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PM News Brief: The health of the salt flats, expanded medical cannabis referrals & new foundation for the BLM

Climate and hydrologic monitoring equipment installed at the Bonneville Salt Flats
iStock
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Utah Geological Survey
The Utah Senate voted to overturn Salt Lake and Summit county mask mandates on Tuesday. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, Jan. 19, 2022

Northern Utah

HUD grant for Utah’s Shoshone Nation band

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding more than $1 million to the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation in Utah. The grant money is part of a COVID response program available to tribal communities. The tribe will use the funds to buy two RVs to provide temporary shelters for people impacted by COVID-19. They can also use the money to buy other equipment for the community. — Caroline Ballard

Studying the health of the salt flats

The Utah Geological Survey is collecting data on the state of groundwater in the Bonneville Salt Flats. Scientists are looking at the effects of climate change, mining and land speed racing. They’re also checking how well a 25-year-old program to replace salt in the flats is working. The study is funded by a million dollar appropriation from the Utah legislature last year — with additional funds from the Bureau of Land Management. Other partners include the University of Utah, the mining company Intrepid Potash and the racing community. Scientists say the salt flats have been shrinking for more than three decades. — Elaine Clark

State

State Senator says without raises for caregivers, Utah is ‘failing’ disabled people

Utah lawmakers want people who work in disability services to make more money. On Wednesday, they talked about directing more funding to providers during the Social Services Appropriations Committee. According to a report from Utah’s Department of Health and Human Services, the typical starting wage for disability care providers is $11.45 an hour. Right now, there are 930 staff vacancies, and that limits access to care for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. State Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, said if those jobs don’t have competitive wages, the state is “failing” people with disabilities. Advocates are asking for $40 million in additional funding for providers. Read the full story. — Emily Means

State expands medical cannabis referral program

More doctors in Utah can now prescribe medical cannabis. A new program lets state licensed physicians, advanced practice medical nurses, physician assistants or podiatrists recommend cannabis for up to 15 patients. The practitioner must have a controlled substance license. Before this, only those registered with the Utah Department of Health were allowed to recommend cannabis. There are now more than 21,000 clinicians who can do so. Patients younger than 21 still need to see one of the 800 providers on the state’s approved list. — Elaine Clark

Region/Nation

BLM gets boost from new foundation

A new nonprofit organization launched Wednesday to support the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Foundation for America's Public Lands will help the agency with fundraising, outreach and building new partnerships. It's not part of the government, but it will work alongside federal employees to support public lands around the country. The foundation will focus on improving access to public lands for Latinos and other communities of color. It will also support reforms like increasing the amount of renewable energy projects. While it's a first for the BLM, many other federal agencies already have their own foundations. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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