Rae Ellen Bichell

Mountain West Reporter

As a regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau, I cover stories from northern Colorado that matter to people across the states that touch the Rocky Mountains, with a focus on science and health.

I love public radio because truth is its currency. It provides a voice of reason in an often troubled media landscape.

Before coming to Colorado, I reported from Washington, D.C. and Helsinki, Finland. As a national science reporter with NPR, I covered general science and biomedical research. In the spirit of bringing humanity and humor to sometimes dry topics, I once managed to dig up a recording of NASA astronauts lamenting the presence of biohazards floating through their shuttle.

I spent some time in Finland as a freelance journalist and Fulbright grantee before returning to the U.S. as a 2013 NPR Kroc Fellow. I was part of a reporting team that won NPR a Peabody Award for Ebola virus coverage.

When I’m not reporting, I’m usually reading, playing soccer or blowing raspberries with/at my kiddo.

Molly Adams / Flickr

Members of Congress are pushing to seal the deal on the status of immigrants who came to this country illegally as children.

The decision was supposed to be made by March 5, but that didn’t happen.

Rae Ellen Bichell / Mountain West News Bureau

Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for an investigation into the National Park Service, pointing to a report they say follows a "pattern" of censoring scientists who study climate change. So I checked in with the scientist who wrote the latest report and is now worried about her future.

J. N. Stuart / Flickr

The tamarisk plant, also called saltcedar, is infesting waterways across the West. The scaly-leafed shrub can grow taller than a person. It sucks up a lot of water and spits out salt, making the soil around it too salty for other plants to grow.

“It’s very bad, yes,” says Alex Gaffke, a graduate student in land resources and environmental science at Montana State University.

Patrick Myers / National Park Service

The Bureau of Land Management plans to put up more than 20,000 acres of Colorado land for lease by oil and gas drilling companies. Much of that land sits near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

Too many decisions about the West get made in Washington, D.C. At least, that's what the Secretary of the Interior thinks. Ryan Zinke plans to move thousands of the department’s employees out west to manage water, public lands and energy from there. How might this seemingly dull, bureaucratic plan affect the West in interesting ways? Here's how people with a vested interest responded–starting in Wyoming.  


Christopher Cleary

States like Colorado and Wyoming require that new oil and gas wells be built at least 500 feet away from existing homes. But new research shows that might not be far enough away to protect people’s health.

James Gathany / CDC

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report this week saying that the Department of Agriculture has "sidelined science" and "betrayed farmers.” The group is particularly concerned about antibiotics.

Courtesy of National Pork Board and Pork Checkoff

The Chinese government has retaliated in what appears to be an escalating trade war. The government says it will slap tariffs on a long list of American goods including pork and fruit, a move that could put producers across the region in a bind.

China buys a lot of American pork. And while Iowa may be this country’s pig-producing colossus, tariffs would hit producers everywhere, including states in the Mountain West like Utah and Colorado.  

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Details are unfolding about how British data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica influenced national elections. Meanwhile, a newly surfaced document suggests the group also had a hand in our region -- and in one especially tight Senate race in Colorado.

Jeremy Lock / U.S. Air Force

For years, Western lawmakers have been trying to change the way we fight wildfires, or at least the way the government funds such work. Now, they may finally get that wish. Congress just passed a measure that would do just that, creating an emergency fund of $20 billion for the Forest Service to fight wildfires over the next decade. It's part of a sweeping new spending deal that the President signed on Friday.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has been pushing for years to make this change.

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