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AM News Brief: Environmentalists secure Great Salt Lake water rights, Salt Lake plans for federal relief money & humpback chub drops off endangered list

Two hands hold up a young Humpback Chub above Shinumo Creek in Grand Canyon National Park.
Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reclassified a rare Colorado River Basin fish from endangered to threatened status after a decades-old effort to stabilize its populations. This story and more in Tuesday's news brief.

Tuesday morning, Oct. 19, 2021

State

Allowing Native regalia at graduations

Utah schools could soon be required to allow Native American students to wear tribal regalia during their high school graduation under a proposed state bill. According to the legislation, tribal regalia can include traditional dress and items of cultural significance like symbols, beads and feathers. Bill sponsor Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said a Utah tribe told her one of its members was told they couldn’t have tribal beads and feathers on their graduation cap. Chuck Foster, the American Indian Education Specialist at the Utah State Board of Education, called the bill a “very significant move in terms of the preserving of culture.” Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Salt Lake mayor makes recommendations for spending COVID relief money

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall knows how she wants the city to spend $85 million of federal COVID relief money from the American Rescue Plan. Mendenhall’s biggest proposal is for city operations. She’s recommending $55 million for municipal salaries and to offset the city’s revenue losses due to the pandemic. The mayor said another $10 million should go to what she calls “social impact investment,” like early childhood education and adult workforce training. Among her other recommendations are a Westside Community Land Initiative, a City Public Lands Park Ranger program and a clean neighborhood team. The City Council will begin considering her proposals Tuesday during their weekly work session. — Elaine Clark

Conservationists secure Great Salt Lake water rights

In an effort to help save the shrinking Great Salt Lake, environmentalists are attempting a novel idea: securing water rights for a terminal system. Fox13 reports the Great Salt Lake is now nearly a foot below its last recorded level in 1963, alarming environmentalists and Utah’s policymakers. In an effort to help the Great Salt Lake recover, a coalition of environmental groups have partnered with Rio Tinto Kennecott and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District to secure water rights for the lake itself. The donation, about 21,000-acre feet of water, took years to secure. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Humpback chub off the endangered list

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reclassified a rare Colorado River Basin fish from endangered to threatened status after a decades-old effort to stabilize its populations. The humpback chub is one of about a dozen fish that are native to the Colorado River system and four that are currently endangered. Federal officials said the numbers have stabilized, but the fish needs continued protections in the Grand Canyon and parts of Utah and Colorado. It once had a broader range in the Colorado River Basin, but dam construction and the introduction of non-native predator species led to local populations becoming extinct. — Associated Press

Rural healthcare suffers under strain of pandemic staffing demands

COVID-19 has made health care provider shortages worse in rural areas of the Mountain West. During the early days of the pandemic, Nevada relied on traveling nurses to fill some of the gaps in hospitals and ICUs. But shortages in Idaho, Utah and Arizona have led to a spike in demand for extra staffing. Polling also suggests many doctors might retire early due to COVID-19. But experts say COVID has led to some positive changes as well — like the widespread adoption of telemedicine, which can improve healthcare access for rural residents. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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