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AM News Brief: Rare Songbird, Surrogacy For Same-Sex Couples & Rural Ambulance Response Times

Photo of a Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo sitting in a tree.
nps.gov/courtesy of Gary Botello
Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Friday morning, Feb. 28, 2020

STATE

Some Doctors Question Joining Cannabis Program

Utah’s medical cannabis program is set to launch this weekend, with patients able to apply for a medical marijuana card online as early as Sunday morning. But one of the first challenges they might face is finding a doctor willing to recommend it. According to the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), as of Thursday evening, 80 medical providers had applied and 59 had been approved during the pre-registration period announced earlier this month. Others still aren’t sure about getting involved. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Bill Addresses Hurdle Same-Sex Couples Face With Surrogacy

Utah lawmakers passed a bill Thursday allowing men in a same-sex marriage to hire a surrogate. Currently, courts require medical evidence showing that the mother who will raise the child can’t bear her own. Supporters say that right now, the law excludes men. The bill would also remove the requirement for women to provide evidence that they are unable to bear children. It now heads to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature. — Jessica Lowell

Herbert On Romney Censure

Gov. Gary Herbert says he plans to vote “no” this weekend on a censure of Sen. Mitt Romney from the Utah GOP Central Committee. Romney was the only Republican to break from his party and vote to convict President Donald Trump on one of two articles of impeachment. Herbert says he would have made a different choice, but "we need to be very careful about censuring somebody's opinion." More from the governor’s news conference. — Sonja Hutson

REGION

Worsening Response Times From Rural Ambulances

A recent study shows that closures of rural hospitals are leading to worsening response times for ambulances to both reach the scene of an emergency and to transport someone to care. According to recent data more than 160 rural hospitals have closed across the country since 2005. Only two in the Mountain West over the last 15 years, but 4 more are currently at risk. — Ali Budner, Mountain West News Bureau

Judge Rules Against Eliminating Public Comment

A judge in Idaho has overturned a federal directive to curtail environmental review and eliminate mandatory public comment periods concerning oil and gas leasing on some public lands. The Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement that the U.S. magistrate judge vacated five oil and gas leases in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, ruling the federal Bureau of Land Management failed to allow the public participation required by law. The ruling Thursday was connected to a broader lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management's federal oil and gas leasing practices across 3,125 square miles of greater sage-grouse habitat. — Associated Press

Proposed Habitat For Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Federal wildlife managers have proposed setting aside a vast area across seven Western states — including Utah — as critical habitat for the rare western yellow-billed cuckoo. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made its recommendation Thursday. A threatened species, the songbird travels between North and South America, often using river corridors as routes. Most breeding in the U.S. occurs in Arizona and New Mexico. The proposed habitat designation also would also extend through California, Colorado, Texas and Idaho. — Associated Press

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