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AM News Brief: Threats against teachers, Western drought testimony & Christmas tree permits

Two people in a forest looking for a tree to cut down for the holidays.
Courtesy of recreation.gov
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Christmas Tree permits for the Manti-La Sal National Forest go on sale Oct. 14. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Thursday morning, Oct. 7, 2021

Southern Utah

Moab’s strange state House districts

The rural city of Moab is split down the middle into two different state House districts. Some residents there told lawmakers at a public hearing Wednesday night that the city should only be represented by one person, because the split dilutes their voice. To meet federal requirements, the city has to be combined with other areas into a House district. The Grand County Commission wants it to be in a district with northern San Juan County, but some residents there told lawmakers the areas are too different to make that work well. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson, Moab

‘Tis the season for Christmas tree permits

Christmas Tree permits for the Manti-La Sal National Forest go on sale Oct. 14. Foresters say cutting down Christmas trees actually benefits the health of the ecosystem. Thinning smaller trees helps other ones grow larger and creates open areas for wildlife to feed. People can only cut trees with trunks smaller than 5 inches in diameter and less than 20 feet tall. — Elaine Clark

Region/Nation

Teachers receive threats because of pandemics

The U.S. Department of Justice plans to offer training and other resources to educators and school boards as they face violent threats. It comes as political debates continue to rage over critical race theory and masks region-wide. Those threats have been happening across the country, including in Idaho. Employees at the Caldwell School District outside Boise have faced plenty of angry messages during the pandemic and even some threatening social media posts towards administrators. Police are now posted at their school board meetings. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

A Senate subcommittee considers Western drought

The U.S. Senate energy subcommittee on water and power held a hearing in Washington D.C. Wednesday. They heard from water experts from several western states about ongoing drought conditions. Jennifer Pitt with the environmental nonprofit Audubon Society said climate change has come “barging through the front door” of the Colorado River basin. “We need to act quickly to avoid a catastrophic water supply crisis, and we also need long-term solutions because as temperatures continue to increase, the Colorado River’s water supply will keep shrinking,” she testified. Flows are down 20% in the last two decades, and scientists forecast they will drop 9% more with every degree of warming. The director of Arizona’s water department said the path forward relies on good data and collaboration that will likely include voluntary conservation measures. — Alex Hager, KUNC

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