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PM News Brief: Busy Memorial Day Weekend, Bears Ears Ad Campaign & Gold King Lawsuit

Photo of Welcome to Utah sign.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
Memorial Day weekend is expected to be a busy one for travel in Utah. The state’s Office of Tourism is asking people to be responsible when they’re out and about. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, May 26, 2021

State

Utah Releases Guidance As State Agencies Move Back To In-Person Work

Utah has released a guide to help state agencies navigate the transition out of being a fully remote workplace. As pandemic restrictions ease, some people are returning to in-person work, but not everyone wants to go back full time. More than 8,600 state employees worked from home over the last year. The guide identifies several benefits to continuing remote work for at least some employees, like improved air quality, increased productivity and the ability to recruit and hire people from rural Utah. It also sets goals to increase the number of state jobs that are eligible for remote work. — Caroline Ballard

Office Of Tourism Says Expect A Busy Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day weekend is expected to be a busy one for travel in Utah. The state’s Office of Tourism is asking people to be responsible when they’re out and about. The office said it’s anticipating record visitation at Utah’s state and national parks, national forests and other recreation areas. For people visiting the Mighty Five national parks in southern Utah, tourism officials said be prepared for crowds, lines and possible limited access. They are also reminding people to leave pottery and other artifacts at archaeological sites untouched and to follow all fire restrictions. Utah is in a state of emergency due to drought conditions. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

New Mental Health Crisis Care Center On Huntsman’s Campus Of Hope

Community leaders gathered on Wednesday to break ground on the Huntsman Mental Health Institutes’ new Crisis Care Center in South Salt Lake. It will be a part of the Huntsman’s Campus of Hope. It will be available 24/7 for people experiencing a mental health crisis. Patients will then receive ongoing treatment, at no cost. Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said the center is a better alternative to treating mental health crisis calls than calling the police. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez

Southern Utah

Five Native American Tribes Take Out Ads In Support Of Bears Ears

Five Native American tribes are asking President Joe Biden to enlarge Bears Ears National Monument. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition took out full page ads in both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Washington Post urging Biden to increase the monument to 1.9 million acres. It’s current size is about 202,000 acres. It was reduced by 85% in 2017. “Visitation is going off the charts, incidents of graffiti are mounting and it feels like there’s no line of defense,” said Keala Carter, an employee of the Inter-Tribal Coalition. Carter said the cost of the ad campaign is in the six-figure range, but would not say where the money for the ads came from. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Navajo Nation Says Contractor Should Not Be Dismissed In Gold King Lawsuit

The Navajo Nation and New Mexico are asking a federal judge to not dismiss a contractor involved in the Gold King Mine Spill. The 2015 accident happened near Silverton, Colorado. It released 3 million gallons of toxic waste into a tributary of the San Juan River that flows through southeast Utah. A contractor called Environmental Restoration, LLC was partially responsible for the spill. But it claims it should be protected from legal action since it was working for the Environmental Protection Agency. The Navajo Nation and New Mexico said the contractor is not immune to litigation since it withheld information from the EPA. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Region/Nation

Fentanyl Overdoses On The Rise Across The Mountain West

Overdose deaths have risen nationwide during the pandemic, including in our region. In the Mountain West, Wyoming and Colorado had the biggest increases in overdose deaths from Fall 2019 to Fall 2020. In that same period, Colorado had the most overdose deaths: an estimated 1,500. Rates of the deadly opioid fentanyl have also increased around the nation, though some states in our region don’t track those deaths specifically caused by that drug. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Conservation Groups Pushing For Federal Gray Wolf Protections

Wildlife advocates are pressing the Biden administration to revive federal protections for gray wolves across the Northern Rockies. It comes after Republican lawmakers in Idaho and Montana made it much easier to kill the predators. The Humane Society and other groups filed a legal petition Wednesday asking Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to use her emergency authority to return thousands of wolves in the region to protection under the Endangered Species Act. State lawmakers passed legislation in recent weeks that would allow hunters and trappers to kill unlimited numbers of wolves. They would be allowed to use aggressive tactics such as shooting them from ATVs, employing night-vision scopes to hunt at night and setting lethal snares that some consider inhumane. — Associated Press