Out West Roundup: Polygamous sect slowly losing control over remote Utah town

Author: Associated Press - November 10, 2017 - Updated: November 17, 2017

In this Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 photo, Donia Jessop holds her mayoral campaign sign outside her store in Colorado City, Ariz. Campaign signs are unusual in a town where elections have long been quietly decided behind the scenes, with hand-picked men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints running unopposed. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)In this Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 photo, Donia Jessop holds her mayoral campaign sign outside her store in Colorado City, Ariz. Campaign signs are unusual in a town where elections have long been quietly decided behind the scenes, with hand-picked men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints running unopposed. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Polygamous sect slowly losing control over remote Utah town

HILDALE, Utah — In a place where political contests are virtually unknown, the campaign signs offer the latest hint that a polygamous group is losing its grip on this remote red rock community straddling the Utah-Arizona border.

“For Hildale mayor vote Donia,” reads one sign featuring Donia Jessop, a candidate pictured with a contemporary hairstyle and a red business suit.

The signs are unusual because elections here have long been decided behind the scenes by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a Mormon offshoot that has made its home among the rocks for more than a century and hand-picked men to run unopposed.

Just five years ago, Jessop was a member of the group also known as the FLDS. She wore the sect’s traditional prairie dresses and her hair in a conservative up-do. Now she is among a swelling number of former members who have returned to buy foreclosed homes, open businesses and try to turn Hildale into a place that resembles a typical Western town, not a cloistered religious community.

Jessop and other former sect members say it’s long-overdue progress that will help the community break free from the reign of sect leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving life in prison in Texas for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides.

Incumbent Mayor Philip Barlow, a member of the FLDS and lifelong Hildale resident, said people are coping with changes by “doing what they have to do.” He acknowledges that having a challenger is new but says he will accept whatever the voters decide.


Poll: Wyoming voters favor spending cuts, not more taxes

CHEYENNE – A new poll suggests Wyoming voters are strongly opposed to tax increases that would help Wyoming avoid further reductions to K-12 education and other state spending.

The poll found 68 percent of potential voters in Wyoming preferred spending cuts as the solution to the state’s current budget shortfalls, with only 19 percent favoring tax increases. About 80 percent believed new taxes alone could not balance the budget.

When it comes to increasing property or sales taxes, 70 percent were opposed, with half of respondents strongly so.

The Wyoming Business Alliance commissioned the poll to get a sense of voter attitudes and opinions, said Cindy DeLancey, the organization’s president.

The latest state revenue forecast shows Wyoming ahead of projections from earlier in the year. But budget shortfalls still loom over the Wyoming Legislature going into the 2018 budget session. When it comes to operations and construction for K-12 education, Wyoming is facing a shortfall of roughly $500 million for fiscal years 2019-20.

New Mexico

New Mexico governor excited about federal drone program

ALBUQUERQUE — Gov. Susana Martinez says aviation and innovation have been crucial to New Mexico’s economy over the years and the integration of drones into the wider airspace will make for even more opportunities.

The two-term Republican governor joined federal officials and industry representatives in Washington, D.C., last week to kick off the Trump administration’s drone project — a pilot program aimed at increasing government and commercial use of unmanned aircraft.

The plan calls for select states, communities and tribes to devise their own trial programs in partnership with government and industry users.

Martinez said drones offer nearly limitless potential for rural states like New Mexico but that integrating the technology into everyday life must be done safely.



Rural survey: Farm foreclosures over next five years a concern

OMAHA — A new report is highlighting growing concerns that farm foreclosures will be the greatest challenge to rural banks in parts of 10 Plains and Midwestern states over the next five years.

The Rural Mainstreet Index for the region rose slightly to 45.3 in October from 39.6 in September. The index ranges between 0 and 100, with any number under 50 indicating a shrinking economy.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey of bankers, says about 10 percent of bank CEOs surveyed expect their operations to be hit hard by farm foreclosures in the next five years. Goss blamed the concern on weak farm income and low commodity prices.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

Deer Exchange helps hunters donate venison in Nebraska

LINCOLN — Nebraskans who want to donate or receive deer meat can participate in the Deer Exchange.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission says the program connects hunters who have a surplus of venison with people who could use some.

The exchange runs through March 1. Hunters and potential recipients join a database and search for other participating parties in their area. The venison may not be sold, but recipients may pay for the processing.

Recipients may accept whole field-dressed deer, skinned and boned deer, wrapped and frozen deer or processed meat.


Federal government revisits proposed protections for imperiled fly

BILLINGS — U.S. wildlife managers are revisiting a pending proposal to protect a rare, cold-water insect, after scientists confirmed its presence in new locations in Wyoming and Montana, officials said last week.

The newly found populations of western glacier stonefly appear to face the same problem as the original population in and around Glacier National Park, where habitat loss due to climate change is reducing water flows in the mountain streams where the winged insects live.

“We expect climate change to be acting range-wide, even in these new habitats that were found,” said biologist Jim Boyd with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The glacier stonefly and another species known as the meltwater lednian stonefly were proposed for protections under the Endangered Species Act in October 2016. A final decision was expected last month, but that’s now been put off until early 2018 as the government considers the new information on the glacier stonefly.


Prospects appear bleak for proposed Grand Canyon aerial tram

FLAGSTAFF — Lawmakers on the country’s largest American Indian reservation have shot down a measure to build an aerial tram to take visitors to a riverside boardwalk in the Grand Canyon, with stores, hotels and restaurants above on the East Rim.

The chances of moving forward with the Grand Canyon Escalade project now appear slim.

Developers proposed a multimillion-dollar project that would allow visitors to board gondolas from the East Rim to a 1,400-foot boardwalk near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers, a site that tribes say is sacred.

The plan was opposed by environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts who are trying to keep open spaces wild. At the same time, the Trump administration is moving to free up other federal land for development.

“We never said we were against economic development but, please, not in our sacred space,” activist Renae Yellowhorse said.

The aerial tram was proposed in a remote area where the federal government banned construction for more than 40 years because of a now-resolved land dispute between the Navajos and their Hopi neighbors.

Navajos hold grazing permits and home site leases but no one lives at the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. It has no running water or electricity.


Idaho looking to cash in on starry skies with more tourists

BOISE — The stars are aligning for Idaho — mainly because they’re visible.

The International Dark-Sky Association this month named the central Idaho city of Ketchum an International Dark Sky Community, only the 16th in the world, after years of efforts to limit excess artificial light. It comes as bigger parts of the state received or are seeking rare dark-sky designations that can attract stargazers and boost home values.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in south-central Idaho, a prime destination for astronomy buffs, became an International Dark Sky Park earlier this year, one of about 40 in the United States.

Idaho is “becoming one of the centers of interest in dark skies in the country,” said John Barentine, program manager at the Tucson, Arizona-based International Dark-Sky Association.

Much of Ketchum’s economy runs on tourism, and the designations could bring in additional visitors.

The association started designating Dark Sky Communities in 2001. Others include Sedona, Arizona; Beverly Shores, Indiana; and Moffat, Scotland.

Dark-sky measures have drawn opposition in the U.S. from the outdoor advertising industry and those against additional government regulations.

Associated Press

Associated Press