Drought Great Salt Lake

Robert Atkinson, 91, is pushed by his daughter Laurie Conklin along the receding shoreline before his flight over the Great Salt Lake on June 18, 2021, near Salt Lake City. A resort long since closed once drew sunbathers who would float like corks in the extra salty waters. Picnic tables once a quick stroll from the shore are now a 10-minute walk away.


Wildlife, air quality at risk as Great Salt Lake nears low

SALT LAKE CITY — The silvery blue waters of the Great Salt Lake sprawl across the Utah desert, having covered an area nearly the size of Delaware for much of history. For years, though, the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River has been shrinking. And a drought gripping the American West could make this year the worst yet.

The receding water is already affecting the nesting spot of pelicans that are among the millions of birds dependent on the lake. Sailboats have been hoisted out of the water to keep them from getting stuck in the mud. More dry lakebed getting exposed could send arsenic-laced dust into the air that millions breathe.

The lake's levels are expected to hit a 170-year low this year. It comes as the drought has the U.S. West bracing for a brutal wildfire season and coping with already low reservoirs. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, has begged people to cut back on lawn watering and "pray for rain."

The waves have been replaced by dry, gravelly lakebed that's grown to 750 square miles. Winds can whip up dust from the dry lakebed that is laced with naturally occurring arsenic, said Kevin Perry, a University of Utah atmospheric scientist.

It blows through a region that already has some of the dirtiest wintertime air in the country because of seasonal geographic conditions that trap pollution between the mountains.

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This year is primed to be especially bleak. Utah is one of the driest states in the country, and most of its water comes from snowfall. The snowpack was below normal last winter and the soil was dry, meaning much of the melted snow that flowed down the mountains soaked into the ground.

Most years, the Great Salt Lake gains up to 2 feet from spring runoff. This year, it was just 6 inches, Perry said.


Ted Turner to give land to nonprofit but keep paying taxes

LINCOLN — Media mogul and billionaire bison rancher Ted Turner is donating an 80,000-acre ranch he owns in western Nebraska to his own nonprofit agriculture ecosystem research institute and says he might do the same with four other ranches in Nebraska's Sand Hills.

But he'll continue to pay taxes on the land, much to the relief of local officials and Nebraska leaders, the Omaha World-Herald reported July 8.

State officials had feared Turner — the founder of 24-hour news cable network CNN and Nebraska's largest landowner with nearly 500,000 acres of western Nebraska ranchland — might turn over the land to a nonprofit and remove vast tracts of land from property tax rolls.

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The news release from Turner Enterprises Inc. and Turner Ranches announced the launch of the Turner Institute of Ecoagriculture, which expects to work in conjunction with South Dakota State University to conduct research and develop strategies to conserve ecosystems while raising bison and generating income off grazing lands.

Turner's bison ranches already focus on sustainable practices, including rotational grazing. There also has been a focus on studying and preserving endangered species, as well as wildlife habitat projects.

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Jeffrey Epstein's ranch listed for $27.5 million

SANTA FE — A sprawling New Mexico ranch belonging to deceased financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is on the market for $27.5 million.

The 12-square-mile Zorro Ranch was put up for sale by Epstein's estate and includes a 26,700-square-foot mansion and a private airstrip with a hangar and helipad, according to the listing by Neil Lyon Group at Sotheby's International Realty Santa Fe.

Epstein killed himself in jail in 2019 at age 66 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking girls in New York and Florida.

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The listing was reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said proceeds from the sale would go toward compensating those who filed claims against Epstein and paying taxes and creditors.

Epstein purchased the property in southern Santa Fe County in 1993. Besides the mansion, the ranch includes several other residences, including an off-the-grid cabin, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Local real estate professionals have said the highly publicized accusations against Epstein probably won't have much effect on what the ranch and its massive mansion ultimately fetch on the market, the New Mexican reported.

Epstein did not face any charges tied to New Mexico, but news reports have said court documents and civil cases accused him of sexually assaulting teenage girls and women at the property.

Court upholds restrictions on legislative access

SANTA FE — The New Mexico Constitution doesn't clearly require that the public be allowed to attend legislative sessions so rule changes made during the pandemic to restrict in-person access were permissible, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

The opinion issued June 30 explains the court's decision last year on Republican lawmakers' argument that the restrictions deprived citizens of their constitutional right to participate in the legislative process, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

The public was allowed to watch floor debates online and testify at committee hearings via video chat.

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"There is simply no clear or explicit constitutional mandate to be found in the public sessions provision that would justify" nullifying the attendance restrictions, then-Justice Judith K. Nakamura wrote in the majority opinion.

Two justices dissented, saying the state constitution "limits the Legislature's authority to exclude the public from individually attending the sessions in person."

Yet they also wrote that "based on the facts of this case, online or virtual access exceeds the constitutional minimum required" for hearings to "be public."


Casper angler reels in record-breaking longnose sucker

Chris Bobo had only been fishing for five minutes when he felt the tug.

The tug was an 18-inch longnose sucker, more than 9 inches around and weighing in at 2 pounds, 4.5 ounces.

The Casper angler now holds the state record for the largest longnose sucker caught in Wyoming (and he has the 11 by 17 inch certificate hanging on his wall to prove it).

Bobo was fishing with his brother and a friend in the North Platte on May 21, near Robertson Road in Paradise Valley.

He normally prefers fishing for walleye, and was on the lookout for trout that day. But when he saw the sucker on the end of his line, he suspected he had a record on his hand.

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The people at the local Game and Fish outpost sent him to the post office, where he verified the weight before measuring its dimensions back at Game and Fish. They took a picture, recorded it, and Bobo was back on the river in time to finish out the day.

The record was 23 years old, set in 1998 by a catch from Little Goose Creek outside of Sheridan.

Bobo said he’s been fishing his whole life and hoping to become a guide. He has a Facebook page — Bobo's Fishing Adventures — where he and more than 200 other anglers share pictures of big catches and tips to get them.

The last fishing record broken in Wyoming was also in the North Platte, another sucker — but a shorthead redhorse caught last May by Michael Ayars, according to Game and Fish's logs.

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