstep in parts of the Mountain West.

The pigs — which an expert at the USDA has called "one of the most destructive and formidable invasive species in the United States" — could come across the Canadian border into Montana, or traipse into Colorado from the feral pig stronghold of Texas.

A group of chemicals called PFAS are common in firefighting foams, as well as household products like rain jackets, pizza boxes and non-stick pots and pans. They've been in use since the 1940s and have come to be known as "forever chemicals" because they persist in the environment.

PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have made their way into watersheds around the world, and as a recent study found, even into raindrops. Some are considered a threat to human health. 

Researchers including Jens Blotevogel, an environmental engineer at Colorado State University, are studying ways to get rid of the compounds. 

A mental health crisis can be exacerbated by the challenges of aging. McKee Medical Center in Loveland plans to address this with a new unit specifically for seniors with behavioral health care needs.

The inpatient unit is for short-term, acute care and will serve people aged 55 and older.

Loveland has a lack of psychiatric inpatient beds, said Shelly Cox, behavioral health services director. Seniors will often travel to Denver or Fort Morgan to receive medical care.

Colorado's poised to put the question of wolf reintroduction on the November ballot. One unanswered question is how the predators might affect the spread of chronic wasting disease, if at all.

CWD is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that currently infects deer, elk, moose and reindeer. Critics of wolf reintroduction argue that more predators on the landscape could further spread CWD.

Colorado and local cities and counties are suing opioid manufacturers and distributors. The lawsuits are part of larger, national litigations which are still pending. While thousands of plaintiffs wait for a decision, a local nonpartisan health policy organization posed this question:

With a hypothetical $100 million settlement, how would you combat Colorado's opioid crisis?

With short-term drought plans finished, water managers from across the Southwest recently gathered in Las Vegas to figure out what's next.

The Colorado River Water Users Association annual conference brings together nearly every municipal water agency, irrigation district, Native American tribe and environmental group that relies on the Colorado River.

Three children are being treated at a Denver-area hospital for measles, adding to the more than 1,200 cases of the disease reported this year nationwide. Some Mountain West states have already seen measles cases this year, including Colorado, Idaho, and Nevada.

Measles is very contagious, so when a case is identified, it kicks local health officials into high gear, rapidly searching for anyone the patients may have come into contact with. 

This post was updated at 8:30 p.m. with additional information.

About 60 people gathered at the Colorado Capitol Monday for the third and final day of a summit on vaccination. It featured a series of presentations full of reasons why people should not get their children immunized.

Michele Ames says that's a problem.

"The world consensus is that vaccines are safe and effective and they save lives. Period," said Ames, a spokesperson for Colorado Vaccinates, a coalition of groups including Children's Hospital Colorado and the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics aimed at increasing vaccination rates in the state.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a new director. The Senate on Thursday confirmed Aurelia Skipwith, making her the first African American to lead the agency.

As Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso made clear to fellow lawmakers on Thursday, he believes Skipwith is well qualified.

Researchers from a number of states, including Idaho, Colorado and Nevada, have found that grazing does not help get rid of cheatgrass, a highly flammable weed. 

The Leeds Business Research Division at the University of Colorado Boulder released their 55th annual “Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forecast” Monday. 

Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division and senior economist at the University of Colorado Boulder,  joined KUNC’s Colorado Edition to walk us through the findings of the report, and what’s ahead for our state’s economy in 2020.

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