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KUNR Today: Nevada Welcoming 150 Afghan Refugees, Scientists Studying Effects Of Smoke On Lake Tahoe

An image of a boat in the middle of Lake Tahoe, with smoke surrounding
Courtesy Katie Senft
UC Davis

Here are the local news headlines for the morning of Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

Nevada Soon To Be Home To 150 Afghan Refugees
By KUNR Staff

150 Afghan refugees will soon call Nevada home. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports they’re part of the roughly 65,000 evacuees who will relocate throughout the U.S. in the coming weeks.

Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak said last month the state would welcome newcomers who aided Americans during the 20-year war in Afghanistan. He said Nevada was willing to do its part in resettlement efforts.

California will take in more than 5,200 evacuees, while Utah will accept 765 refugees.

Nevada’s U.S. Senators Push For Higher Firefighter Pay In Infrastructure Bill
By Noah Glick

Nevada’s two U.S. Senators are pushing to include increases to federal firefighter pay as part of the Biden administration’s infrastructure package.

Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, both Democrats, argued for a pay increase, the creation of a “wildland firefighter” occupation distinction, and the conversion of at least 1,000 seasonal firefighters to permanent positions. This was outlined in a letter to the heads of Interior and Agriculture, as well as the Office of Personnel Management.

The $1 trillion infrastructure package has bipartisan support and has passed in the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House will vote on the measure by September 27.

Future Of Lake Tahoe Clarity In Question As Wildfires Worsen
By The Associated Press

With a wildfire no longer threatening Lake Tahoe, residents, tourists and scientists drawn to its clean alpine air, clear blue waters and fragrant pine trees now wonder about the long-term effects that remain. Scientists say it’s too soon to draw conclusions, but they're not wasting time. Researchers and state officials on the Tahoe Science Advisory Council discussed future study at a meeting Thursday. They’re studying how particles enter the lake, how they move around it and the effect on algae production. As wildfires have grown in size and intensity amid climate change, scientists have become increasingly concerned about how smoke hundreds of miles away could harm the lake's clarity.

RTC To Fine Riders Not Wearing Masks
By Paul Boger

Anyone who refuses to wear a mask while aboard a Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County vehicle will now face a fine. The new penalties are part of a move by the federal Transportation Security Administration to crack down on those who violate coronavirus mitigation standards.

Moving forward, riders who refuse to wear a mask in an RTC vehicle or facility may face fines ranging from $500-$1,000 for a first offense. A second offense could cost upwards of $3,000.

The fines will be assessed by the TSA; however, it’s up to RTC to enforce the mask mandate.

Interior Moving Bureau of Land Management Headquarters Back To D.C.
By Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Friday it will move the headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management back to Washington, D.C.

Just last year, the BLM. headquarters was moved to Grand Junction, Colo. The Trump administration said that it would put decision-makers closer to the land and resources they manage, but the move caused hundreds of employees to either quit or retire, and of those who did relocate out west, only three landed at the new headquarters.

The BLM says it won’t be leaving Grand Junction altogether. According to a press release, the department plans to make that office into what it’s calling its “official Western headquarters.”

Ed Shepard of the Public Lands Foundation said this new plan will bring some much needed stability to the agency.

"Hopefully, they’ll involve the employees in how they do this, and it sounds like they intend to do that," Shepard said.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said moving the agency back to D.C. will make sure leaders are part of important budget and policy decisions.

Former U.S. Rep. James Bilbray Of Nevada Dies At Age 83
By The Associated Press

Former U.S. Rep. James Bilbray, a Democrat from Nevada who served four terms in Congress, has died. He was 83. State officials announced the death Sunday. The cause of death wasn’t immediately released. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a tweet that “Nevada lost a giant.” Bilbray was born in Nevada and was elected in 1980 to the state Senate where he served for six years. Bilbray was elected to Congress in 1986 from Nevada’s 1st District, replacing Harry Reid who had been elected to the U.S. Senate. Bilbray was defeated in his 1994 reelection bid for a fifth term. Funeral plans and a complete list of Bilbray’s survivors were not immediately available.

Washoe County Early Childhood Educators Given Inaugural Honors
By Noah Glick

This year, the Nevada Department of Education kicked off its inaugural Nevada Early Childhood Educators of the Year program, and two Washoe County educators are the first to be recognized.

Kaitlin Farley Cortes is a pre-kindergarten teacher at the University of Nevada, Reno Child and Family Resource Center. Avis Moore is an infant and toddler educator at UNR’s Early Head Start program.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert said in a statement that “early childhood educators are integral to not only our education system, but our community as a whole.”

The two winners were selected from a pool of applicants, who were then narrowed down to eight finalists.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. She is currently a Masters candidate in American Studies and will defend her thesis on female body hair in contemporary American culture this May. Before graduate school, she earned her BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, her bicycle, swimming in rivers and lakes, and most any dog.
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