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AM News Brief: Challenger In Utah’s 4th District, New Colorado River Observatory & Call For Cultural Resource Protection

Photo of a man speaking into a microphone
Steve Griffin
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Utah Republican Rep. Burgess Owens has a challenger from his own party for the 4th Congressional District. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, Aug. 25, 2021

Northern Utah

Republican Challenger To Owens

Utah Republican Rep. Burgess Owens has a challenger from his own party for the 4th Congressional District. Jake Hunsaker of Riverton declared his candidacy Tuesday, positioning himself as a conservative Republican looking for less of what he calls the “toxicity of today’s political climate.” Incumbent Owens won his seat last year in a narrow victory over former Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams. The 4th Congressional District has been a swing district since it was established in 2011. Utah is currently in the redistricting process again, and next year’s 4th District race could be happening with very different political boundaries. — Elaine Clark

Salt Lake County Wants Another Look At Two Convictions

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Tuesday his office has asked the court to overturn two convictions from more than a decade ago. The two defendants were 17 years old when they allegedly committed the crimes they pleaded guilty to. Under Utah law, they should have been tried in juvenile court, but they weren’t. Instead, they were processed by a court that didn’t have jurisdiction over their cases. Salt Lake County’s Conviction Integrity Unit has determined that makes those judgments invalid. Gill said righting these wrongs is essential in proving the legitimacy of the justice system. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Region/Nation

New Climate Observatory On The Colorado River

Federal scientists are hoping to better understand the hydrology in the Western United States. Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a new kind of climate observatory near the headwaters of the Colorado River. Scientists said data gathered from the equipment will help better predict rain and snowfall in the region and determine how much water will flow through the river. The multimillion-dollar effort led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory begins next week. The Colorado River serves 40 million people in several states including Utah — and Mexico. A recent shortage declaration means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico won't get their full allocations of water next year. — Associated Press

Protecting Artifacts From Oil & Gas Development

An Indigenous leader from New Mexico and former U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt are calling on the federal government to overhaul its oil and gas leasing program to ensure the protection of cultural resources. Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo and Babbitt highlighted the recommendations outlined in a report released Tuesday that looks at leasing policies across the West. The recommendations are focused on how land managers can incorporate tribal expertise into decision-making and better protect places such Utah’s Bears Ears region and land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. Besides planning for future development, Vallo said previous damage also needs to be addressed. — Associated Press

Historian Uncovered Region’s Problematic History With Race

Sociologist and historian James Loewen, who helped uncover the Mountain West’s history of racism and exclusion, died last week. Much of his work highlighted the historical struggles of Black people in the South, but he also challenged what we know about the history of race relations in the region with his book about sundown towns. Those are places where people of color and other minorities were often forcibly excluded beginning in the late 1800s. He pinpointed dozens throughout this region. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau