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AM News Brief: Drilling Pause Tightens State Budgets, Campfire Sparks 200 Acre Blaze & Utah Remembers Fallen Marine

Oak Grove Fire UFI Twitter.jpeg
Utah Fire Info Twitter
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A human-caused fire forced the evacuation of a campground Sunday in Washington County. This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, Aug. 30, 2021

State

Utah Remembers Fallen Marine

A memorial vigil to honor the life and service of Staff Sergeant Taylor Hoover was held at the Utah State Capitol building in Salt Lake City Sunday night. The Utah marine was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in a terrorist attack at the Airport in Kabul last week. A release from Gov. Spencer Cox's office said Hoover “will always be remembered by Utahns for his honorable sacrifice to protect and save lives.” Flags are being flown at half staff on state buildings through sunset Monday to honor all those killed in recent terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. — Pamela McCall

Board Of Education Member At Center Of Controversy

Natalie Cline has been outspoken in her opposition to the ways schools are trying to create more inclusive environments and bridge equity gaps. Last week, the State Board of Education distanced itself from a recent social media post in which she shared a photo from Layton High School’s seminary displaying a pride flag. It’s not the first time Cline’s posts have raised concerns, though they point to a fundamental divide between her and educators. While many teachers and administrators have been increasing efforts to address inequalities in schools, Cline and many parents argue they’re instead creating divisions. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah

Campfire Sparks 200 Acre Blaze

A human-caused fire forced the evacuation of a campground Sunday in Washington County. The Oak Grove Fire started because of an unattended campfire and has grown to an estimated 200 acres. It’s burning in the mountains above the town of Leeds and can be seen from Interstate 15. There are currently two other active fires in Utah. The East Desolation Fire is 211 acres and 75% contained, and the Morgan Canyon Fire has burned 509 acres and is 90% contained. It won’t be considered “out” until there’s significant rain or snow though. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Northern Utah

Another Firefighting Crew Heads To California

More Utah firefighters were deployed Sunday to help combat wildfires in California. They’re replacing another task force that returned home this weekend. This is the seventh team from Utah to go to California and the second one in the past week. The effort is part of a mutual aid agreement between states that allows for the sharing of resources. There are several active fires in California including the Dixie Fire, the biggest in the state's history. It’s been burning since July 13 and has scorched nearly 765,000 acres. It is now 48% contained. — Lexi Peery

Region/Nation

State Budgets Could Feel Pinch Of Continued Pause On Oil And Gas Lease

Environmentalists want an end to oil and gas drilling on federal public lands, but recent analysis of government data shows that could create big budget shortfalls for some Western states. Federal oil and gas reviews fund about 3% of New Mexico’s annual budget and nearly 10% of Wyoming’s. Other states in the West could fare much better if the Biden administration puts a damper on oil and gas drilling or coal mining on federal lands. The revenues fund less than 1% of Utah's budget. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

Vaccine Orders For Navajo Nation Employees

Over the weekend officials from the Navajo Nation reported 59 COVID-19 cases and three new deaths. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 32,500 cases and 1,403 deaths. Officials also reported over 121,000 people are fully vaccinated. President Jonathan Nez issued an order Aug 20 for all executive branch employees to get vaccinated, including people working at tribal entities like shopping centers and casinos. They have until the end of September to do so or they’ll have to submit to weekly testing. — Lexi Peery