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AM News Brief: Wildfires Burning, Insurrection Arrest & Navajo Solar Plants

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Bureau of Land Management
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Tribal officials are moving forward with two more solar plants on the Navajo Nation. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, April 8, 2021

State

Three Wildfires Burning Across Utah

All three Utah wildfires this week have been human-caused. Fire officials said the wildfire season doesn't officially start until June 1. The Choke Cherry fire in Southwestern Utah has burned 700 acres and is 25% contained. In the northeastern part of the state, Utah Fire Info shows the East Myton wildfire has covered a little more than 2,700 acres. It's 75% contained. It took three days to get the 1,300 acre Little Pass wildfire under control in an area west of the Great Salt Lake. — Bob Nelson

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County Won’t Issue Mask Mandate, Salt Lake City Will

The Salt Lake County Council will not issue a new mask mandate when the state’s ends on Saturday. Republican Council Chair Steve DeBry said the council decided against issuing one after Salt Lake County Health Director Gary Edwards told them it was no longer necessary, citing a decrease in cases and increase in vaccinations. Salt Lake City, however, is issuing a new mask mandate. Mayor Erin Mendenhall said not enough people have been vaccinated — especially on the hard-hit west side — and the city’s case counts are still categorized as “high”. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Southern Utah

St. George Man Arrested For Role In U.S. Capitol Breach

A third Utahn has been charged in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January. Authorities said Brady Knowlton of St. George has been released pending trial. The Salt Lake Tribune reported Knowlton is in photos inside the Capitol building and Senate chambers wearing a black ski hat and a tactical vest. On Jan. 6, supporters of then-President Donald Trump broke into the Capitol building in an effort to stop the counting of electoral votes. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Federal Judge Upholds Constitutionality Of Indian Child Welfare Act

This week, federal judges broadly upheld the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. That’s the federal law that gives tribes a voice in custody, adoption and foster care proceedings involving their citizens. The fifth circuit court also struck down key ICWA provisions, including one that gives preference to Native foster homes when tribal children enter the system. Georgene Louis is a state legislator in New Mexico who sponsored an ICWA statute there to safeguard against challenges to the federal law. She said the fifth circuit’s decision adds urgency to the issue, and that she’ll continue to pursue it. Thirty Mountain West Tribes and the states of Colorado, Utah, Montana and Idaho signed a brief supporting ICWA in this case. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

Navajo Nation Adding Two More Solar Plants

Tribal officials are moving forward with two more solar plants on the Navajo Nation. The projects are expected to generate millions of dollars in revenue for the tribe over their lifetimes. One is in Utah near the Arizona border. The other is near Flagstaff. The power from the plants is to be sold to utilities outside the reservation. Tribal President Jonathan Nez said the solar plants are part of a move toward renewable energy for a tribe that long has depended on energy from fossil fuels. Nez said hundreds of people will be employed during the construction phase. — Associated Press