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PM News Brief: Abortion and the West, Angels Landing permits & below normal snowpack throughout the region

A photo of people hiking at Angels Landing.
Courtesy of Zion National Park
People planning to hike Angels Landing in Zion National Park on or after Apr. 1 will need to buy a permit. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, Dec. 3, 2021


Omicron variant reaches Utah

Utah health officials announced the state’s first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant Dec. 3. The newest “variant of concern” has spread rapidly around the world since it was first discovered in South Africa late last month. The state health department said the person is an “older adult,” lives within the Southwest Utah Public Health District and recently returned to Utah from travel in South Africa. The individual and close contacts have been cooperating fully with quarantine and testing guidelines, officials said. State epidemiologist Leisha Nolen said it is not surprising the omicron variant was found here. She noted the discovery of the case should not change the way people should protect themselves, but reinforces that the virus should be taken seriously. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

How to improve Utah’s gender equity

Utah has ranked as the worst state for women’s equality for four years in a row in analyses from the personal finance website Wallethub. Susan Madsen, the director of Utah State University's Utah Women and Leadership Project, published a paper this week with suggestions to improve the state’s ranking. They include electing a woman to represent Utah in the U.S. Senate, increasing the percentage of women who receive graduate degrees and decreasing the wage gap. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Southern Utah

Managing hikers on Angels Landing Trail

People planning to hike Angels Landing in Zion National Park on or after Apr. 1 will need to buy a permit. The seasonal lottery for those permits opens Jan. 3, and visitors can also enter a different drawing the day before they hope to hike the trail. It costs $6 to enter and $3 per hiker if chosen. Park officials put this new system in place to cut down on crowding and address safety concerns. Zion is the third busiest national park in the country, and this year has seen over 4.5 million visitors. — Lexi Peery, St. George


Snowpack is below normal throughout the region

December has arrived, but in much of the West snowfall has not. Snowpack numbers in every part of the Colorado River basin are lower than average for this time of year. In most of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, snowpack is only around a quarter or a third of normal. Numbers are slightly better in Colorado and Wyoming, which have about half as much snow as normal. Climate scientists say there’s plenty of time left for conditions to turn around, but they’re watching these totals closely. Low snowpack can have serious repercussions for the Colorado River. Water that supplies 40 million people throughout the Southwest starts as winter snow in the Rockies. — Alex Hager, KUNC

What overturning Roe would mean in the West

Activists on both sides of the abortion debate are gearing up for a Supreme Court ruling that could undermine Roe vs. Wade, which grants a constitutional right to abortion. If the ruling is overturned, there could be a sharp contrast of responses in the West. In Colorado, Democratic lawmakers announced plans for a bill that would strengthen abortion rights. Meanwhile, Utah and Idaho have trigger laws that would quickly implement bans on most abortions if Roe vs. Wade is overturned. Joshua Wilson, a political science professor at University of Denver, anticipates women in conservative states would brave long distances to Colorado, Nevada or New Mexico. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

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