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AM News Brief: Proposed Wildfire Commission, Tourism Increase & No Charges Against Former U Officer

Photo of Welcome to Utah sign.
Brian Albers / KUER
Utah tourism is bouncing back a bit according to the managing director of the state tourism office. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, October 16, 2020

State

3rd Congressional Candidates Spar Over Best Approach To Climate Change

The candidates for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, Rep. John Curtis, R- UT, and Democrat Devin Thorpe, both agree with the scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is real. But during a debate Thursday evening, they disagreed on who was best suited to tackle the challenge. Curtis has positioned himself as a conservative champion of the environment, pointing to bipartisan bills he sponsored, like one to start a study on soil in public lands. Thorpe commended him for those actions, but went after Curtis’ voting record on climate change, including voting against a bill that would’ve required the U.S. to honor parts of the Paris Agreement on climate change. But Curtis said he voted against those measures because Republicans were not consulted, and they had little chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Utah Tourism Seeing Steady Increase

Utah tourism is bouncing back a bit according to the managing director of the state tourism office. Vicki Varela said visitation numbers and revenue are rising in some places such as Zion National Park, where rangers reported a record number of visitors for September. Jennifer Leaver, senior tourism analyst at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, said the pandemic brought a 13 to 17% plunge in industry employment and spending compared to last year. Areas showing a steady increase in revenue and visitors involve outdoor recreation and/or are rural destinations. Varela believes mask mandates and compliance have been key in helping revive the industry. — Associated Press

Northern Utah

No Charges Against Former University Of Utah Police Officer

A former University of Utah police officer will not face criminal charges after being accused of sharing explicit photos of a student who was later killed on campus in 2018. The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office made the announcement Thursday. Miguel Deras was accused of showing co-workers the photos of 21-year-old Lauren McCluskey. Deras was assigned to the case after McCluskey sought police assistance to stop an ex-boyfriend’s harassment. She provided Deras with explicit photos taken of her that were to be used in the investigation. District Attorney Sim Gill said there is no state law addressing the misconduct. — Associated Press

Region And Beyond

Romney Proposes New Commission To Study Wildfires

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, announced new legislation Thursday that would create a commission of local and federal groups to study wildfires. It would make recommendations to Congress on best policies for mitigation, management and rehabilitation. Romney said the 25-person commission will include public officials and firefighters, and that there are open spots for climate experts. The announcement comes as wildfires have burned across the West. This year marked a record breaking one for human caused fires in Utah, and more than 311,000 acres have been scorched across the state. — Lexi Peery

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

Navajo Nation Lockdown

A weekend lockdown on the Navajo Nation takes effect Friday at 9 p.m. alongside a shelter-in-place order, mask mandate and daily curfews. The Navajo Dept of Health reported 31 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Thursday, and no deaths for the second consecutive day. — Associated Press

Big Money In Hotly Contested Senate Race

Political action committees have spent more than $75 million so far on a race that could decide which party controls the Senate next year. Montana’s Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, is running against incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines. A recent poll from Montana State University shows the two candidates are neck and neck, with Bullock holding a slight lead. When all said and done, both candidates as well as outside groups will have spent almost $200 per person trying to sway their vote. That’s according to an analysis from the Associated Press, which says it’s more than any other race this election cycle. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau