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AM News Brief: Restoring watersheds, helping victims of nuclear testing & changing offensive landmark names

Photo of fence outside Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah.
Kelsie Moore
An audit on health care in Utah state prisons has uncovered “systemic deficiencies” that have led to negative patient experiences. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Thursday morning, Dec 9, 2021


Utah program restored a record number of watershed acres

Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative improved a record number of acres in the last year according to officials from the Division of Wildlife Resources. The program restored nearly 150,000 acres from July 2020 to the end of this past June — the most in a single fiscal year since the program launched 15 years ago. Crews finished 174 habitat restoration projects which included burning prescribed fires, restoring streams and planting shrubs and sagebrush. The program director said that being proactive is especially important because of Utah’s desert climate. The program has improved over 2.25 million acres since 2006. — Leah Treidler

Legislative auditors reveal flaws in Utah prison health care

An audit on health care in Utah state prisons has uncovered “systemic deficiencies” that have led to negative patient experiences. Legislative auditors reviewed 76 cases that spanned over a three year period and spent months at the state prison observing and analyzing medical treatment. The report found that inmates were often given inadequate or inappropriate care. They also found patient records and medical supplies were improperly discarded in prison dumpsters. David Gibson was the supervising auditor. He said a lot of these issues stem from inadequate oversight on multiple levels. Wendy Parmley is with Utah Prisoner Advocate Network. She said the report validated the issues they’ve been raising awareness about, but she was unsatisfied with the Department of Corrections response. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez

Northern Utah

District attorney will not prosecute SWAT officer

The Davis County District Attorney has decided not to prosecute a Salt Lake City Police officer who used deadly force on Sept. 10 of this year. The officer shot a man who was holding five people hostage in Farmington after hours of negotiation. Police Chief Mike Brown responded to the decision in a statement saying the officer made a hard decision based on his training and experience. Brown said the officer’s choice saved multiple lives, adding that his actions were heroic. — Leah Treidler


Secretary of the Interior orders removal of offensive names on public lands

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has issued two federal orders to remove offensive names from public lands. St. George News reported that includes at least 11 sites in Southern Utah using the term “squaw,” a word often used as a sexual slur against Native American women. The U.S. Geological Survey has identified more than 50 geographic features using the derogatory term across the state. The Department of the Interior will consult with tribal governments about names that refer to Native Americans and seek advice from experts in civil rights and history. They’ll also ask for input from the general public. In a press release announcing the orders, Secretary Haaland said that federal lands should not “perpetuate the legacies of oppression.” — St. George News

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aims to inform readers across the state.

Lawmakers look to expand funding for people sickened by nuclear testing

A federal fund that compensates people sickened by radiation from nuclear weapons testing is set to expire next year. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act helps support people who got sick because they worked in, or were downwind of, nuclear weapons testing. Now, federal lawmakers have proposed extending and expanding it to include victims in Montana, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico, as well as more residents in Utah and Nevada. The proposal would also include uranium miners who provided materials for the nuclear tests. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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