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PM News Brief: Opting out of vaccine mandates, quagga mussel inspections & fighting wildfires

A photo of a dry and burnt landscape.
Courtesy of Utah Fire Info
The nonprofit Nature Conservancy partnered with the Forest Service and others to help burn and thin more than 150 acres of public lands in Idaho. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, Nov. 10, 2021


Utah Senate approves bill to let workers opt out of employee vaccine mandates

Workers in Utah could choose to opt out of their employer’s vaccine requirements for just about any reason. That’s under a bill approved along party lines by the state Senate Wednesday. It would still allow employers to require vaccines but carves out three exemptions for employees — medical, religious and strongly held beliefs. One Democratic lawmaker called the bill “anti-business” and said it would hurt small companies. It now goes to the House for a vote. — Emily Means

Utah Senate approves controversial Congressional redistricting map

The Utah Senate approved a new Congressional map Wednesday after the House passed it Tuesday evening. The new boundaries split Salt Lake County into four districts, pairing it with large parts of rural Utah. Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, tried and failed to swap it out for one of the Independent Redistricting Commission’s maps. He said he believes rural Utah deserves a voice in Congress, and he also believes “that urban Utah, that one third of the population that resides right here along the Wasatch Front, that we deserve to have a voice in Congress.” Gov. Spencer Cox has signaled he plans on approving the new map. — Emily Means

More than 315,000 boats inspected for quagga mussels

Utah wildlife officials are recapping the year in quagga mussels as boating season wraps up. In 2021, multiple agencies inspected more than 315,000 boats for the invasive species. Of those, just about 7,300 were decontaminated. Both numbers are down compared to last year. More than 650 citations were also issued this year. Still, officials say people should start planning ahead for next year. Non-residents must take an education course and pay a fee before launching their boat in any Utah waterbody. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Hundreds gather to remember 10-year-old Isabella Tichenor 

Hundreds of community members gathered in Fox Hollow Park in North Salt Lake Tuesday night to remember Isabella Tichenor, a 10-year-old Black, austistic girl who died by suicide Saturday. Her family said her death came after the Davis School District failed to intervene in the bullying she faced. She was known as “Izzy” by her friends and family. Her mom — Brittany Tichenor-Cox — spoke to the crowd while remembering her daughter. “She was 10, and I felt like she took on the weight of the world, and she kept it internally because I felt like she was trying to protect me,” Tichenor-Cox said. Since Izzy’s passing, an online statement has been circling asking parents to push for accountability from the district. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez


Public-private partnerships can help in the fight against wildfires

Federal agencies spend a lot of time and money fighting increasingly extreme wildfires but have limited resources for prescribed burns. Public-private partnerships can help. This year, the nonprofit Nature Conservancy partnered with the Forest Service and others to help burn and thin more than 150 acres of public lands in Idaho. Other similar programs are cropping up all around the West. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau 

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