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PM News Brief: Navajo Water Rights, Endangered Species Funding & LDS Church Accused Of Scouting Abuse Cover-Up

A photo of a monarch butterfly on a pink flower.
Peter Miller
/
Flickr
The northern spotted owl and the monarch butterfly are some of the latest wildlife to be denied protections under the Endangered Species Act. This story and more in Monday evening's news brief.

Monday evening, December 28, 2020

State

Gary Herbert Gives Final Address As Governor

In a short farewell address Monday evening, outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert thanked his staff, state employees, his family and everyday Utahns for trusting him as the head of state for more than 11 years. He also touched on how much Utah’s economy and population have grown during his time in office. Herbert is the second longest serving governor — and the longest serving Republican governor — in Utah’s history. Read the full story. — David Fuchs and Emily Means

Doctor Prescribes Quarantine For Christmas COVID-19 Exposure

Utah reported 1,716 new cases of COVID-19 Monday — relatively fewer than in weeks past — but a 24.4% positivity rate. That means there is still a high level of community spread. Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious disease specialist with Intermountain Healthcare, said the relatively low case numbers are mostly because fewer people are getting tested around the holidays. But he said anyone who might have been exposed to the virus on Christmas should quarantine and potentially get tested a week later. He said the state’s case counts will probably be skewed at least through the new year. Health officials will start to know in the next couple weeks whether the holidays lead to more infections. — Jon Reed

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Region/Nation

Church Accused Of Covering Up Abuse In Scout Troops

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been hit with seven lawsuits for allegedly covering up decades of sexual abuse among Boy Scout troops in Arizona. Attorneys for victims said Monday that Church officials never notified authorities about abuse allegations. The suits allege the Church conducted its own investigations but allowed accused Scout leaders or volunteers to continue in their roles. Spokesperson Sam Penrod said in a statement that the Church has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind and that officials have not had access to the records the allegations are based on. He said the claims will be “carefully evaluated and appropriately addressed.” Though the Church is no longer affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, it had sponsored at least seven troops in Arizona. — Associated Press / Elaine Clark

Navajo Water Rights Settlement

After decades of negotiations and lobbying, the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act is now law. It was part of the omnibus spending bill President Donald Trump signed Sunday. The settlement gives the Navajo Nation the right to use a set amount of water from the Colorado River and includes money to treat and move it. The U.S. Government will give the tribe $220 million as part of the settlement, while the state of Utah will give the Utah Navajo Trust Fund $8 million. According to the Navajo Nation president’s office, over 40% of Utah Navajo residents live without running water. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Agency Points To Budget For Lack Of Endangered Species Protection

The northern spotted owl and the monarch butterfly are some of the latest wildlife to be denied protections under the Endangered Species Act. That’s despite both animals qualifying for such protections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it simply doesn’t have the funding. However, some conservationists said it’s just the latest failure of the Trump administration, which has listed a fraction of the animals protected under both the Obama and Bush administrations. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau