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AM News Brief: Mask Debates, Fires Burning & More Hunting In Wildlife Refuges

Photo of hunter.
KUER File Photo
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expanding hunting and fishing access to more than 2.3 million acres and 147 wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries across the nation. This and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, August 20, 2020

Southern Utah

Delivering Internet To Navajo Students

The San Juan School District is working on a new plan to bring internet into students’ homes. It will cost around $3.9 million and will provide a connection that’s fast enough to stream videos, according to the district’s Technology Director Aaron Brewer. The district is asking the State Legislature for federal CARES Act funding to build the network. If it gets the money, the network could be up and running this fall. The vote is expected today. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Food Security For Indigenous Children

Voices for Utah Children, a non-profit organization that focuses on children’s issues, hosted an online panel Wednesday to discuss issues indigenous children face as they return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those was food security. Harold Foster, with the Utah Board of Education, said schools play a key role in keeping students fed, by offering them breakfast, lunch and snacks. Foster said schools are delivering meals, but it requires extra coordination between educators and administrators. He said they have been running the delivery service through the summer and he thinks it will continue through the fall if schools do not resume in-person classes. — Jessica Lowell

Northern Utah

Provo Considers Mask Mandate

The Provo City Council will discuss a possible face-mask mandate and other coronavirus-prevention measures at an emergency meeting Thursday. Council members are worried the city isn't as well prepared as it should be for the return of Brigham Young University students. Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi pushed back on the possibility of a mask mandate, saying it's better to educate people instead. A BYU researcher said just over half of people in Utah County are wearing face masks now, compared to the large majority needed to gain the benefits necessary to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. — Associated Press

Logan Opts For Mask Education

Logan city officials have passed a resolution meant to educate residents about the benefits of wearing masks during the pandemic instead of extending a citywide mask mandate. The Logan Municipal Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday not to extend the mask mandate that is set to expire Aug. 30 when the state of emergency order ends. The resolution will go into effect until Oct. 15. Councilmember Jess Bradfield said many residents are willing to wear a mask but the mandates have led to conflicts. He instead encourages residents to do the right thing and follow professional guidance. — Associated Press

State

Fires Across The State

Crews on the Cowboy Fire in central Utah continue to battle the flames after fire activity picked up Wednesday night, according to state fire officials. They face challenging winds Thursday on the 223 acre human-caused fire.

In Color Country in Beaver County, the 476 acre Cougar Fire is at 45% containment. One firefighter was taken to a hospital for a heat-related illness Tuesday, though was quickly released and recovering.

The Richard Mountain Fire, the state's largest, is 90% contained and has burned more than 7,600 acres just north of Dutch John on the Wyoming Utah border. — Diane Maggipinto

Follow KUER’s coverage of Utah’s 2020 Fire Season.

Mike Lee Takes Heat Over School Tweet

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, is receiving backlash on social media for seeming to mock a classroom set up designed to protect students. A teacher at Edgemont Elementary School in Provo posted a picture of students wearing masks and behind fashioned shields with the comment "Kids are ready to learn with their new power shields — ready to be superhero learners." Lee retweeted with his own comment that reads “‘Power shields’ in Provo. Does this look like a fun way to learn?” More than 800 people have commented and nearly 350 shared the tweet. — Diane Maggipinto

Region/Nation

More Hunting In Wildlife Refuges

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expanding hunting and fishing access to more than 2.3 million acres and 147 wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries across the nation. That includes more than a dozen refuges in the Mountain West. Hunters and anglers support the expanded access and the possible increase in conservation funding that comes with more licenses. But some environmental groups have said this eliminates necessary safe havens for animals and plan to sue over the expansion. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Colorado Fire Ban

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has issued a 30-day ban on campfires, fireworks and other igniters amidst four wildfires. The Pine Gulch fire grew 42% Tuesday night and by Wednesday afternoon it had burned nearly 195 square miles outside Grand Junction, making it the second-largest wildfire in Colorado’s recorded history. Some residents in proximity to the fire were ordered to evacuate. The Denver Post reports that a pre-evacuation zone extends to the Utah state line. Polis says three of the four fires now burning were likely human-caused. The persistent dry, hot weather has made containing them difficult. — Associated Press

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