GATHERING IN THE WEST | The judge blocks the drilling on the sage grouse; OK sign abandons ‘Dixie’ | Quick shots

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WYOMING

Judge blocks drilling plans, citing bird habitat

CHEYENNE – A judge has halted oil and gas drilling plans in large areas of Wyoming and Montana, citing concerns over a sagebrush bird.

The United States Bureau of Land Management did not sufficiently consider the impact of drilling on the sage grouse, nor the possibility of postponing drilling in the bird’s primary habitat, ruled on June 8. Idaho U.S. District Judge Ronald E. Bush

Bush ordered further study of the potential effects on the bird before proceeding with the drilling.

Drilling would take place on more than 600 square miles of federal land scattered across energy-rich states. The Bureau of Land Management auctioned hundreds of leases in sage-grouse habitat in four sales in 2017.

The Greater Sage-Grouse is a chicken-sized bird, mainly living on the ground, whose numbers have declined dramatically from the millions that inhabited the western United States during the border era. The US Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2010 that the bird deserved special protection, but said in 2015 that Wyoming-led conservation efforts made it unnecessary.

The environmental group that sued the leases, Western Watersheds Project, hailed Bush’s decision.

BLM spokesman Brad Purdy declined to comment, citing the agency’s policy of not discussing pending litigation. The agency’s allies in the case included industry group Western Energy Alliance and the state of Wyoming, where Republican Gov. Mark Gordon was weighing whether to appeal.

The move comes amid a federal moratorium on oil and gas leasing imposed by President Joe Biden’s administration as it studies the effects on climate change.

UTAH

University should drop ‘Dixie’ name, panel says

SALT LAKE CITY – A committee formed to consider a name change for a university in Utah voted on June 7 to choose a replacement that does not include Dixie – a regional term many consider offensive because of its association with the Great South and slavery.

Dixie State University, located in St. George, Utah, has been studying the impact of the name change for nearly a year following a nationwide outcry over racial injustice following the death of George Floyd. While several hurdles remain, the committee’s decision makes it likely that the name ultimately recommended to the legislature will not include the controversial term that has sparked months of protest and debate.

The university’s board of trustees formed a committee in March to consider options for the institution’s name in a process outlined in a bill signed by Governor Spencer Cox earlier this year. The committee gathered comments from a public poll, as well as students, university staff and community members before voting to drop the Dixie name.

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The committee planned to meet again to discuss the specific names that performed well in the focus groups, and then choose one to recommend to the university’s board of trustees. The name will then go to the Utah Higher Education Council, which has until Nov. 1 to vote on whether to recommend the name to a legislative committee.

The nickname’s deep ties to local history fueled a backlash in the GOP-dominated legislature. Lawmakers passed a watered-down version of the bill that would require the name to be reconsidered next year, but allow the option of keeping it.

Dixie State had been subject to scrutiny in the past over its name, but resisted its change. The area was nicknamed Dixie, a reference to the southern states, when settlers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many from the South, attempted to make it a cotton-growing mecca in the 1800s.

Supporters say the name is important to the heritage of the region and is distinct from the history of slavery.

NEW MEXICO

State Offers Largest Single Vaccine Prize in United States

SANTA FE – New Mexico is betting big that money can persuade people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, offering the biggest cash prize among the growing number of states running lotteries to promote vaccinations.

Vaccinated residents who register for New Mexico’s “Vax 2 the Max” portal can win prizes totaling $ 10 million, including a grand prize of $ 5 million, Gov. Michelle announced. Lujan Grisham on May 31.

At least 55% of the state’s eligible residents are fully vaccinated, but the health ministry wants to reach 70% and move closer to possible herd immunity.

Colorado, Ohio, and California also have lotteries that have been successful in increasing vaccination rates. California previously offered the largest single prize of $ 1.5 million out of a total of $ 116 million.

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The cash prize offered by New Mexico would go far in the state which is one of the poorest in the country, ranking 48th in per capita income of about $ 45,800, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis from the US Department of Commerce.

Lujan Grisham said the lottery program is funded by federal pandemic relief money.

New Mexico officials will be pulling in prizes of $ 250,000 in each of the state’s four different regions, as well as smaller prizes ranging from “scratch” lottery tickets to in-state vacation packages and tickets. Museum. The $ 5 million raffle will take place in August.

MONTANA

Vehicle crash in underground mine kills 2

NYE – Two workers at the only palladium and platinum mining operation in the United States have died in an underground crash at a mine in Montana, company officials said.

The employees were in a utility vehicle called Side-by-Side that crashed into an underground locomotive on June 9, said Heather McDowell, vice president of South African company Sibanye-Stillwater, owner of Stillwater Mining Co.

The cause of the mine accident near the community of Nye, north of Yellowstone National Park, is under investigation. Mine officials said they were working with safety regulators.

The identity of the workers has not been made public.

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In a statement, company officials said: “We attach paramount importance to safety. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragic event.”

Stillwater Mining Co. has 2,335 employees and contractors, according to its website. Just over 1,200 of them work at the Nye mine, McDowell said.

Its other palladium and platinum mine is near the small town of Big Timber in Montana, and the company has a refining complex in nearby Columbus.

ARIZONA

Bear found stranded on utility pole in southern state

WILLCOX – A bear in Arizona escaped an electrical trip unscathed when it got stuck on a pole.

Sulfur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative, a utility company based in Willcox, southern Arizona, was informed on the morning of June 7 that a bear had become entangled in the wires of utility poles on the outskirts of the city.

Werner Neubauer, a lineman at the company, said they immediately turned off the power so the animal was not electrocuted. Neubauer then climbed into a bucket elevator and used an 8-foot fiberglass stick to try and push the bear down. He even tried to talk to her.

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After sometimes grabbing and biting the stick, the bear finally got down and fled into the wilderness.

According to Neubauer, there were no injuries and the power outage, which affected residential customers, only lasted about 15 minutes.

When explained to him the reason for the outage, he said several customers were understanding.

This is the second time in a month that a bear has been spotted in a town in southern Arizona.

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