Health Science & Environment | KUER 90.1

Health Science & Environment

Stock photo of a tailpipe.
iStock

For the past 12 years, officials in Utah have dubbed September the start of idle free season, an annual reminder for residents to turn off their cars. On Monday, the tradition continued as Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, along with other state and local leaders and the non-profit Utah Clean Cities, made this year’s announcement at a press conference at the Capitol. 

Instructor Graham Dunne is holding up some printouts with faces on them. He tells his students they're smaller than real heads.

"Here's some useless knowledge from being a sniper," he says. "The average human head is 6 inches across by 10 inches high. These are probably half that."

We're at the Flatrock Regional Training Center in Commerce City, Colorado. Usually the people training here are law enforcement, but today they're teachers, principals, bus drivers, coaches and school administrators — 13 of them.

Photo of a rock showing pictographs.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Conservation and tribal groups are criticizing the Bureau of Land Management for its latest oil and gas lease sale of more than 70,000 acres of public land in Utah. 

The sale, which occurred this week, brought in around $1.63 million, according to the BLM, more than half of which came from 32,027 acres in San Juan County.

The sale is the third since March 2018 to include land between Bears Ears and Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, much of which conservation groups say should not be leased. 

From more intense wildfires to prolonged droughts, climate change is impacting the ecology of the American West. That’s got researchers in our region looking at a new way to fight some of these impacts: drones.

Photo of Huckabay looking out her window.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

This story has been corrected.

SPANISH VALLEY — When Marlene Huckabay moved to Spanish Valley in 1994, her two-acre lot was little more than a patch of desert with a tar paper shack surrounded by stark, red-rock cliffs.

Love it or hate it, Burning Man has become an institution in Northern Nevada. The annual counter-culture festival in the Black Rock Desert draws tens of thousands of tourists every year, bolstering the area's economy and arts scene. However, critics are concerned about the amount of trash and refuse left behind. KUNR's Paul Boger took a look around town to see the trash post-burn.

You might not know it but there’s a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture whose job includes killing wild animals – to the tune of millions each year.  It used to be called Animal Damage Control. Now it’s simply called Wildlife Services. Depending on who you talk to, the agency is controversial and secretive or, well-managed and essential.

Photo of a skateboarder practicing at Salt Lake City's new skatepark.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk remembers coming to Utah in the 1990s, when Park City was one of the few places that allowed snowboarding.

Photo of William Perry Pendley.
U.S. Department of the Interior

The newly-minted head of the Bureau of Land Management is defending himself after attracting the ire of environmental groups. They are concerned about potential conflicts of interest and his views on public lands. 

Finding a river in the West that still behaves like a Western river -- one that rises and falls with the annual rush of melting snow -- is tough. 

Many of the region’s major streams are controlled by dams. Their flows come at the push of a button. Instead of experiencing dynamic flows, dammed rivers are evened out. Floods are mitigated and managed, seen as a natural disaster rather than an ecological necessity. 

A recent study says the American West should be doing more prescribed burns to keep forests healthy and to help lessen the impacts of wildfires across our region. It also concluded that there needs to be a change in how we perceive the practice out here for that to happen.

Photo of the rear-end of a Zion National Park Shuttle on a winding canyon road. Clouds of sand that are several times its height billow above.
Photo courtesy of Kathleen Kavarra Corr.

The Saturday evening sky above Zion National Park was bright blue and cloudless when Dixie State geography adjunct professor Kathleen Kavarra Corr said she heard a crack like thunder.

For a lot of people, when they hear about forensic science that's used to solve crime, they think of the CSI television franchise that's set in places like Miami, New York and Las Vegas. But in fact, one of the most advanced forensic laboratories in the country is here in the Mountain West.

Photo of a landscape of red sands and red rock in Kane County.
Utah Geological Survey

A petition calling on Gardner Company to cut off its support to a controversial frac sand mine outside Kanab has picked up over 2,600 signatures. 

Photo of vertebrae in plaster.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

WHITE MESA — Just south of Blanding, researchers are excavating seven giant dinosaur vertebrae. They are part of a 70-foot-long diplodocus skeleton that will be on display at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

iStock.com / tadamichi

Utah saw a jump in demand for mental health services over the last three years, according to a state Legislative Auditor General report discussed at an interim legislative session Tuesday.

Susan Lang, U. of S.C. / NSF / ROV Jason / 2018 © WHOI

Here are the basic building blocks of most life as we know it: carbon, energy, and water. But if you’re looking for signs of life in space – you need to change how you think about life itself.

A hand enters combination on a safe with numerical pad.
istock.com / C5Media

The National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah released research on Friday that offers new insight into suicide prevention among military personnel. 

Photo of a bus with the destination “star shuttle” picking up passengers in a dark parking lot.
David Fuchs / KUER

Bryce Canyon National Park announced its official certification this week as an International Dark Sky Park.

Photo of bear returning to wild.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Updated 1:05 p.m. MDT 8/13/19: Bear activity is up in 2019, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR). As of July, 29 incidents involving bears had been reported, more than double the number of incidents reported by the same time last year. 

Zebra and quagga mussels can devastate an ecosystem, and Yellowstone National Park is doing everything it can to keep them out. Most recently, that includes harnessing the power of a dog's snout.

Electric, dockless scooters are showing up across the region, especially in bigger cities like Denver and Salt Lake City. But a new study suggests they may not be as environmentally friendly as you think.

These days, drones are everywhere--from the ones you can buy at your local Costco to news drones giving birds' eye views of sporting events. Soon, you'll even be able to get your Amazon deliveries with the company's "Prime Air" drone fleet.

iStock.com / quickshooting

Updated 11:45 a.m. MDT 8/2/19

Facing an already high rate of suicide in Utah, state officials are now taking a closer look at the scale of farmers taking their own lives. 

The issue comes from a complex combination of factors affecting farm country, including financial insecurity, decades of agricultural consolidation, international trade disputes and natural disasters that experts say are pushing some farmers into hopelessness.

The Mountain West has disproportionately high rates of depressive disorders and suicide. Researchers are trying to find out why. Turns out, the mountains themselves might have something to do with it. 

Environmental activists are calling for a united voice in protesting the Department of Energy's recent shipment of nuclear waste through our region.

Earlier this month, the Department of Energy sent a shipment of nuclear waste from Tennessee to southern Nevada. The shipment was incorrectly labeled as low-level waste, but it was actually mixed with waste that needs treatment before disposal. Nevada officials accused the agency of trying to sneak the material into the state illegally.

It’s no secret that wildfires are getting worse in the West. They’re threatening lives, homes and ecosystems. And they are also threatening our already-precarious watersheds. It’s all becoming a vicious cycle  — especially for the drier parts of our region. 

Photo of hemp plants.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

More than 16,000 Utahns could get medical cannabis cards during the program’s first year, according to estimates commissioned by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

Photo of a bollard light illuminating the main street in Ivins with a warm glow.
David Fuchs / KUER

IVINS — Around 11:30 p.m. on a recent, cloudless Monday night, Tim Povlick was hard at work measuring the brightness of the sky. 

Keven Walgamott, a real estate agent who lost his left hand and part of his arm in an electrical accident in 2002, got emotional when he was able to clasp his hands together and "feel" the space between his thumb and his index finger using a 3D-printed prosthetic hand in 2016.

"That was the first time I ever felt anything in my left hand since my amputation," Walgamott says. He got emotional a second time when he was able to grasp his wife's hand and "feel" her touch, this time through a newly designed, experimental prosthetic hand that can be directed with the user's mind.

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