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PM News Brief: Alta In Interlodge, Transgender Sports Bill & University Policing

A photo of Alta.
Bryant Olsen
The town of Alta was in interlodge Wednesday — that’s when the danger of avalanches is so high people must remain indoors. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, February 17, 2021


Will The Recent Snow Matter Come Fire Season? Only Time Will Tell

Recent winter storms throughout the state have increased Utah’s average snowpack to 80% of normal, but soil and vegetation are still exceptionally dry. That’s according to meteorologist Basil Newmerzhycky with Great Basin Predictive Services. Kait Webb, spokesperson for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, said it’s too early to tell if these storms are enough to dampen the upcoming fire season. But no matter what happens with the weather, she urges people to be safe, especially after last year’s record breaking season for human caused fires. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Utah’s Streak Of Fewer Than 1,000 COVID-19 Cases Continues

Utah’s streak of fewer than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases continued Wednesday. Health officials announced 901 cases. They also said 10 more people died from the virus but six of those deaths occurred before the start of this month. Utah’s seven day average of new cases is now 845. That’s down from more than 1,000 a week ago. — Ross Terrell

Transgender Sports Bill Clears Another Legislative Hurdle

The Utah House passed a bill Wednesday that would ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams in public schools. Proponents of the bill said it’s unfair for cisgender girls to compete against girls who were assigned male at birth. Currently, transgender girls must complete a year of hormone therapy before participating in sports. Critics of the bill said it’s discriminatory to prevent transgender girls from competing. They also argued it will hurt the mental health of a population that’s already at an increased risk of suicide. — Sonja Hutson

Utah Senators Clarify Role Of University Police

A Utah bill clarifying the role of a private university’s police department passed a Senate committee Wednesday. It came in response to the Department of Public Safety’s efforts to decertify Brigham Young University’s police in 2019. The department said a BYU officer gave private information to the school’s Honor Code Office and did not conduct a proper investigation afterward. A judge ruled in favor of the school earlier this year, citing lack of clarity in state code. Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, is the bill’s sponsor. He said it establishes the qualifications necessary to certify a private police force and how possible disciplinary action is taken against it. The bill also allows for records requests and state audits of a private law enforcement agency. — Jon Reed

Northern Utah

Avalanche Warnings Reach Highest Level Possible

Avalanche danger is extreme in the mountains near Salt Lake. That’s the highest possible level. The Utah Avalanche Center said people should avoid all avalanche terrain there, no matter how steep the slope or the elevation. Natural and human-caused slides are nearly certain. Around Utah, the danger is also high. Avalanche warnings are in effect for mountain ranges statewide through Thursday morning. — Caroline Ballard

Town Of Alta Remains In Interlodge

The town of Alta was in interlodge Wednesday. That’s when the danger of avalanches is so high people must remain indoors. Officials said people should stay at low levels in buildings and away from windows. The road that leads to Alta and Snowbird Ski resort is also closed. Crews are working on state Route 210 up Little Cottonwood Canyon to mitigate the threat of avalanches. The town said it will reassess interlodge restrictions Thursday morning. — Caroline Ballard


Increasing U.S. Public Lands

Next week the U.S. House of Representatives will consider passing a massive public lands package. It’s called the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act. The package would create more than half million acres of wilderness in Colorado. It would also permanently freeze new oil and gas drilling across parts of the American West and forever stop uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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