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AM News Brief: Record Ski Season, Restoring Bears Ears & Gripping Heat Wave

Photo of empty chair on a ski lift
Chelsea Naughton
/
KUER

Wednesday morning, June 16, 2021

State

Utah Sets Record For Visitation During Ski Season

Utah ski resorts saw record visitation this past winter despite COVID-related restrictions and below-average snowfall. In a press release, Ski Utah said there were 5.3 million skier days — that’s one person visiting a ski area for the purpose of skiing or snowboarding. It marked a major rebound from the previous winter when Utah registered 4.3 million visitors and the season was cut short by the pandemic. Utah resorts were forced to implement COVID-19 safety protocols, including capacity limitations and mask mandates. The industry association says this winter's figure also surpasses the previous record of more than 5 million skier days set two seasons ago. — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Interior Secretary Recommends Restoration Of Bears Ears And Grand Staircase

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has recommended full restoration of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, according to information leaked to the Washington Post. The New York Times confirmed the news with a spokesperson for Gov. Spencer Cox. Cox and Utah’s congressional delegation have asked President Joe Biden to meet with them before making a final decision about the monuments. Former President Donald Trump significantly reduced the size of both in 2017. The five tribes that pushed for Bears Ears are asking Biden to increase its size to 1.9 million acres, which is larger than the original monument. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Region/Nation

Keeping Telehealth Laws Loose

Telehealth blossomed during the pandemic because lawmakers temporarily rolled back regulations on seeing doctors via computer or phone. Now, they want to keep it that way. Multiple bipartisan bills in Congress right now are aimed at helping Americans maintain access to telehealth. In rural places like the Mountain West, that could continue to help older residents in far-flung areas so they can talk to providers on their computer or on the phone. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

More Wildfires Happening At High Elevation

Climate change is causing more wildfires in an unlikely place — subalpine forests, according to a new study published in the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. Subalpine or high-elevation forests are usually snowy, wet landscapes known for cool temperatures. According to the study, global warming is causing larger fires in Rocky Mountain forests. The researchers used charcoal found in lake sediment records to figure out the frequency of fires in a given area. They found that more wildfires happened in the last two decades than at any point in the past 2,000 years. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

Record Heat Wave Gripping The Western U.S.

Dangerous, record-breaking heat is spreading across the U.S. Southwest and into parts of Utah, Montana and Wyoming. It's caused by a dome of high pressure that's hovering over a large swath of the region, pushing temperatures into the triple digits this week. It’s also intensifying the risk for wildfires amid a long-running drought. Utah set a heat record Tuesday for the second day in a row. Some of the highest temperatures are in bone-dry Arizona where the National Weather Service forecasted a record high of 117 degrees Tuesday in Phoenix. The previous high for the date was 115 degrees in 1974. The excessive heat stretched from southeastern California across Arizona and Nevada and into New Mexico. — Associated Press