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AM News Brief: Record breaking trust lands sale, new COVID-19 data & wildfires throughout the Mountain West

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources bought 8,107 acres of land Tuesday from the state’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. This story and more in Thursday morning's news brief.

Thursday morning, Nov. 18, 2021


Bill aims to support mental health of first responders

A Utah legislative committee supported a bill Wednesday that would require first responder agencies to provide mental health resources to all their employees — including retired ones. It would also offer that support to family members. The proposal builds upon a bill that passed earlier this year by adding families and retired employees. It also bumps up the funding, putting $5 million toward mental health resources. Bill sponsor Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, originally asked for $500,000. Wilcox said it’s meant to acknowledge the “collateral damage” to the family members of law enforcement and other first responders regarding mental health. Read the full story. — Emily Means

New data on COVID-19 vaccination rates

The Utah Department of Health has corrected the way it’s tracking vaccination rates for racial and ethnic groups. The change gives a more accurate percentage of people vaccinated, and that’s made a big difference in the data. Before the change, it looked like Native Americans were the least vaccinated of all groups. In fact, they have one of the highest rates. Health officials reported 2,219 new cases of COVID-19 across the state Wednesday. School age children account for 495 of those. They also reported 13 more deaths. Those included a Salt Lake County man between the ages of 15-24 — though they specified he was not a minor. — Elaine Clark

Water year off to good start, but drought continues

Utah is a little more than a month into its water year, and so far, so good. Soil moisture and precipitation have both been above average, but state officials say there is still a long way to go to cut into Utah’s drought situation. Across the state, water storage is about half of its capacity. This time last year, it was around 62%. And of 97 measured streams — about half of those are flowing below average. Officials said Utah’s snowpack usually peaks around the first week of April, so they are hoping Utah will collect as much snow cover as possible before then. — Ross Terrell

Record breaking trust lands sale

Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources bought 8,107 acres of land Tuesday from the state’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration — or SITLA. Cinnamon Creek in Cache and Weber Counties will become a wildlife management area. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, that’s the largest land sale SITLA has ever made. The administration’s mission is to make as much money as possible for Utah’s schools, and this sale totaled just over $20 million. DWR partnered with the Mule Deer Foundation, Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy and others to pay for the land. — Elaine Clark


November wildfires claim lives

Residents in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming communities have had to evacuate after wildfires broke out earlier this week. Two people have died — a resident of Clark, Wyoming and the pilot of a single engine air tanker that crashed near the Kruger Rock Fire in Colorado. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, almost all of the Mountain West remains in varying degrees of drought. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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