Southeast Utah Bureau | KUER 90.1

Southeast Utah Bureau

An empty road approaches a park entrance booth, which is out of sight. A rocky ridge rises up in the background.
David Fuchs / KUER

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks closed indefinitely on Saturday, following calls from local governments and public health departments to temporarily shut down the parks to visitors due to coronavirus concerns. 

Photo of the Sheraton Hotel in Salt Lake City
Wikimedia Commons

Erica Ridd worked at a restaurant called Punch Bowl Social in Salt Lake City until last Monday — when she got an email telling her she’d been laid off. 

Photo of census forms mailed to residents
Arianna Pickard / KUER

The Census Bureau has suspended field operations across the U.S. and moved operation deadlines back in response to the coronavirus outbreak. But the bureau is still encouraging all households to respond as soon as possible — online, by phone, or by mail. 

Photo of a sign welcoming people to the city of Bluff in Utah
Wikimedia Commons

BLUFF — Hotel owner Jen Davila normally staffs up in the spring, ahead of the busy tourist season. But this year nothing is normal. 

Screengrab of a man speaking in a recorded press conference
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer Facebook page

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez on Wednesday issued an executive order banning travel to the Navajo Nation. The move comes after two Navajo Nation residents on Tuesday tested positive for coronavirus, after traveling off the reservation. 

Photo of a road sign that welcomes visitors to moab
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Hotels in Moab will not admit new visitors for the next 30 days because of coronavirus, health officials announced Tuesday. 

Photo of a line of cars at the entrance of Arches National Park.
KUER File Photo

Updated 9:11 a.m. MDT 3/17/2020

“Please. Do. More. Now.” 

That's the message Moab Regional Hospital sent yesterday to Gov. Gary Herbert. In a letter, the hospital’s leadership asked Herbert to close all non-essential businesses in Moab for two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak. They wrote that Moab could see up to 6,000 visitors next weekend, based on current hotel bookings. 

Photo of the Flaming Gorge dam.
Wikimedia Commons

Legislation to study the cost of diverting water from the Green River to the Wasatch Front is headed for a final vote in the State Senate this week. But opponents say the potential project is misguided. 

Photo of three men and a woman sitting at a table smiling and signing papers
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

TEEC NOS POS, ARIZ. — A 2-year-old stalemate over who should maintain roads on the Navajo Nation in San Juan County ended Monday, with the signing of a new road maintenance agreement. But county officials say the arrangement doesn’t go far enough. 

Photo of the slickrock bike trail
Wikimedia Commons

Moab and Grand County officials breathed a sigh of relief last week, when the Bureau of Land Management announced it will defer leasing land inside the Sand Flats Recreation Area to oil and gas developers in an upcoming lease sale. 

Photo of bikers on the Slick Rock trail
Wikimedia Commons

Updated 1:21 p.m. MT 2/19/20

MOAB — The Sand Flats recreation area is home to two of Moab’s main attractions: the world-famous Slickrock Bike Trail and the Hell’s Revenge Jeep Trail. Together, they draw thousands of visitors here every year, contributing millions of dollars to the local economy.

Photo of Bears Ears Buttes.
KUER File Photo

Updated 11:33 a.m. MST 2/15/2020

The recently released management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, already slammed by tribes and environmentalists, may also violate federal law, according to a new law review article by two University of Utah researchers. 

A trailer, a shack and a house with solar panels sit on a hill in the foreground, and a large house sits on a hill in the background.
Kate Groetzinger/KUER

WESTWATER — Just across a shallow canyon from Blanding, around 20 Navajo families live here in small homes and trailers. They rely on solar panels for electricity and haul their water from town, while — less than half a mile away — Blanding residents run dishwashers and appliances off a municipal power and water supply. 

A pump jack at dusk surrounded by sagebrush
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

The Bluff Town Council, tasked with overseeing growth in the recently incorporated community, recently faced a quandary.

Photo of Bears Ears Buttes.
KUER File Photo

Updated 2:24 p.m. MST 2/6/2020

In the face of ongoing litigation from tribes and conservation groups, the Trump administration has finalized plans to expand drilling, mining and grazing across southern Utah — including within the former bounds of Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments. 

A smattering of trees sits in the foreground beneath a large arch on a canyon rim.
David Fuchs / KUER

There’s long been a divide at the state Legislature between southern Utah and the more populous Wasatch Front. And booming growth in southwest Utah is leaving behind the rural southeast and central parts of the state, some lawmakers say. 

A well pad and access roads seen from above
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

BLUFF – An application to drill for oil and gas on public land near the Navajo Nation in San Juan County has residents worried about their water supply. 

Photo of running tap water.
Austin Kirk / Flickr Creative Commons

Wednesday morning, Jan. 22, 2020

Snow covers a tree-lined road.
Austin Benjamin / Flickr

Tuesday evening, December 24, 2019

A decorative road sign reads “Welcome to Moab, Grand County, Utah.”
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Grand County voters will be asked to approve a new form of government next year, or revert to a three-member commission. The option on the ballot will likely be a five-member council, with all members elected at-large, and a county manager, as suggested by a study committee last week. 

Photo of people holding posters of missing Navajo people.
Courtesy Navajo Nation Missing Persons Updates

Salt Lake resident Cassandra Begay says her family left the Navajo Nation to escape violence on the reservation. But she wasn’t able to leave the issue behind. 

two ornaments with different designs hang from a tree branch. One is a starry sky and the other is turquoise and says “take pride of being indigenous” with a red handprint beneath it.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Twenty-four custom ornaments made the trip from Montezuma Creek to Washington, D.C. to adorn a Christmas tree across from the White House this holiday season. The tree is part of the ‘America Celebrates’ display, which includes the towering National Christmas Tree, and 56 smaller trees, representing every U.S. state and territory. 

Photo of the San Juan County administrative building.
Courtesy of San Juan County

Weber County has completed an investigation into an allegation of electioneering by the San Juan County Clerk. But San Juan will have to find another county to determine whether or not to file charges. 

Aerial view of houses located in valley among red rock formations.
istock / Alena Mozhjer

GALLUP, N.M. — Most people in the United States will receive a letter in the spring asking them to fill out the 2020 census online. But residents of the Navajo Nation will receive a paper questionnaire, hand-delivered to their door. That means the Census Bureau must recruit workers to visit every home on the reservation. 

Two women walk up to a house with dogs running around on red dirt ground.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

There is only one measure on the ballot this year in San Juan County. It asks voters if they think the county should explore changing its form of government, which is currently a three-member commission. That could mean more commissioners and new districts. And that’s got some residents concerned. 

Photo of Bears Ears Buttes.
Erik Neumann

Legal challenges to President Donald Trump’s reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments may move forward, now that a federal judge has denied the Trump Administration’s requests that the cases be dismissed. 

Photo of oil pump.
iStock.com / DennyThurstonPhotography

Environmental groups are sounding the alarm about a process they say cheats taxpayers and favors the oil and gas industry. The Wilderness Society and Center for Western Priorities say Congress needs to pass legislation to reform the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas leasing program.

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.

Photo of a man and woman dancing together in the middle of a red dirt corral as children look on.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

At the White Mesa fairground in central San Juan County, about 50 boys and girls stand opposite each other in a red dirt corral lined with tall cedars. They’re ready to take their first steps in the traditional Bear Dance. But first, they need a partner. 

Photo of former San Juan County CommissionerMark Maryboy at a town hall meeting.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Efforts to change the form of government in San Juan County brought cultural and political tensions to the fore last week, prompting accusations of racism. Former County Commissioner Mark Maryboy, whose brother Kenneth is a county commissioner, called some residents who support the change in county government “racist Mormons,” adding, “They are all probably a member of the Ku Klux Klan.”

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