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PM News Brief: Catalytic Converter Thefts, Bears Ears Study & Shutting Down Main Street

Two red rock buttes covered in cedar bushes stick up over a cedar covered landscape.
Wild Earth Guardians
/
Creative Commons
Plant communities left by Indigenous people in the Bears Ears region should be taken into consideration for management plans of the area, according to a newly published study from the University of Utah. This story and more in Tuesday evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, May 18, 2021

State

Is Building More Housing Key To Solving Utah’s Housing Affordability Crisis?

The solution to Utah’s affordable housing crisis isn’t to build more housing, which is the state’s current approach. That’s according to David Fields, a housing specialist with the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Fields told state legislators during a presentation Tuesday one of the main contributors to Utah’s housing crisis is stagnant wages. He said census data show there’s actually an excess of housing units, and many are vacant. Some state lawmakers on the committee strongly disagreed, with one calling the presentation “biased and fallacious.” Read the full story. Emily Means

Utah Giving Out Nearly $8 Million In Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Grants

Utah will give out nearly $8 million in grants for outdoor recreation projects this year. The funds come from the governor’s Office of Economic Development. They’re meant to help improve infrastructure. Twenty-three counties in Utah received funding. Some of the projects include replacing climbing anchors in Maple Canyon in Sanpete County and adding an archery range at Antelope Island State Park. State officials say since 2015, the outdoor recreation grant has funded more than 300 new projects restorations in Utah. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Utah’s Attorney General’s Office Cracking Down On Catalytic Converter Thefts

The Utah Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday three people were arrested and 124 catalytic converters were confiscated as part of an undercover sting operation. Those are a part of a car’s emission system. Thieves target them because they have precious metals inside, which can be sold on the black market. The AG’s office said catalytic converter thefts are up 595% since 2018 and can be difficult to investigate because of a lack of evidence. The Attorney General’s office and other law enforcement groups targeted online marketplaces like KSL.com, OfferUp and Facebook. — Caroline Ballard

Salt Lake City Closing Portion Of Main Street To Help Out Businesses

Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City will close to car traffic each weekend this summer beginning May 27. It will make way for what the city calls a “pedestrian promenade.” Shops, bars and restaurants will be able to expand onto sidewalks. Musicians and artists will also perform. It’s all an effort to boost economic activity after a rocky year due to the pandemic. Some businesses test drove the idea last fall and the city said many of those places saw a 30% increase in sales. Masks are welcome but not required outside. Businesses can still require visitors to wear masks indoors. — Caroline Ballard

Utah Inland Port Authority Signs Deal With Port Of Oakland

The Utah Inland Port Authority has signed a deal with the Port of Oakland. It’ll allow for more goods to be brought in and out of the state by train. Both Utah and Oakland officials said the deal will make transporting goods cheaper and more efficient. Utah’s Inland Port right now can transport shipping containers between train cars and trucks, but it does not have the ability to sort cargo within shipping containers. With the deal, the Utah Port Authority will develop the equipment and process needed to do that. The Port of Oakland has also agreed to send more rail cargo to Utah to sort and export from here. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah

Bears Ears Study Says Indigenous Plant Communities Should Be Considered

Plant communities left by Indigenous people in the Bears Ears region should be taken into consideration for management plans of the area, according to a newly published study from the University of Utah. Researchers found 117 plants they called “culturally significant” and some “extremely rare.” They were used — and maybe even cultivated — by Indigenous people for food, medicine and rituals. Researchers said it’s not just artifacts that need to be protected, but also the quote — “ecological legacies” that still exist today. This study comes as the Biden administration considers how to move forward on a campaign promise to restore the size of the monument in southeast Utah. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

SCOTUS Taking Up Case On Abortion Could Impact Mountain West

The decision in an upcoming Supreme Court case could mean some states in the Mountain West move to severely limit or even ban abortions. States that have passed recent anti-abortion measures provide clues to how they might react to a such a ruling. In our region that includes Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau