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AM News Brief: ‘Excommunication’ Appeal, Washington Co. Road Challenge & No Child Support? No Hunting And Fishing

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Construction of the Northern Corridor highway through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area is looming. Now conservationists are objecting to another road project in Southern Utah. This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, April 26, 2021

State

Weekend COVID Update

The Utah Department of Health reported 753 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend, along with three more deaths due to the disease. Those included a man in Box Elder County and a man and a woman in Salt Lake County — all of whom were hospitalized when they died. More than 1.25 million Utahns have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Friday evening, the state announced that it was lifting the statewide ban on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine following direction from federal health officials. — Elaine Clark

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Being Behind In Child Support May Mean No Hunting And Fishing

Thousands of people who are delinquent on child support in Utah may not be able to go hunting or fishing as of July 1 under a new law passed by the Legislature last year. Anyone owing more than $2,500 could be denied a hunting or fishing license. Fox13 reports Utah's Office of Recovery Services is sending out letters this week to more than 19,000 people who are behind on child support. Just under half of them have purchased a hunting or fishing license in the past. — Associated Press

Looking Outside For Water Savings

Gov. Spencer Cox has asked Utahns to save water, as most of the state is experiencing an extreme drought. Zach Frankel with the Utah Rivers Council said the best way to do that is by looking outside. He said one easy way to save water is to invest in a rain barrel. A Utah State University study found a 50-gallon barrel in Salt Lake City can capture almost 4,000 gallons of water a year. But while rain barrels are helpful for water collection, the best way to save water is to replace lawns with native plants, according to USU sustainability professor Roslynn McCann. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Northern Utah

Sex Therapist Appeals Church Expulsion

Sex therapist Natasha Helfer has appealed her expulsion from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Local leaders took the disciplinary action in response to Helfer’s outspoken views on issues like same-sex marriage and pornography. Those views are not in line with Church teachings. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Helfer made her appeal in a letter to President Russell M. Nelson and top church leaders. Helfer was disciplined by leaders in Kansas where she lived until 2019 when she moved to Utah. — Associated Press

Japanese Community Celebrates History, Explores Challenges In Utah

The Utah Japan Festival hosted a virtual panel Sunday on the history of Japanese Americans in the Beehive State. They talked about how an internment camp in Utah shaped the migration of Japanese Americans here and about racism that persists to this day. Panelist Rolen Yoshinaga born and raised in Ogden, said “There’s always been an undercurrent of prejudice here in Utah because there aren’t a lot of Japanese. There’s a tension that will always be ready to snap.” The panelists also talked about prominent Japanese Americans from the state, like the late Wat Misaka, who was the first person of color to play in the NBA, and translator and historian Sen Nishiyama. — David Fuchs

Southern Utah

Environmentalists Challenge Another Road Project In Southern Utah

Construction of the Northern Corridor highway through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area is looming. Now conservationists are objecting to another road project in Southern Utah. The St. George Spectrum newspaper reported the Long Valley Road extension would go through a corner of 4,000 acres of land set aside in 1999 — home to endangered plant life, important wildlife habitat and historical sites. Environmental activists have appealed the plan, asking the federal government to delay construction and consider alternate routes. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Hedge Funds Driving Up Home Prices

About one in five homes across the country right now are being purchased as investment properties, according to a recent report from the John Burns real estate consulting firm. Investors can be anything from individuals wanting to own a vacation rental to huge hedge funds like BlackRock or J.P. Morgan. These companies have the capital to outbid others, buy up property and then rent it out. Consultant John Burns said it was a new and potentially troubling trend that could make housing “permanently more expensive in America.” In cities such as Flagstaff, Arizona, Spokane, Washington and Boulder, Colorado, the share of investors buying property is even higher than the national average. Home prices across the Mountain West have surged by more than 14% compared to last January. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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