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AM News Brief: Utah’s opioid crisis, Navajo Nation infrastructure & damaged dinosaur tracks

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite
BLM Utah
The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite is found northwest of Moab, UT.

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022

State

Offering driver’s license exams in other languages

HB 130, a bill that would require the state’s Driver License Division to offer its written exam in languages other than English, cleared the Utah House Transportation Committee on Monday. Currently, Utah law only lets refugees and people who are granted asylum take the exam in their native language. One non-native English speaker said the driver’s license exam was more difficult than their citizenship test. Other commenters said they viewed the lack of options as a workforce issue. The bill lets the Driver License Division choose how many and which languages they offer the exam in. If someone needs to take the test in a language that isn’t available, they would need to personally pay for a translator. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Fighting Utah’s opioid crisis

The Utah Opioid Task Force met on Monday to establish priorities for the use of opioid settlement money. According to experts, the highest priority should be treatment, followed by programs for underserved communities and stable housing. In a statement, the Utah attorney general said, “No amount of money will undo the devastating harm wrought by opioids on our communities.” Overdose deaths in the state increased nearly 20% in 2021, and 682 Utahns died from opioid use between June 2020 and 2021. — Leah Treidler

Southern Utah

Alleged destruction of an archaeological site

Conservationists have called on the Bureau of Land Management to stop what appears to be the destruction of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite. The BLM was reconstructing a boardwalk designed to protect the natural resources at the archeological site near Moab — reports over the weekend indicated a backhoe had destroyed as much as a third of the paleontological resources at the site. That’s according to a cease and desist letter from the Center for Biological Diversity. The center’s Great Basin director, Patrick Donnelly,

said the BLM must stop the destruction and “protect these prehistoric treasures.” In response, the BLM said the work is necessary and denied equipment was being used in the protected area. — Leah Treidler

Region/Nation

Streamlining infrastructure projects in the Navajo Nation

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez wants to speed up infrastructure development on the Navajo reservation. In a meeting with the White House Council on Native American Affairs Monday, Nez said many projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law could take years unless the White House streamlines the process. The federal government earmarked more than $13 billion for development in Tribal communities, including water infrastructure. Nearly 40% of people on the Navajo reservation lack running water or adequate sanitation. Nez also spoke about missing person issues in tribal communities. According to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, around 120 missing person cases were unresolved in tribes in the U.S. as of August 2021. That includes 22 cases in the Navajo Nation. — Leah Treidler

Climate change disrupts hibernation patterns

As the climate changes, hibernating animals will, too. Hibernation is generally used to survive extreme weather and food scarcity. Some animals hibernate at a certain time every year, and others respond to environmental factors like temperature or hunger. Sarah Mohr, a researcher at Yale, said changes in the weather and food availability could affect both kinds of critters. If food resources are scant while they’re awake, that’s bad news. Mohr also noted hibernators might be able to adapt, it just depends on the animal and the speed of climate change. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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