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AM Brief: Red Cliffs highway opposition, new Moab police chief & teen drug overdoses

Sun breaks in the distance over a valley with red rock cliffs on the left.
Bureau of Land Management
Members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee are urging the Biden administration to reverse the decision to build a highway through Utah’s Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Southern Utah

Congress members oppose Red Cliffs highway

Members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee urged the Biden administration Thursday to reverse a Trump-era decision to build a highway through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area in southern Utah. The former secretary approved the four-lane highway days before President Joe Biden took office. It was met with strong public opposition and a lawsuit filed by multiple environmental organizations. In a letter to the Department of the Interior secretary Thursday, Chair Raúl M. Grijalva, D-AZ, and eight other committee members said allowing the highway to be built would go against Biden’s conservation initiatives. They also said it sets a dangerous precedent, making other conservation lands vulnerable to development. — Leah Treidler

New Moab police chief

Moab hired a new police chief earlier this week after eight tumultuous months. KZMU reported that Jared Garcia currently works as a captain with the Utah Highway Patrol and was chosen to lead the department out of 58 applicants. The department came under national scrutiny when an investigation showed officers made several mistakes during their interaction with Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. Petito was found dead weeks later, and her cause of death was homicide by Laundrie. Garcia’s tenure begins May 9. — Molly Marcello, KZMU

Northern Utah

Improving Flaming Gorge Reservoir fish health

Fishers at the Flaming Gorge Reservoir are being asked to hold onto lake trout under 25 inches long as part of the Division of Wildlife Resources’ effort to improve the health of the lake’s fish. According to DWR officials, the reservoir has too many small trout, and that affects the population of other fish. In the 1990s, an average eight-year-old trout was 30 inches — now, it’s 23 inches — and officials are concerned it’s getting worse. To incentivize fishers, the DWR will hold multiple fishing tournaments in May and June. — Leah Treidler

State

How Biden’s ‘ghost gun’ ruling could affect Utah

On Monday, President Joe Biden announced his latest move to combat gun crime — cracking down on so-called “ghost guns.” These guns are privately assembled, often from kits, and don’t have serial numbers, making them untraceable. Now, they’ll be regulated like any other legal firearm. Terri Gilfillan, board chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, said this will get untraceable weapons off the streets. “What we've seen in 2021 is about 20,000 suspected ghost guns were recovered by law enforcement [nationally],” she said. Utahns can still avoid a background check by going through a private seller, but Gilfillan said making ghost guns traceable is a major step forward. Read the full story.Leah Treidler

Region/Nation

Fentanyl is increasing drug overdose deaths in teens

New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that teens haven’t used more illegal drugs over the last decade, but they’re dying from drug overdoses at twice the rate. That’s due to the potent opioid fentanyl, which was involved in nearly 80% of those deaths last year. American Indian and Alaska Native adolescents had the highest rates, followed by Hispanic teens. In Colorado, lawmakers are considering a bill that would lower the amount of fentanyl that would trigger a felony charge. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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