Utah State Rep. Blames Wildfire on ‘Bird and Bunny Lovers, Tree-Huggers and Rock-Lickers’

The nation's largest wildfire has forced more than 1,500 people from their homes and cabins in a southern Utah mountain area.

The nation's largest wildfire has forced more than 1,500 people from their homes and cabins in a southern Utah mountain area. Justin Harding, Utah Governor's Office / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Federal judge rules Alabama must improve its prison mental health care; decision on Flint water contract extension; and a Bay Area migration to Sacramento.

WILDFIRES | Some politicians in southern Utah are blaming the destructive and fast-moving Brian Head wildfire on environmentalists who, they argue, have blocked logging in forests affected by tree-killing bark beetles. State Rep. Mike Noel, a Republican, claimed conservation groups would rather see forests burn, than see the areas logged. "When we turned the Forest Service over to the bird and bunny lovers and the tree-huggers and the rock-lickers, we turned our history over," he said. The environmental groups Noel targeted in his remarks pushed back. "The truth is that climate change, drought, historic fire suppression and wind all play roles in the severity of fires. There is no single cause and no easy solution," said Steve Bloch, legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. [Salt Lake Tribune]

WATER | The Flint City Council extended its contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority through September, after a heated meeting that was supposed to result in the approval of either a 30-year contract or an alternative long-term water plan—lest Michigan government take legal action. A consent agreement stipulated the June 26 deadline, but council members balked the day of the vote. "It seems unfair that the state would impose deadlines on a city in an emergency situation induced by the state," said Councilman Herbert Winfrey.  [MLive]

CORRECTIONS | A federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama, ruled on Tuesday that ruled in favor of organizations that have said the state does not provide constitutionally adequate mental health services for prison inmates. In a 302-page ruling, Judge Myron Thompson wrote that "the court emphasizes that given the severity and urgency of the need for mental-health care explained in this opinion, the proposed relief must be both immediate and long term,” and has ordered the parties to meet and discuss possible remedies. The group of Alabama prisoners with severe mental illness that sued in a class action are represented by the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program. [AL.com]

IMMIGRATION | Nashville Mayor Megan Barry encouraged Metro Council to rethink “sanctuary city” status after the city attorney said the ordinance limiting local enforcement of federal immigration law was unenforceable. The Nashville sheriff is a Tennessee constitutional officer in control of city jails and could do as he pleased, said Director of Law Jon Cooper. Sheriff Daron Hall has previously stated he’ll continue to honor federal detainer requests for suspected undocumented immigrants. Cooper also felt the ordinance risked the law enforcement tool of recommending U visa applications of immigrants willing to testify against criminals. [The Tennessean]

ENERGY | New terms for small solar energy projects in Montana may have been set to discourage their development, based on remarks picked up on a hot microphone at a Public Service Commission meeting last week. During the meeting the commission had made cuts to rates and contracts for the projects. “At this low price, I can’t imagine anyone getting into it,” said Commissioner Bob Lake. He added: “Just dropping the rate that much probably took care of the whole thing.” Under federal law, the commission’s actions are supposed to promote renewable energy. [Billings Gazette]

INFRASTRUCTURE | Without any discussion before voting, members of the Jacksonville Port Authority, or JaxPort, approved the first phase of a $484 million project to deepen the shipping channel for the St. John’s River to accommodate larger boats. The work will begin later this year or in early 2018, will cost approximately $45 million and is being funded through a combination of federal, state and JaxPort funding. [Florida Times-Union / Jacksonville.com]

ECONOMIC MIGRATION | The San Francisco Bay Area’s exorbitant housing prices are making many residents there thinking about something that may have seemed inconceivable: Move to Sacramento, California’s capital city which is also the Golden State’s fastest-growing big city which offers far more affordable housing, a vibrant food and beer scene and quality of life. Between 2014 and 2015,170,000 people moved to Sacramento overall, and a Trulia migration report says that most people looking to leave the Bay Area are moving to Sacramento. [SF Gate; The Sacramento Bee]

CROWD CONTROL | Charlotte City Council repealed its increasingly invoked, rarely enforced Extraordinary Events ordinance banning items like bottles, rocks and weapons from large gatherings. Enacted ahead of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the city manager has since declared Carolina Panthers football games, the annual gay pride parade and the Fourth of July fireworks display “extraordinary.” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said his department needed to focus on possible terrorist attacks, not bottle-throwers. “Everything became an extraordinary event,” Putney said. “Therefore, nothing was extraordinary.” [The Charlotte Observer]