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AM News Brief: Nathan Chen scores gold, Students protest Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola & mink farming ban

A photo of the the Quarry Trailhead.
Courtesy of Utah Department of Transportation
The Utah Department of Transportation estimates that car travel time on Little Cottonwood Canyon will more than double on the busiest days of the year by 2050.

Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022

State

Finally! Nathan Chen clinches long-awaited gold medal

Salt Lake City's Nathan Chen topped his personal record with a near-perfect free skate and earned a standing ovation inside the historic Capital Indoor Stadium — winning Olympic gold Wednesday night. The former West High student landed all five of his quads during his “Rocketman” program. He's the first American champion since Evan Lysacek in 2010 in Vancouver. Team USA said Chen began skating at age three after watching his brothers play hockey. Yuma Kagiyamaand Shoma Uno rounded out the podium for Japan, and two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu rebounded from a poor short program to finish fourth. — Associated Press

Bill to allow lawn alternatives stalls

Utah lawmakers put a bill on hold Wednesday that seeks to address Utah’s drought. According to the Utah Division of Water Resources, 60% of residential water use goes to outdoor irrigation, including lawns. Right now, counties, cities and homeowners associations can require people to put grass in their yards. HB 95, sponsored by Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, makes the government and HOAs offer alternatives, giving people the choice between lawns and some other forms of landscaping. His bill is one of several pieces of legislation addressing water conservation this session. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Northern Utah

Students protest proposed Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola

Students gathered at the Capitol Wednesday to protest the potential gondola in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The Utah Department of Transportation proposed two solutions to ease increasingly heavy traffic in the canyon: a gondola or road widening and a bus system. The group, known as Students for the Wasatch, said the gondola would degrade the watershed, mar the landscape and waste taxpayer dollars. They drove to the protest in an electric bus, then rode the bus up the canyon. Both options would cost about the same over a 30-year period, although the bus system would still require heavy construction in order to widen the roads. A final decision on which option will be implemented is expected this winter. — Leah Treidler

Southern Utah

Preliminary report indicates damage at Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite 

According to a Bureau of Land Management statement released Wednesday, a paleontologist said early indications show BLM construction equipment did damage part of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite. Officials paused reconstruction of a boardwalk in the area designed to protect the natural archeological site two weeks ago after images on social media showed a backhoe had crushed some dinosaur tracks. BLM officials said work will not resume at the site until the paleontologist’s assessment is complete, further analysis is conducted and a public comment period. — Leah Treidler

Region/Nation

Activists claim environmental groups ignore black and brown communities

Mainstream environmental groups and federal policymakers are ignoring black and brown communities, tribal leaders and activists told a congressional hearing this week. Councilman Mark Freeland, a leader from the Navajo Nation, said the Biden administration was ignoring his tribe’s opposition to a proposed oil and gas leasing ban near Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. House Republicans supported Freeland’s testimony, but they blasted the hearing as a whole, saying it was a diversion from other issues like rising gas prices. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

U.S. House passes ban on mink farming

The House passed a provision this week to ban mink farming across the nation, including farms in Utah. According to a statement from Animal Wellness Action, the ban is meant to eliminate an industry that kills the animals for their pelts and exports them to China. The group also said mink farming presents a public health risk because approximately 6 million mink have been infected with COVID-19. Farms in Utah have been fighting outbreaks since August 2020, with over 10,000 mink dying from COVID. In comparison, there have only been a few hundred cases among other domesticated animals, including cats and dogs. — Leah Treidler

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