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AM News Brief: Bountiful Mascot Controversy, Yellowstone Grizzly Decision & Charges For Wildfire

Photo of adult grizzly bear in Yellowstone.
Courtesy of NPS / Jim Peaco
Yellowstone's grizzly bears will stay on the threatened species list for the foreseeable future.

Thursday morning, July 9, 2020

STATE

Legislative Leaders Against Mask Mandate

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Utah Senate President Stuart Adams both say they don’t support a state-wide mandate to wear face coverings in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The lawmakers released statements Wednesday evening arguing that in order to balance helping Utahns and protecting their rights, the state should encourage mask wearing rather than mandate it. Gov. Gary Herbert is considering a mandate as COVID cases across Utah continue to spike. Wilson added that it should be up to local government officials to decide whether to require face coverings in public. Masks are required in Salt Lake, Summit and Grand Counties. — Sonja Hutson

Wednesday Sees Highest COVID Cases

Utah health officials reported 722 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, setting the single day high for new cases in this state. Officials also reported seven more COVID related deaths. Another record which brought Utah to 201 total deaths since the start of the pandemic. State epidemiologist Angela Dunn said in a statement the record breaking numbers reinforce the need for Utahns to take this virus seriously. She once again urged people to wear a mask and practice social distancing. — Ross Terrell

UTA Tracking Ridership Recovery

The Utah Transit Authority unveiled an online dashboard Wednesday to track its recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The transit agency saw major declines in ridership in March, and those numbers have remained low. Bus route passengers are down 63% from last year and Frontrunner is down 79%. The storyboard tracks things like ridership, safety protocols and financial impacts. UTA said it will be frequently updated and will help inform short-term and long-term goals. Routes continue to operate in the orange or moderate risk level, which includes increased sanitizing, installation of barriers and strongly encouraging masks and social distancing. — Caroline Ballard

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

NORTHERN UTAH

Groups Call For Bountiful High Mascot Change

The Utah League of Native American Voters wants high schools to retire Native inspired mascots, calling them harmful and antiquated. The group released a statement Wednesday in support of a Bountiful High School alumnus who sent out emails to her local officials and started a petition for the school to drop its current “Braves” nickname. James Singer, a co-founder of the League, said with recent protests against racial inequality, more people are becoming aware of their privilege. Singer said Native American groups have been trying to remove these mascots for a long time because they perpetuate stereotypes that dehumanize Native Americans. — Jessica Lowell

Wildfire Destroys Home

The Mammoth Fire south of Eureka burned and destroyed a home Wednesday. Utah Wildfire officials said the blaze broke out Wednesday afternoon. Crews on the scene quickly contained the fire at five acres, but evacuated some in the line of the blaze in Juab County. — Diane Maggipinto

Charges In Wildfire Start

A Utah man allegedly sparked a fire after reportedly driving his vehicle onto a preserve near Utah Lake. Utah County Sheriff Sgt. Spencer Cannon said 21-year-old Dominic Deros is charged with criminal mischief and trespassing after trying to bypass a road closure in place because of another wildfire. A female passenger suffered severe burns after the Rock Preserve Fire burned Deros’ vehicle. Cannon said Deros cut through a fence south of Saratoga Springs to enter the Adelbert Doyle Smith Family Archaeological Preserve. Heat from Deros’ vehicle ignited dry brush in a ravine inside the preserve, and gusty winds pushed the flames. Emergency crews cut lines to stop the fire’s progress. Police said the fire also hindered efforts to fight the larger Knolls Fire that was approaching subdivisions in Saratoga Springs. — Diane Maggipinto
 

SOUTHERN UTAH

Pipeline Could Cut Through Sacred Native Land

Draft plans for the Lake Powell Pipeline have the project running through sacred and culturally significant lands to the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians. One of the two routes being considered cuts through the Kaibab Indian Reservation, and the other runs along its southern edge. The southern route is preferred by pipeline supporters, but it’s also sacred land to the Kaibab Tribe. Chairwoman of the tribal council, Ona Segundo, said she doesn’t feel like the proponents of the project are listening to their concerns. Project managers for the pipeline said they plan on working with the tribe to protect the land. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

It’s Going To Be Hot This Weekend

An excessive heat watch has been issued by the National Weather Service for the St. George and Zion National Park regions for Saturday afternoon through Sunday night. That will also hit the Glen Canyon Recreation Area including Lake Powell. Forecasters said there is potential for dangerously hot conditions, with temperatures possibly reaching 112 degrees. They said the extreme heat could contribute to related illnesses, especially for those working or recreating outside. — Diane Maggipinto

REGION/NATION

Court Decides Yellowstone Grizzlies Are Threatened Species

The Yellowstone grizzly bears will stay on the threatened species list for the foreseeable future. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided Wednesday with a 2018 federal court decision to keep the greater Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bears under endangered species act protections. The court of appeals ruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t account for genetic viability and the delisting impact on other grizzly populations in the lower 48 states when the agency delisted the bear in 2017. Defendants including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, farmers and ranchers argued that the population of more than 700 bears have recovered successfully and are venturing outside of their habitat in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Conservation groups said that all grizzly bears in the lower 48 states need to recover before delisting the Yellowstone grizzly. — Kamila Kudelska, Wyoming Public Media

Pacificorp Renewable Energy Plan

The utility Pacificorp is looking to develop the most renewable energy it’s ever seen over the next several years throughout the Mountain West. This week, it’s officially asking developers for proposals to fulfill an ambitious scaling-up of its renewable capacity. Pacificorp believes development will be focused in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah, with other potential projects in Colorado, Oregon and Washington. — Cooper McKim, Mountain West News Bureau

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