Ryan Cunningham

Ryan began reporting for UPR in the fall of 2012. He is a graduate of Utah State University with a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Ryan is originally from Indiana, but he now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Native American Affairs
5:33 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Governor Signs Executive Order At Native American Summit

Gov. Herbert signs executive order at ninth annual Native American summit.
Ryan Cunningham Utah Public Radio

Thursday wraps up the Ninth Annual Governor’s Native American Summit, which took place on the campus of Utah Valley University. The Summit was created under former Gov. Jon Huntsman in an effort to improve state government relations with Utah’s Native American tribal leaders. Governor Gary Herbert, who was Lieutenant Governor at the inaugural Summit, spoke to attendees on Wednesday morning, and he took care of some long-awaited business in the process.

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Arts and Culture
5:02 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Rainbow Gathering In Heber City Ends Better Than Expected

A rainbow gathering occured over the weekend near Heber City. Ryan Cunningham reports.
Credit Wikipedia

Over the holiday weekend—and in the days leading up to it—you may have heard us report on something called the Rainbow Gathering. The event, which took place over the weekend, is a meeting of the self-proclaimed Rainbow Family, a group formed in the early 1970s at the height of hippy culture. The group has met annually since 1972 at its national gathering, and this year, about 8,000 Rainbow Family members convened just a few miles east of Heber City, Utah.

Ever since the location of this year’s Rainbow Gathering was publicized, there were concerns about a clash of cultures arising between the free-spirited attendees and the small-town residents of Heber. But did that conflict really pan out?

It’s the Fourth of July, and I’m having lunch at a busy burger joint in Heber City, Utah, called Dairy Keen—not to be confused with a different burger joint with a very similar name. As you could probably guess, business is booming today, and an unofficial survey of customers reveals that most people are from out of town. But no one here looks like they’re heading to the Rainbow Gathering today. I asked Dairy Keen manager Kim Houtz if she had actually come into contact with the Rainbow Family.

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Arts and Culture
3:12 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Utah Symphony Plays Music In Utah National Parks

The Utah Symphony will be playing in the "Big Five" national parks in August.
Credit Neal Herbert / Nations Park Service

The Utah Symphony, in concert with the Utah Office of Tourism, will be offering a series of special outdoor performances in the state’s major national parks. The performances, some of which will involve the full orchestra, are in commemoration of the Utah Symphony’s 75th anniversary.

Have you ever gone hiking in Bryce Canyon National Park and thought yourself, “This landscape would be perfectly complemented by Johann Strauss’s Voices of Spring Waltz”? Well, you weren’t the only one who thought so.

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Utah Legislature
4:56 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

Urquhart Sticks With LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill

The entrance to the Senate Chamber at the Utah State Capitol is seen covered in messages in support of State Sen. Stephen Urquhart's anti-discrimination bill.
Credit Ryan Cunningham

On Friday, Sen. Steve Urquhart (R) reaffirmed his support for his LGBT non-discrimination bill - S.B. 100.

At an afternoon press conference, he encouraged Utahns to come to the Senate Chamber doors and post messages asking the Senate to hear his bill.

Posting a blue note on the Senate Chamber doors that simply says, “Hear SB 100,” Sen. Steve Urquhart entreated other Utahns to do the same in support of his LGBT anti-discrimination bill.

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Utah Legislature
5:10 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Utah Senate Leaders Have No Decision On Medicaid Expansion

Sen. Ralph Okerlund (right) says no decision has been made on whether or not to expand Medicaid.

Senate leaders said no big decisions have been made on Medicaid expansion, though no potential options have been ruled out.

On Friday, Senate majority leader Ralph Okerlund said Republicans have barely scratched the surface on that topic in Senate caucus meetings, and no position has been taken.

“At this point, I believe all of the options are still out there on the table for our caucus,” Okerlund said. “We’re still willing to look at everything, and I suspect that (among) our caucus members, you’d find that we’ve got a lot of different opinions on whether we should go, at this point, with one of the options or with full expansion.”

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3:36 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Gun Shows Not Just For Gun Enthusiasts: It's About Commerce

Every few months, the public swarms to the Rocky Mountain Gun Show. Ryan Cunningham asserts there is room for everyone there.

Every few months, the Rocky Mountain Gun Show comes to Sandy’s South Towne Expo Center. In fact, you may have noticed advertisements for the show this January.  If you’re unfamiliar with what happens at a gun show, it’s mostly self-explanatory: it’s an exhibition of guns, ammunition, and other related paraphernalia.

Gun shows have become an increasingly popular way to buy and sell firearms. But they are also controversial, with gun control proponents arguing that loose regulations on sales can make it too easy for guns to end up in the wrong hands.

But as it turns out, guns shows aren’t just about guns. At the epicenter of such a hotly debated swath of our culture, could there be something for everyone?

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Air Quality
4:39 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Santa And The Elves Protest Government Inaction Over Air Quality

Santa and an elf stand on 700 East in Salt Lake City to raise public awareness of the health problems inversions cause.

On a day when the Utah Division of Air Quality categorized Salt Lake’s air as “Unhealthy” on their Air Quality Index, demonstrators gathered outside Trolley Square on Tuesday to raise awareness of the state’s inversion problem.

As a part of what organizers are calling the “Twelve Polluted Days of Christmas,” clean air advocates wore Santa hats and elf costumes, hoping to combine holiday cheer with an issue that has plagued Utahns early and often this season.

Decked out in holiday apparel and wearing masks to protect their lungs from pollution, about a dozen protestors gather on the sidewalk along 700 East, one of the busiest streets in Salt Lake. A man dressed as Santa Claus waves to the constant stream of traffic, holding a sign that says, “Breathing clean air is the birthright of every child.”

And who better to speak for children than Santa Claus?

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Utah Courts
6:03 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Federal Judge Rules In Favor Of Utah Polygamists


A judge for the Utah Federal Court struck down parts of Utah’s anti-polygamy laws as unconstitutional on Friday. The ruling is a victory for polygamous families, including plaintiff Kody Brown and his family. Brown and his four wives are featured on the popular TLC reality show “Sister Wives.”

In a ruling released on Friday, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups found that Utah law restricting cohabitation was in violation of the First Amendment, which protects religious freedom.

In the decision, the judge reasons that Utah has quote “no rational basis” unquote to ban religious cohabitation as practiced by polygamist sects. He did, however, uphold the state’s prohibition of legal bigamy, narrowly defined as when one person obtains two marriage licenses.

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Utah Environment
5:46 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Lobbyist to Utah Legislature: Plan for Environmental Fights

Correction: In some instances in the below story, the EPA was credited by the author to be the agency overseeing the Endangered Species designation of the Greater-Sage Grouse. This has been changed, and corrected.

A lobbyist for Utah energy interests has recommended that the state defend itself from the Greater Sage-Grouse.

The Greater Sage-Grouse, a bird species native to Utah and much of the West, has often been characterized by conservationists as a species in danger. A century ago, millions of these ornate birds roamed America’s sagebrush. Today, it’s estimated that there are only a few hundred thousand left.

The Sage-Grouse’s dwindling numbers have provoked the question of species protection in recent years. To date, the bird is not an endangered species, but that could change in 2015, when the federal government plans to reassess the well-being of the species.

But according to Utah energy lobbyist Jeff Hartley, the state should be prepared to fight a legal battle with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the Greater Sage-Grouse. What’s Hartley’s suggestion to the Utah legislature? Speaking to the Executive Appropriations Committee last week, he told members to brace themselves for the coming battle with the federal government.

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Utah Science
11:32 am
Thu November 7, 2013

T-Rex's "Great Uncle" Unveiled at Utah Natural History Museum

Dr. Randall Irmis speaks at a press conference at the Natural History Museum of Utah on November 6, 2013. Irmis and his team announced the discovery of a previously unknown dinosaur species. A skeletal model of the dinosaur stands behind Irmis.

Researchers announced the discovery of a new dinosaur species at the Natural History Museum of Utah on Wednesday.

The specimen was found in southern Utah in November 2009, and it is a rare ancestor to the well-known Tyrannosaurus rex.

Four years ago, paleoentological technician Scott Richardson went on a walk in the desert. Then he saw something sticking out of the ground that caught his eye: a leg bone.

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