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AM News Brief: Jazz Lawsuit Dismissed, Incentivizing Vaccines & Protecting The Lesser Prairie-Chicken

NCRS photo
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the lesser prairie-chicken as “endangered” in eastern New Mexico and “threatened” in its northern habitat that includes parts of southeastern Colorado. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, May 28, 2021


State Weighs Incentivizing Vaccines

Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday that Utah is still waiting to see if it makes sense to offer incentives for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Cox said he and top lawmakers want to analyze data from other states offering things like cash lotteries or scholarships to see how much they actually convinced people. So far, 57% of Utahns over the age of 12 have gotten at least one vaccine dose. Over the past week, there’s been an average of 245 new cases each day. — Sonja Hutson

Southern Utah

Fire Caution For The Holiday

Record dry conditions and rising visitation numbers in Southwest Utah have fire officials concerned, and they’re urging people to change their behavior. Zion National Park had its first-ever February wildfire this year, it was human-caused and scorched four and a half acres. Kait Webb, with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, said last year set a record for the number of fires started by people, and that record could be broken again. Among other things, Webb urges people not to drive on dry vegetation, and to be careful with campfires and target shooting. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery

Zion Shuttle Ticketing System Ends

Zion National Park is ending its shuttle reservation system Friday and will no longer require tickets. The shuttle will be on a first-come, first-served basis, though park officials said people who have already bought tickets will be given priority in the Visitor’s Center shuttle line. Masks are still required. Zion National Park is expecting around 85,000 visitors Friday through Monday and warns people to be prepared for long lines and full parking lots. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Judge Dismisses Jazz Fan Lawsuit

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Utah Jazz brought by a fan who was banned for life from the team’s arena. The ban came after Shane Keisel directed what the team called racial taunts towards then-Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook in 2019 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena. Keisel denied that his heckling was racial, and said the high-profile incident cost him his job and exposed him to online threats. Keisel’s attorney said Thursday that his client intends to appeal the court’s decision. The ruling came just hours after Westbrook was once again a victim of unruly fan behavior — this time in Philadelphia. — Associated Press

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the team Russell Westbrook played for in 2019.

Utah Man Pleads Guilty To Illegal Wildlife Importing

A Midvale man pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to charges of illegally importing wildlife to the U.S. Jean-Michel Arrigona sells taxidermied and mounted insects and animals. The U.S. Department of Justice says between 2015 and 2020 he and his company imported around 1,500 parts from dead animals. Most of those came from Indonesia and included some protected species like flying foxes and monitor lizards. Arrigona faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. — Caroline Ballard


Lesser Prairie-Chicken Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the lesser prairie-chicken as “endangered” in eastern New Mexico and “threatened” in its northern habitat that includes parts of southeastern Colorado. Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said that human development has disturbed the birds’ historic habitat. Fish and Wildlife first listed the birds as threatened in 2014, but reversed course after a lawsuit from four New Mexico counties and an oil and gas industry group. Critics of the current proposal say the move would seriously curtail oil and gas development in one of the most prolific oil fields in North America. The 60-day public comment period for the listing proposal begins Tuesday. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

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