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AM News Brief: Air Quality Report Card, Long Waits At Parks & Allegations Against Utah State Senator

Photo of smog over valley.
Brian Albers / KUER
/
Salt Lake City is now the eighth-most polluted city in the United States, according to the American Lung Association — up from 11th last year. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, April 22, 2021

State

Former Staffer Levels Harassment Allegations Against Utah State Senator

Former Utah legislative staffer Elizabeth Converse accused Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, of sexual harassment Wednesday night. She said one time, Davis asked her if she liked red wine and the way chocolate melted in her mouth. Converse also alleged that, while on a work trip to Chicago, Davis "put his arm around my waist, pulled me close into him, and said 'I hear you like body shots. Ya know, I've got a bottle of tequila at home.'" Converse said she didn’t receive help from her democratic boss — only from the Republican House speaker and his chief of staff. The House and Senate Democratic caucuses, along with Davis, have yet to comment. — Sonja Hutson

Women’s Leadership In Utah Higher Education

Women have made some gains in leadership positions at Utah’s colleges and universities. The Utah Women And Leadership Project published a report Wednesday that looked at the number of women leading these institutions in 2014, 2017 and 2020. More women have taken the helm as President over the six-year period. Half of Utah’s degree-granting institutions were led by women last year compared to just one in 2014. There are also more Vice Presidents and women on the Utah’s State Board of Higher Education. But researchers found there are fewer women serving on boards of trustees and as Chief Academic Officers today than in previous years. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Youth Mark Earth Day

Thursday is Earth Day — when people around the world show support for environmental protections. Fourteen-year-old climate activist Natalie Roberts is part of “Fridays For Future Utah,” a youth organization fighting for the environment. Roberts said she’s been living with the effects of climate change all her life. “I haven't committed these kinds of crimes against our planet and yet I'm facing all the consequences. And I think that really is a driving factor that we're trying to fix and kind of rebuild what other generations have torn down,” Roberts said. She said stricter policies like international agreements are needed to stop climate change. — Ivana Martinez

Join RadioWest, Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m. for a free screening of Youth V Gov, which profiles a national group of young people suing the federal government over climate change.

Report Card Gives SLC Worse Marks On Air Pollution

Salt Lake City is now the eighth most polluted city in the United States, according to the American Lung Association — up from 11th last year. The Association’s State of the Air report card grades cities, counties and states on things like their levels of ozone and particulate matter. The Salt Lake metro area saw more days of unhealthy ozone levels compared to the 2020 report, but it also saw a decrease in the amount of year-round particulate matter. St. George ranks as one of the cleanest cities in the country when it comes to short-term particulate matter. — Caroline Ballard

Southern/Central Utah

Some Districts Loosen Mask Exemption Proof In Utah Schools

Utah’s public school students are required to wear masks in schools unless they have certain medical conditions. Most schools require a doctor’s note documenting the condition, but Kane and San Juan school districts in the state are now granting exemptions for students without any proof. State law says schools "may" require a doctor’s note in order to grant a mask exemption, but that doesn’t mean they have to, said Tracy Henderson. She’s providing legal counsel to a group called Utah Parents United. “That means parents can sign the exemptions,” she said. Henderson said her group is organizing with parents around the state, including in Kane and San Juan counties. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Prepare For Long Waits At National Parks

Park officials are warning people about long lines and limited parking at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Visitation has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Canyonlands had twice the number of visitors this January as it did last January, and since October, Arches has seen as many as 70% more visitors some months, compared to previous years. The park service is conducting a feasibility study to improve traffic and congestion at Arches which they plan to open for public comment this summer. In the meantime, officials are urging people to check conditions and plan their trips carefully. — Elaine Clark

Region/Nation

States Look To Lessen Regulations On Wolf Hunting

Some lawmakers in the Mountain West are concerned that hunters aren’t killing enough wolves and that packs are getting too big, so they’re trying to make hunting easier. Montana’s new governor signed several bills into law to ease wolf hunting restrictions. Meanwhile in Idaho, a proposal would allow wolf trapping year-round on private property, the hiring of contract wolf hunters and hunting from ATVs and snowmobiles. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau