US Bears Ears Monument Management Plan

This 2017 photo shows Arch Canyon within Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

UTAH

Environmentalists, tribes blast national monument plan

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. government has decided to allow off-road vehicles access to archaeologically sensitive land at a Utah national monument that houses sacred tribal sites.

The Bureau of Land Management's plan for the Bears Ears National Monument says that certain historic sites most at risk will be off limits, but the agency chose an alternative that closes about 42 square miles to off-road vehicles. That's far less than a different option that would have closed nearly 184 square miles.

The plan was met by immediate criticism from environmental and tribal organizations, who say it will leave sensitive lands and sites vulnerable to damage.

"It's like seeing that your grandmother's house has been robbed," said Carleton Bowekaty co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. "These lands are sacred to us and they are being destroyed — sometimes inadvertently — by people who don't understand our culture and way of life."

The groups also consider the year-plus spent developing the plan a waste of time because lawsuits challenging the downsizing are pending.

BLM Utah state director Ed Roberson said that the plan protects cultural resources while allowing for recreation, keeping most of the monument open for hunting, fishing and target shooting. Roberson noted that no shooting will be allowed near cliff dwellings, petroglyphs and campgrounds.

President Barack Obama created Bears Ears National Monument in 2016 after years of lobbying by Native American groups who asked for more protections on what they consider sacred lands that are home to ancient cliff dwellings and other artifacts.

A year later, President Donald Trump downsized it by about 85% to 315 square miles following a review of 27 national monuments by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Trump earned cheers from Republican leaders in Utah.

ARIZONA

Official: State to resume executions after 5-year hiatus

PHOENIX — Arizona is poised to resume executions after a five-year hiatus brought on by an execution that critics said was botched, a subsequent lawsuit challenging the way the state carries out the death penalty, and the difficulty of finding lethal injection drugs, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said.

Brnovich said in a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey that the now-resolved lawsuit removed legal barriers to carrying out executions. He also said a recent U.S. Justice Department opinion clears the way for states to import pentobarbital, a drug used in executions.

It's unknown when the next execution will be scheduled. Fourteen of the 116 inmates on death row in Arizona have exhausted all appeals of their sentences.

Brnovich's letter comes after a U.S. Justice Department announcement that the federal government intends to carry out several executions in the coming months.

Executions in Arizona were put on hold after the July 2014 death of Joseph Wood, who was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours. His attorney had said the execution was botched.

Wood, 55, was executed for the August 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, at an automotive shop in Tucson.

In recent years, Arizona and other states have struggled to buy execution drugs after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections.

NEW MEXICO

Less than a third of state’s students test proficient

ALBUQUERQUE — Less than a third of all New Mexico students are proficient in reading and only about one-fifth are proficient in math, according to new results.

The results from a revamped test in 2019 show that public school districts and charter schools saw a small jump in reading from the year before but a slight drop in math — though the scores are from separate exams.

According to the results, only 32.7% of all New Mexico students tested proficient or better in reading. Meanwhile, just 20.3% tested proficient or better in math.

Last year, results from the test called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, show that around 31% of students tested were proficient or better in reading and more than 21% were proficient or better in math.

The results come just days after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham abruptly fired Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo, sparking questions from lawmakers and confusion among educators.

Lujan Grisham said Trujillo was removed from her job after the governor's expectations were not met in many areas.

Before the assessments began, the Lujan Grisham administration announced it would scrap the PARCC exam for a new test called "New Mexico Standards-Based Transition Assessment of Math and English Language Arts."

State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said she's not surprised by the results because educators are still working through what she called a traumatic time under Republican former Gov. Susana Martinez.

OKLAHOMA

Plan halted to house migrant kids at Army base

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Trump administration no longer needs to detain migrant children at an Oklahoma Army base and preparations to house them there have stopped, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

Evelyn Stauffer, spokeswoman for the agency's Administration for Children and Families, said no children have been held at the base at Lawton, about 80 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

Homeland Security officials said earlier this month there was a 28% drop in the number of migrants encountered by Customs and Border Protection in June, amid a crackdown on migrants by Mexico.

There were 104,344 migrants in June, down from 144,278 the month before. Homeland Security officials said the numbers of single adults, families and unaccompanied minors at the border had all declined.

Japanese Americans and Native Americans were among those who took part in a march and rally in front of one of the entrances to Fort Sill, where hundreds of Japanese and Japanese American people were detained by the federal government during World War II.

Fort Sill also housed migrant children in 2014 under the Obama administration and was used to hold Apache prisoners of war from 1894-1910.

MONTANA

Park officials teed off over tourists' golf break

MISSOULA — Glacier National Park officials are teed off over a report that tourists were hitting golf balls off the park's scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road during a traffic delay.

NBC Montana posted a video taken by a tourist during a road construction delay that shows two men teeing off with golf clubs on the side of the mountain road.

Glacier spokeswoman Lauren Alley said the incident is under investigation.

She says throwing or hurling things over Going-to-the-Sun Road has the potential to hurt or kill people or wildlife.

Anyone who spots such activity should try to record the person's license plate number or remember their face, if it can be done safely, she added.

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