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AM News Brief: Vaccine Confusion, Prescribed Burns & Native Voices On Parks And Monuments

U.S. Forest Service officials are planning prescribed burns in the Manti-La Sal National Forest area. This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.
Courtesy of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands

Monday morning, March 1, 2021


System Error Leads To Vaccine Confusion

Utah’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases is now 647 per day with the average test positivity rate at 5.2%. Over the weekend, the Utah Department of Health reported that 34,000 vaccine doses were given. More than 7,000 vaccine appointments were cancelled, though, after a problem with the registration system allowed people to sign up even though they didn’t meet the current eligibility requirements. Right now, vaccines are only available to people over the age of 65 or those 16 and over with underlying health conditions. Health care workers, first responders, and K-12 teachers can also sign up. — Elaine Clark

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Lawmakers Close In On $21 Billion Budget

Utah lawmakers approved a roughly $21 billion draft budget Friday evening. Legislative leaders have $1.4 billion in one-time funding available this year, despite the economic impacts of the pandemic. Infrastructure and education received the largest portions, and Utah’s House Speaker said there are ongoing negotiations around additional funding for a massive infrastructure proposal. The budget package still needs to be voted on by the full Legislature by this coming Friday night, the last day of the 2021 general session. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Southern/Central Utah

Eyeing A New State Park

Time is running out to create a new state park north of Moab. The measure received a lot of support in the Utah House of Representatives last week, but it still has to pass the Senate. The proposed Utahraptor State Park would be located on state land just east of Arches National Park. At least ten species of dinosaur were discovered there, and it’s home to an old Japanese internment camp. It’s also the site of several popular recreation trails, but Grand County Commissioner Mary McGann said it’s being destroyed by visitors. A fiscal note attached to the bill says it would cost more than $25 million to develop the area into a state park. The Senate Natural Resources Committee plans to take the bill up Tuesday. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Navajo Group Not Decided On Bears Ears Visitors Center

Rep. Doug Owens, D-Millcreek, and Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, spoke at a meeting in Monument Valley over the weekend about a bill they are co-sponsoring to create a visitor center for Bears Ears National Monument. They presented it to Utah Diné Bikeyah, a Navajo-led group that supports restoration of the monument. Former San Juan County Commissioner Mark Maryboy is on the group’s board, and said they haven’t taken a position on the bill yet. “It sounded like everyone was on board at the meeting,” he said. “But I spoke to some other tribes and they have some concerns because the monument has not been re-established.” The bill is scheduled to be heard in a state Senate committee Tuesday morning. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Prescribed Burns In Manti-La Sal National Forest

U.S. Forest Service officials are planning prescribed burns in the Manti-La Sal National Forest area. Residents may see smoke throughout parts of east and central Utah, including in Emery, Sevier, Grand and San Juan counties. Officials said they're taking advantage of the easy burning conditions in the late winter and early spring. Even though the air quality will be briefly affected, the idea is to prevent worse, unbreathable air for longer stretches of time in the summer when fire season is especially bad in Utah. — Roddy Nikpour


Native Voice In Parks And Monuments

The Biden administration has promised to consult tribal governments on federal decisions that affect them. Some tribes are hoping to leverage that into equal co-management of national parks and monuments. Andrew Curley is a geography professor at the University of Arizona and a citizen of the Navajo Nation. He said it’s not enough to give tribes a seat at the table if it's just an advisory role and that tribes need to be able to veto management decisions. During the pandemic, some tribal nations have wanted to close nearby national parks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here in the Mountain West, the Navajo Nation and Blackfeet Nation have already done so. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

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