Breaking News


New West Daily Roundup for Jan. 4, 2016


Today in New West news: debate over public land flares up as armed group moves onto Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, tiny homes in Colorado, and the best (and worst) cities to find a job.

Read More »

New West Daily Roundup for Dec. 21, 2015

downtown Boise

Today in New West news: the most caring cities in America in 2015, Scatec Solar debuts Utah’s first utility-scale solar plant, and millennials streaming to New West cities.

Read More »

New West Daily Roundup for Dec. 10, 2015

Photo credit: Gleen Asakawa, University of Colorado

Here’s your New West news: Colorado small business ownership, a follow-up regarding Yellowstone grizzlies, legal ambiguity enters Utah public lands debate, and could Montana lose a county?

Read More »

More Non-Indians Choosing Tribal Colleges

Chris Hilfer and Noel Stewart, both white, learned unexpected lessons during their first year at college. They found out what it’s like to be in a racial minority. Both young people are non-Indian or non-beneficiary students who are enrolled in tribal colleges. Hilfer, 22, attends United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) in Bismarck, North Dakota; Stewart, also 22, attends Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Montana, on the Blackfeet reservation. The greatest numbers of non-beneficiary students are located on “checker board” reservations, in which Indian land is not contiguous, such as the Blackfeet and Salish Kootenai reservations in Montana. The Dawes Act of 1887 authorized the federal government to divide reservation land and allot tracts to individual tribal members. The head of each household received 160 acres with the remaining land available to non-Indians. Over time, many Indians sold their property or lost it through a variety of swindles. Today many non-Indians may live on land that is surrounded by reservation land.

Read More »

On the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, Be Advised: Don’t Drink the Water

Since moving to her home more than 20 years ago, Laveta Killsnight has never drunk her tap water. “My water’s plum orange,” she says. Killsnight, a diabetes technician with long, graying hair and a wide grin, lives in Muddy Cluster, a small town on the Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation in southeastern Montana. The reservation, home to about 4,800 people, is dotted with small housing clusters separated by dozens of miles of rolling plains and curving two-lane highway. Hard water is a problem in much of this territory, but it's a particular problem on the reservation, which often lacks the equipment and funding to put in better water systems. The tribe’s administration operates on less than $2 million a year, and the money is spread thinly among housing, health and education services. The Northern Cheyenne tribe is known nationally for its environmentalism and pristine landscape. But for a tribe that fought for and succeeding in getting Class 1 air status—the same air quality standards as a national park—what they don’t always have is good water.

Read More »

Colorado Professor: Muslim Community in Rockies Surprisingly Strong

Even in the increasingly diverse Western states, it’s still rare to find established Islamic communities, either in cities like Denver or in more isolated mountain towns. It would seem that followers of Islam, for one reason or the other, have simply bypassed the West. And that’s exactly the kind of misconception that Dr. Nabil Echchaibi, assistant professor of journalism and media studies at the University of Colorado and associate director of the University’s Center for Media, Religion and Culture, is out to correct. Muslims have a rich history in the Mountain West, he says, and he has spent the last two years researching and documenting this legacy as part of a cultural history project co-funded by the Social Science Research Council and CU.

Read More »

How a New Mexico Find Revolutionized Archaeology

Although little visited, it was near this town in a valley of pine-covered volcanic buttes near the border of New Mexico and Colorado, that sensational discoveries were made in the last century. They proved ancient man lived and hunted here long before previously thought. The existence of Folsom Man and the projectile points he used to down massive, now-extinct creatures was revealed here in 1926-27, after the bones were found in 1908. Thompson was opening the Folsom Museum on a Saturday to show me how it happened. Until those years, the theory held by influential archeologists at the Smithsonian Institute was that native people had only been in North America for about 4,000 years, said Steve Holen, curator of archeology for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Read More »

Boom and Bust: Reshaping Development Patterns in Teton Valley

When the market turned in 2008, Teton Valley was quickly rendered the poster child for ill-conceived development dreams in resort towns. Today, this community of approximately 8,800 residents has 7,791 vacant lots. Local analysts say that, even if building rates returned to what they were in 2007, it would take a minimum of 77 years to exhaust the supply. “Any time your ratio of vacant subdivision lots to the number of people in your county is close to one, that’s a bad thing,” says Randy Carpenter, North American Program Director for the international land planning organization the Sonoran Institute. In addition, development in Teton Valley has not managed to pay its way. Questions about the maintenance of roads and bridges needed for accessing remote developments along with the increasing demand placed on schools, emergency medical and safety services and public parks and pathways were never asked or answered. Even with the additional revenue garnered by property taxes on those additional 7,791 lots once they are built, the county would still come up $17.4 million dollars short for what it would take to cover country operations, infrastructure and capital investments to service those lots.

Read More »

Off the Grid in Montana, Part 3: Growing Up in the Earthship

Holly Leonard returned to the U.S. last year from Kenya, where she had been doing nonprofit work with adoption agencies. As she relocated to Denver to work at Hope's Promise headquarters, her roommate called her with some bad news: She had found an apartment, but they'd have to share a bathroom. “I just laughed at her. I grew up sharing a bathroom that is a hallway with my entire family,” Holly says. Although there is nothing special about the two-bedroom Denver apartment where Holly, 25, lives now, she says it's the most luxurious place she's ever had: It has a flush-toilet, electric heat and a TV. From the camper van where she spent the first years of her life, to the off-the-grid Earthship her family built in the hills above Florence, Montana, to the crammed dorm rooms of the University of Montana, luxuries have been defined as heat, personal space and doors. Holly will be the first to tell you she's not the Earthship type.

Read More »

Off the Grid in Montana, Part 2: Building the Earthship

Two days after a late January snowstorm, Tom Leonard is in the Earthship on top of the hill in Florence, Montana, preparing beans he harvested from his garden earlier in the season. He soaks them in a crockpot. There's hardly a cloud in the sky. It's just above freezing. While his wife Tara is at work for the afternoon, Tom says he wants to use the time to realign his solar panels. There's one large frame with 10 panels on the berm behind his house and another with six more powerful panels on his roof. Although the solar panels are actually one of the more easily maintained aspects of the Earthship, Tom says that most people are turned away from alternative housing projects like this one because of the necessity of solar power. The upfront cost of the panels and installation can add up to $30,000 or more. And no matter if a house is on the grid or not, it will require pricier, energy efficient appliances if any of the electricity is to come from solar power.

Read More »