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Zinke touts effort to improve big-game habitat

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Friday that he’s taking steps to study and preserve habitat and migration corridors in Western states for big-game animals such as elk, mule and deer, a move that hunters and some experts applauded but that critics called an effort to cover up damage.

Zinke’s order calls on his agency to work closer with states and private landowners. He announced it during a trip to Utah, where he recommended significantly downsizing two sprawling national monuments that President Donald Trump approved. It received support from Republican leaders but triggered outcry among environmental groups and a coalition of tribes who protested Zinke’s latest visit.

Hunting groups joined him for his announcement at a hunting and conservation expo in Salt Lake City and said the plan will add important protections for animals such as deer and elk.

The Interior Department will study migration habits and devise ways to improve habitat, Zinke said, which could include getting ranchers to modify fences and collaborating with states on sagebrush restoration.

The order will prioritize work on animal corridors to ensure wildlife is preserved for future generations, Zinke said. Invoking President Teddy Roosevelt, he called himself a steward of public lands and took a shot at his frequent critics.

“I’m not an advocate for ever selling or transfer of public lands, but I am an advocate for managing,” Zinke said.

Matthew Kauffman, a University of Wyoming associate professor and big-game wildlife migration expert, applauded the move that comes as researchers using advanced technology can now precisely document migration corridors and the roads, fences and housing developments that impede them.

In Wyoming, conservationists recently purchased land on a slate slated for a housing development to preserve a quarter-mile-wide stretch of land where 4,000 mule deer cross each year, Kauffman said.

Tracking collars now last two to three years and show researchers where animals are every hour, he said.

“The science is there. We know how to map these,” Kauffman said. “It’s a very logical next step which builds on the last 10-15 years of migration research.”

The Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group, acknowledged that it’s important to plan for wildlife migration but noted that Zinke has inflicted major damage to lands by supporting the oil industry and recommending reductions to national monuments.

“We won’t allow the secretary and his staff to greenwash this abysmal record with meager policy crumbs,” group deputy director, Greg Zimmerman, said in the statement.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, blasted the decision as nothing more than “bureaucratic window dressing” to cover up damage Zinke has done to the habitat.

“If Secretary Zinke were serious about increasing America’s wildlife populations, he would stand by western governors’ protections for sagebrush country, restore public input on drilling decisions, and stand up for America’s national monuments and wildlife refuges instead of selling them out,” the organization said in a statement.

A few dozen protesters made their anger known outside the hunting expo. A person in a bear suit and another in a dinosaur costume stood next to a cardboard cutout of Zinke with a sign stuck to it that said, “Utahans love Bears Ears and Grand Staircase.”

“Monuments tell the stories of who we are as Americans. They are places that hold our values,” said Terri Martin of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “When the Trump administration shrink them, they shrink all of us, they shrink who we are and what we stand for.”

Zinke said environmental groups that criticize his monument recommendation are using “nefarious” and “false” claims. He said “every inch” of the lands stripped from the monuments are still protected under other designations.

“Public lands belong to the people, not special interests,” he said.

Zinke also met with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to discuss his plan to move more of the Interior Department’s decision-making to the West, including the agency’s Bureau of Land Management.

Herbert, a Republican, called the plan “good old-fashioned common sense” that can help restore the trust between states and the federal government.

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SCA town halls increase communication

SPRING CREEK — To increase transparency and communications, the Spring Creek Association recently hosted four town hall tract meetings.

“We want to be more transparent,” said SCA President Jessie Bahr. “We want to get as much information out there about what’s going on. We want to get that feedback back.”

The meetings offered members a chance to learn about key initiatives, strategic plans and top priorities. Members could also meet their board representatives and ask questions in the open forum format.

“Part of our communication plan has been [that] we’ve got to get different avenues to communicate,” Bahr said. “Some folks like to come to face-to-face meetings.”

Tract 100 residents met Jan. 29, Tract 200 on Jan. 30, Tract 300 on Jan. 31, and Tract 400 on Feb. 1. All events were conducted at the Fairway Community Center in Spring Creek at 6 p.m.

These meetings were the association’s first town-hall-style meetings for each individual tract, and the team hopes to offer more in the future, as often as biannually. SCA also hosts an annual meeting every June, holds monthly board and committee of architecture meetings, and has conducted meetings on specific topics such as water and internet when needed.

The idea is to provide “just as many ways to communicate as possible so that they can really get their concerns out,” Bahr said. “It’s just getting that communication out there. … As long as you connect with us, we are willing to make changes.”

Members can also stay up to date on association news on social media, by calling the office, going to the office, texting, or attending board or committee of architecture meetings, which include time for public comment.

Town hall gatherings for tracts 100 and 400 had the highest attendance, with about 25 members each. There are about 15,000 residents in the association.

Tract 400 board representative Paddy Legarza said she hopes for more participation in the future. “I wish there had been a few more people,” said Legarza, who has served on the board since about 2011.

Bahr gave presentations at each session then opened up the floor for comments. Members’ questions covered issues such as roads, water, internet, animals and weeds.

Tract 400 residents Danny and Dawn Dawson attended their town hall meeting Feb. 1. “I’d like to commend the office,” Danny Dawson said. “I’ve had nothing but help when I walk through that door.”

He also recognized the association’s efforts to move forward on issues such as water, tidy up unregistered vehicles and provide community events such as trick-or-treating and movie nights at the Spring Creek Marina.

“We understand that in the past, we might not have been as responsible as we should have been; we haven’t had the plans that we should have had in place, but we do have a strategic plan now,” Bahr said. “We do have a vision to help the community based on what they’ve told us, and we are going to get things done.”

The SCA Board of Directors meets the fourth Wednesday of every month at 5:30 p.m., and the SCA Committee of Architecture meets the second Tuesday of every month, also at 5:30 p.m. Both meetings are conducted at the Fairway Community Center in Spring Creek. Visit for more information.

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Elko man arrested on arson, firearms charges

ELKO – An Elko man was booked on arson and firearms charges Sunday after police received a report of a pistol being fired in the air on the 200 block of Pine Street.

Officers were also told that the man was carrying a gas can.

“Upon arrival to the area, another report came in of a fire in the 400 block of Pine Street where an approximately 10-foot by 15-foot patch of weeds had burnt,” Elko Police Capt. Ty Trouten said.

Jacob Pangborn, 28, was apprehended in the 900 block of Court Street shortly after noon.

“Pangborn had a pistol on his person and is a prohibited person,” Trouten said, because of prior domestic violence convictions.

He was arrested on charges of fourth-degree attempted arson, owning or possessing a gun by a prohibited person, and carrying a concealed explosive, gun or dangerous weapon without a permit.

According to Elko Daily Free Press files, Pangborn previously pleaded guilty to second offense domestic battery and domestic battery charges, which were amended from battery by strangulation, in 2016.

He was also arrested in 2012 on charges of domestic violence, unarmed robbery and burglary. At that time, police told the Free Press that Pangborn had been arrested for domestic violence at least four times in the past year and a half.

Total bail on Sunday’s charges was listed at $30,000.

Leaping elk crashes low-flying helicopter

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Authorities say a leaping elk brought down a research helicopter trying to capture the animal in the mountains of eastern Utah.

Wasatch County authorities say the elk jumped into the chopper’s tail rotor as the craft flew low while trying to capture the animal with a net.

The two people on board weren’t seriously hurt, but wildlife officials say the elk died of its injuries.

The state-contracted Australian crew had been trying to capture and sedate the elk so they could collar it and research its movements about 90 miles east of Salt Lake City.

Tonya Kieffer with the Division of Wildlife Resources tells the Salt Lake Tribune it’s the first time something like this has happened while crews use helicopters to monitor wildlife.

Travel delays Thursday night on I-80 near Wells

ELKO – Overnight lane closures and travel delays will take place Thursday night on Interstate 80 west of Wells, as utility improvements are made.

Single lane closures, including intermittent stops with up to 20-minute travel delays, will occur near mile marker 344 east of the Welcome interchange between 11 p.m. Feb. 15 and 3 a.m. Feb. 16 as utility providers replace a high-voltage line over the interstate, the Nevada Department of Transportation reported.

“Drivers are advised to drive safely and heed roadway signage through the work zone,” stated the announcement.