News

Out West Roundup: Idaho moves ahead with possible grizzly bear hunting season

Author: Associated Press - April 13, 2018 - Updated: April 23, 2018

AP-Grizzly-Bear.jpg
In this file photo, a grizzly bear roams near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is considering approving a grizzly bear hunting season this fall that would allow the killing of one male grizzly. (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart, File)In this file photo, a grizzly bear roams near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission is considering approving a grizzly bear hunting season this fall that would allow the killing of one male grizzly. (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart, File)

Idaho

Idaho moves ahead with possible grizzly bear hunting season

BOISE — Idaho officials have started the process of opening a grizzly bear hunting season this fall that would allow the killing of one male grizzly.

The Fish and Game Commission in a 7-0 vote last week directed the Department of Fish and Game to gather public comments on the possible hunt.

The department will use those comments to draft a possible grizzly bear hunting season for the commission to consider in May.

About 700 grizzlies live in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding areas in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Montana doesn’t plan to hunt grizzlies this year, while a proposal in Wyoming would allow the killing of up to 24.

Wildlife advocates and Native Americans have filed lawsuits to restore Endangered Species Act protections for the bears and prevent the hunts.

If hunting seasons occur in Idaho and Wyoming this fall, they would be the first since grizzlies received federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. Federal officials lifted those protections last year.

Wyoming

Officials: ‘Stand your ground’ law will change little in criminal system

CHEYENNE – On July 1, Wyoming will become the latest state to codify a so-called “stand your ground” law after a hard-fought legislative effort pushed by gun rights advocates and the National Rifle Association.

But some attorneys and Gov. Matt Mead say the new law, intended to bolster self-defense arguments, will change little in the criminal system.

The bill establishes that someone may use deadly force in self-defense without retreating in a place where they are “lawfully present” if they “honestly” believe there is an imminent danger of serious bodily injury.

But Wyoming Supreme Court decisions and existing state law largely enforce that idea already.

But Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg said that despite the similarities to existing law, codifying a “no duty to retreat” clause will help clear up any confusion.

“A person who is reasonably in fear for their life or serious bodily injury does not have to consider whether it’s reasonable to retreat,” he said.

Despite the state Legislature’s recent decision to pass the proposal, Mead, a former federal prosecutor, expressed reservations before allowing it to become law without his signature.

“I believe existing law adequately addresses the concerns raised in the Stand Your Ground Bill,” he said in an emailed statement.

Tom Jubin, a local attorney and registered lobbyist with the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, went further.

“The laws that existed in Wyoming were clear and strongly allowed people to defend themselves,” he said. “This bill just makes hamburger out of that law. It’s more confusing than anything else.”

Wyoming already has a similar law on the books, the so-called “castle doctrine,” where people do not have a duty to retreat in their own homes.

And at least 24 other states – including Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah – have laws stating that there is no duty to retreat from an attacker in a place where one is lawfully present, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But the laws have come under scrutiny in recent years.

Florida found itself embroiled in controversy six years ago, when George Zimmerman shot an unarmed 17-year-old black teen named Trayvon Martin, claiming self-defense.

Utah

Mormon leader’s remark on sexual misconduct draws criticism

SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon church faced more criticism last week about its approach to sexual abuse after a top leader praised the #MeToo movement but referred to sexual misconduct as “non-consensual immorality,” a remark that some say could be interpreted as victim blaming.

Quentin L. Cook, a member of a top church governing body, made the comment in the only mention of the topic during a two-day Mormon conference despite the church facing heavy scrutiny over accusations that a former prominent missionary leader sexually assaulted two women in the 1980s.

“It is commendable that non-consensual immorality has been exposed and denounced,” said Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in a speech about righteousness. “Such non-consensual immorality is against the laws of God and of society.

“However, those who understand God’s plan must also oppose consensual immorality, which is also a sin,” he said of the faith that teaches that sex outside marriage is a sin.

Even if Cook had good intentions, it was a poor choice of words that reflects the church’s lack of education about appropriate ways to discuss sexual misconduct, said Natasha Helfer Parker, a Mormon who is a certified sex therapist in Wichita, Kansas.

Victims of sexual abuse should not be grouped with “immoral” acts, she said.

Helfer Parker was among about 1,000 people who marched to the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City to demand an end to closed-door, one-on-one meetings between local adult church leaders and children and the sexual questions they sometimes include. They believe the questions in the so-called worthiness interviews can lead to unhealthy shaming of youth.

In guidelines issued last week for how local leaders should handle sexual abuse reports and one-on-one meetings with youth, the church said most “allegations of abuse made by assault victims are true and should be taken seriously and handled with great care.”

The church included new or more direct instructions for local lay leaders, known as bishops, never to disregard a report of abuse or encourage a person to stay in a home or situation where abuse is suspected.

New Mexico

New Mexico voters warm to idea of professional Legislature

SANTA FE — Voters in New Mexico may be warming to the idea of professionalizing the nation’s only unsalaried Legislature.

A poll commissioned by the watchdog group Common Cause found that just over half of registered voters statewide support paying state lawmakers a yearly salary so that they can focus more on public service and less other employment.

New Mexico reimburses lawmakers for some expenses but provides no salary in a citizen legislature that brings together active or retired teachers, engineers, lawyers, ranchers and others for 30- and 60-day sessions in alternating years.

The poll results also show nearly two-thirds of respondents favor lengthening legislative sessions to address policy and budgetary issues.

Albuquerque-based Research and Polling surveyed 452 registered voters by phone in January, with an error margin of 4.6 percentage points.

Montana

Judge to decide if Nazi ‘troll storm’ is protected speech

MISSOULA, Montana — Attorneys for a neo-Nazi website publisher and a Montana woman asked a judge last week to decide whether the white nationalist had a First Amendment right to unleash a “troll storm” of anti-Semitic messages and threats against the Jewish woman’s family.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch heard arguments in Missoula on whether to dismiss a lawsuit by Tanya Gersh, a real-estate agent from the mountain resort community of Whitefish, against The Daily Stormer publisher Andrew Anglin.

The judge wanted to hear from attorneys on both sides about a key argument in Anglin’s motion to dismiss — that the neo-Nazi publisher was engaged in political speech protected under the First Amendment.

Gersh sued Anglin last year after he published a post in 2016 calling for an “old fashioned troll storm” with the personal information of Gersh and others whom Anglin accused of “extorting” the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer.

Gersh said in her lawsuit that her family received hundreds of harassing messages from Anglin’s followers, including one that was just a recording of gun shots. Another message for her 12-year-old son told him to look inside an oven for a free video game console, a reference to a method that Nazis used to kill Jews during the Holocaust.

Anglin argues through his attorney that he was only inviting his readers to protest Gersh’s actions. He also argues that he is not liable for his followers’ actions and that the personal information he published was publicly available.

“If we are to reject speech because it comes from an unorthodox group, we do violence to the very underpinnings of our notions of liberty,” Anglin’s attorneys wrote in a court document

Gersh, who is being represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in response that the First Amendment’s free-speech protections do not include a coordinated attack through private communications meant to cause substantial emotional harm.

Associated Press

Associated Press