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KUNR Today: Mail-In Voting Now The Norm In Nevada, Rare Wildflower Could Get Federal Protection

An image showing Tiehm's Buckwheat in its natural habitat.
Noah Glick
KUNR Public Radio
The Tiehm's Buckwheat, the brown spots scattered throughout this ancient volcanic rock, is a rare wildflower proposed for federal protection.

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Friday, June 4, 2021.

Mail-In Ballots Now The Norm In Nevada
By Paul Boger

A new law in Nevada will make voting-by-mail the standard. That comes as several other states tighten election laws. Nevada is now the sixth state to implement automatic mail-in voting. Under the new law, a ballot must be sent to every active registered voter. It also sets a minimum number of in-person polling places and ballot drop boxes in each county.

Democratic Speaker of the Assembly Jason Frierson says the measure stands in stark contrast to election-related laws recently passed in Texas and Georgia.

“Unfortunately, I think this is part of a national philosophical debate about elections. We believe as a constitutional right, people should have every option to fully participate and there are others who think it’s a privilege,” Frierson said.

Critics say the law will potentially increase fraud, but lawmakers included provisions strengthening security measures. That includes tightening the state’s signature verification process and more regularly maintaining voter rolls.

Federal Agency: Nevada Flower Near Mine Should Be Protected
By The Associated Press

Federal wildlife officials say a rare wildflower that grows only in Nevada's desert where an Australian mining company wants to dig for lithium should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday it intends to propose listing Tiehm’s buckwheat as a threatened or endangered species. The conclusion that protection is warranted comes in a court-ordered finding on the agency's overdue review of a petition conservationists filed in October 2019. Environmentalists say the flower is on the brink of extinction and the listing would prevent the mine's construction halfway between Reno and Las Vegas. Ioneer Ltd. insists the flower can co-exist with the mine.

Colorado, New Mexico Offering Chances To Win Millions In Cash As Vaccination Incentives
By Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

With COVID-19 vaccination rates slowing, two states in our region are offering a new incentive: a chance to win millions in cash. Most vaccinated Coloradans will have five chances to win a $1 million lottery prize, and in New Mexico, there’s a $5 million grand prize - the single largest vaccine incentive in the country.

Psychologist Sarah Lighthall studies decision-making at the University of Central Florida. Even though there’s a very small chance of winning, lotteries could convince some holdouts to get the shot.

"When people conceive of the possibility they could win a lottery, they basically overestimate their own chances," Lighthall said.

The Mountain West states with the lowest vaccination rates - including Wyoming, Utahand Idaho - have so far not offered incentives, but some smaller communities across our region are offering guaranteed rewards like cashand free admission to local events. According to Lighthall, that variety of strategies creates a natural experiment.

"We’re going to see which one of them works the best," she said.

Both New Mexico and Colorado’s vaccine lotteries are paid for with federal pandemic relief money.

Most Vaccinated California Workers Must Keep Masks On
By The Associated Press

California workplace regulators approved controversial rules that allow workers to go maskless only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. But the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board made clear Thursday that the regulations are only a stopgap while they consider further easing pandemic rules in coming weeks or months. The board initially voted to reject any changes to current rules. But that would have left employers with rules requiring masks for all employees, along with social distancing and partitions between employees in certain circumstances. The seven-member board then unanimously adopted the revised regulations while a three-member subcommittee considers more changes. The new rules are expected to take effect June 15.

Survey: LGBTQ+ Youth Struggling More During Pandemic
By Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Young people have struggled to adapt to new realities wrought by the pandemic. That’s especially true for LGBTQ+ youth. A new survey by the national nonprofit the Trevor Project found more than 40% of LGBTQ+ youth considered attempting suicide in the past year. Tara Jae is a psychotherapist and founder of YouthSeen, which supports LGBTQ+ youth.

"Throughout the pandemic, it became a little overwhelming the amount of support and resources that were needed within the community, and we were noticing even more so for folks of color," Jae said.

YouthSeen is based in Colorado but Jae said many kids seeking help come from other Western states with few supportive spaces, like community centers. LGBTQ+ youth who did have access to those resources reported lower rates of suicide attempts. Even simple things, like respecting a young person’s pronouns, made a big difference.

The survey also found that youth of color were disproportionately affected. Indigenous kids considered attempting suicide at the highest rate.

RTC To Begin Construction On Kings Row Project
By Isaac Hoops

The Regional Transportation Commission will begin construction on Kings Row in Reno next week. This will add ADA-compliant sidewalks and new bike lanes along with improving storm drain infrastructure.

The $4.4 million project is funded with fuel tax funds and is expected to be completed this fall.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them.
Isaac Hoops is a former student reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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