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US considers lifting caps for Yellowstone, Glacier grizzlies | OUT WEST ROUNDUP | News


US could lift protections for Yellowstone and Glacier grizzlies

BILLINGS — On Feb. 3, the Biden administration took a first step toward ending federal protections for grizzly bears in the northern Rocky Mountains, which would open the door for future hunting in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said state officials have provided “substantial” information that grizzlies have recovered from the threat of extinction in regions surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

But federal officials have rejected Idaho’s claims that protections should be lifted beyond those areas and raised concerns about new laws in Republican-led states that could potentially harm grizzly populations.

The move kicks off at least a year of additional study before final decisions on the Yellowstone and Glacier regions.

States want the protections lifted so they can resume grizzly management and offer hunts to the public. As grizzly bear populations expanded, more animals moved into areas occupied by people, creating public safety issues and problems for farmers.

State officials have insisted that future hunts would be limited and would not endanger the overall population.

After grizzlies temporarily lost their shelters in the Yellowstone region several years ago, Wyoming and Idaho scheduled hunts that would have killed fewer than two dozen bears in the initial hunting season.

U.S. government scientists said the region’s grizzlies are biologically recovered, but decided in 2021 that protections were still needed due to human-caused bear deaths and other pressures. Bears considered problematic are routinely killed by wildlife officials.


The state GOP chooses the instigator of the election conspiracy as the leader

TOPEKA – Republicans on Feb. 11 narrowly picked an activist who promoted baseless campaign conspiracies and promised a jolt to lead the Kansas GOP for the next two years, after weeks of infighting that mirrored acrimony in the party over the United States

Within 30 minutes of the Kansas Republican Party leadership change, its state committee reviewed a resolution asking the US House to impeach President Joe Biden for “tyranny” over comments he and his aides made in the summer of 2021 by exposing misinformation about the spread of coronavirus vaccines within the GOP.

The Kansas state committee elected Mike Brown, who has long been active in the GOP in the Kansas City area, as the new chairman through the 2024 election. The vote came three months after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly won narrowly narrowed for re-election and the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, U.S. Representative Sharice Davids, handily won another term in her Kansas City-area district.

Last year, Brown ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for Kansas secretary of state. Both he and his opponent, Helen Van Etten, a longtime Topeka activist and former RNC member, have vowed to revive the Kansas party. But Brown asked fellow Republicans if they were happy with the results of the last two gubernatorial races, won by Kelly, and with Davids’ campaign victories.

In Kansas, the GOP holds a lead in voter registration, meaning Democrats win big races by attracting votes from moderate Republican and independent voters, while Republicans generally prevail when the party is unified.


Democratic lawmakers push for alcohol tax

SANTA FE – Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico are pushing for a flat tax of 25 cents per drink to combat the state’s alcohol-related death rate, which is the highest in the country and nearly double the national average.

The legislation survived its first commission on February 10, advancing by a 6-4 vote.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that if the proposal moves through the Capitol, New Mexico would raise alcohol taxes and devote an additional $155 million in new revenue to support health, treatment and other programs.

But the paper said the proposal is facing stiff opposition from the national spirits industry, local breweries and others.

Al Park, a lobbyist for the New Mexico Brewers Guild, said the changes would undo the incentives that have helped the state grow its craft beer scene.

New Mexico now taxes alcohol by the liter or gallon. The amount varies according to the type of alcohol, the quantity sold and who produced it.

But the proposed legislation would transition to a flat fee per serving regardless of what the customer is buying, according to the Journal.

Proponents say the goal is to avoid favoring a particular drink.

Rare butterfly now an endangered species

ALBUQUERQUE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the checkerspot butterfly of the Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico as an endangered species, an environmental group said on Jan. 30.

The orange and dark brown butterfly is found only in high elevation meadows in the Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, most populations of the rare butterfly have been wiped out, and only 23 adult checkerboard butterflies have been detected in 2021 surveys.

Experts say only two small populations of the butterfly remain because most of its habitat has been degraded by grazing, development and motorized recreation.

In response to a 1999 science petition from the Center, the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service proposed protecting the butterfly in 2001 due to habitat loss from livestock grazing, drought, and the suppression of historic low-intensity fires.

But the agency withdrew the proposal in 2004, and a subsequent 2009 listing petition was denied due to political pressure.


Shrine in honor of slain priest, first Catholic martyr in the United States

OKLAHOMA CITY — Stanley Francis Rothe, a 46-year-old priest shot and killed in Guatemala in 1981, has become the first person born in the United States to be declared a martyr by the Catholic Church.

Now a $50 million shrine built to honor the slain missionary — killed by three masked assassins who entered his parsonage during Guatemala’s civil war — is expected to draw thousands of pilgrims to his home state.

A dedication Mass scheduled for February 17 was set to celebrate the official opening of the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine in Oklahoma City. The Spanish Colonial-style structure incorporates a 2,000-seat shrine, visitor center, gift shop, museum, and smaller chapel that will serve as Rother’s final resting place.

The shrine grounds will also feature a reconstruction of Tepeyac Hill, the site in Mexico City where Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared to an indigenous Mexican named Juan Diego in 1531. An artist has created painted bronze statues of Our Lady Lady of Guadalupe and of St. John. Juan Diego – each weighing thousands of pounds – for the Oklahoma site.

Catholic donors funded the shrine, which was built debt-free, Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley said.

Rother served several parishes in Oklahoma before volunteering for missionary work in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala in 1968.

Amid political and military turmoil in the late 1970s, parishioners began to disappear, their bodies found abandoned by roadsides. In 1981, according to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Rother knew he was on a “hit list”.

Rother became one of at least 13 Catholic priests killed during the war, branded as communists in collusion with leftist revolutionary guerrillas.

In December 2016, Pope Francis officially recognized Rother as a martyr. In September 2017, in the final stage before sainthood, Rother was beatified during a special mass that attracted an estimated 20,000 people, making him the first U.S. priest to be beatified.

For Rother to become a saint, a miracle involving his intercession must occur.

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