Volcanic soil, old artillery shells challenge crews managing the Maroon Fire

  • Slug: BC-CNS Maroon Fire. 830 words
  • 6 photos and captions below.
  • Video by Amanda Slee here.

By Dylan Simard
Cronkite News

FLAGSTAFF – Amidst the sweet-smelling smoke of ponderosa pine, wildland firefighters are laboring to maintain – not extinguish – a wildfire burning in the Coconino National Forest northeast of Flagstaff.

Their work is made more complicated by two factors: unusual volcanic soil and a “no-go zone”: a decommissioned artillery range the Army suspects contains unexploded ordnance from the 1940s and ’50s. On the firefighters’ 15,000-acre planning map, the zone is marked with a large black circle.

After the lightning-caused Maroon Fire was detected May 16, the U.S. Forest Service decided to control and manage the fire rather than put it out. About 8,600 acres had burned as of this week.

The Forest Service has been letting wildfires burn more often, when humans aren’t endangered. Continue reading “Volcanic soil, old artillery shells challenge crews managing the Maroon Fire”

7-year-old girl dies crossing border; authorities blame smugglers

  • Slug: BC-CNS Desert Death. 490 words.

By Taniyah Williamson
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The death of a 7-year-old girl  whose body was found near the Arizona-Mexico border Wednesday is a tragedy that immigration officials blame squarely on smugglers. .

“The reason why this happens is the unscrupulous smuggler organizations went and dropped these people in the border in a very remote area,” said Jesus Vasavilbaso, a spokesman for the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector. “They were dropped about 17 miles west of the port of entry of Lukeville.

“The smuggler organizations are lying to these people, promising that they’re going to be able to get legal status when that’s not the case.”

After finding the remains of the girl, who is thought to be from India, authorities searched the desert for the girl’s mother and 8-year-old sister, who had separated from a larger group of border-crossers. The mother and daughter turned themselves in to agents Friday morning, according to azcentral.com, and were hospitalized for dehydration. Continue reading “7-year-old girl dies crossing border; authorities blame smugglers”

Ducey, at White House, touts benefits of new occupational licensing law

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Ducey Licenses,520
  • Photo, video story available (thumbnails,  captions below)

By Miranda Faulkner
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Gov. Doug Ducey touted Arizona’s first-in-the-nation universal licensing recognition law at the White House Thursday to a receptive audience of governors and the president, who were there to talk about workforce mobility.

Ducey, sitting to President Donald Trump’s immediate left at a large table in the Cabinet Room, said the state’s universal licensing recognition law removes barriers for people who want to work. Continue reading “Ducey, at White House, touts benefits of new occupational licensing law”

Report: Undocumented immigration into U.S., especially from Mexico, is down

  • Slug: BC-CNS Pew Immigrant Report. 795 words.
  • 1 graphic, 1 file photo and caption below

By Tim Royan
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Undocumented immigration from Mexico has dropped so significantly over a decade that Mexicans no longer make up the majority of those living in the U.S. illegally, according to a Pew Research Center report.

Mexicans make up less than half the total undocumented immigrant population for the first time in more than half a century, the report says.

Arizona is among more than a dozen states showing a decline, with 220,000 fewer undocumented immigrants in 2017 than 2007.

More undocumented people are leaving the U.S. than staying, the report says. Continue reading “Report: Undocumented immigration into U.S., especially from Mexico, is down”

Pima official defends clean-water rule that farmers blast as burdensome

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Water Fight,790
  • Photos, video story available (thumbnails,  captions below)

By Miranda Faulkner
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – A Pima County supervisor told lawmakers Wednesday that a plan to limit the so-called Waters of the United States rule would end up eliminating clean-water protections for “rivers like the Santa Cruz, the Salt, the Gila.”

Pima Supervisor Richard Elias told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that states like Arizona need strong federal oversight of the Clean Water Act, which he said would not come under the Trump administration’s proposed revisions to the “WOTUS” rule.

But other witnesses, and GOP senators on the committee, said the old rules unveiled under the Obama administration need to be replaced. Those rules were confusing and imposed an unfair burden on farmers, ranchers and local officials who know best how to protect local waterways. Continue reading “Pima official defends clean-water rule that farmers blast as burdensome”

Turning children into animal caregivers at summer camp

  • Slug: BC-CNS Animal Citizenship. 315 words.
  • 3 photos and captions below.

By Abbagail Leon
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – As summer camps kick off around the nation, some young people in metro Phoenix are learning about the compassionate care of animals.

At the Animal Ed-ventures Summer Camps, it’s not just snuggling puppies all day.

The Arizona Humane Society educates children about animal advocacy while working with animal professionals and kittens, dogs and rabbits. The society offers five summer camps for children of different age groups, with career interests ranging from animal first responders – who provide rescue services and medical care – to opportunities in the veterinary field. Continue reading “Turning children into animal caregivers at summer camp”

Hung jury in trial of No More Deaths volunteer charged with harboring migrants

  • Slug: BC-CNS No More Deaths Trial. 725 words.
  • 1 photo and caption below.

By Melissa Robbins and Abbagail Leon
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The trial of No More Deaths volunteer Scott Warren ended Tuesday without a verdict. Warren faced 20 years behind bars on charges of conspiring to transport and harbor two undocumented immigrants he encountered in the desert of southern Arizona last year.

Judge Raner C. Collins of the U.S. District Court in Tucson declared a mistrial after jurors told him further deliberations would not lead to a verdict. He set a status hearing for July 2.

“A hung jury means the government could not prove its case,” Warren defense attorney Amy Knight said. “Scott remains innocent and admirable.”

Chris Fleischman, a volunteer with No More Deaths, said the organization plans to continue its humanitarian aid work following the announcement.

“It’s still good to know that the Trump administration’s attempt to criminalize humanitarian aid has failed,” he said. “But we will still be working to end death and suffering in the borderlands.” Continue reading “Hung jury in trial of No More Deaths volunteer charged with harboring migrants”

Efforts to protect butterflies, desert fish would get millions under Extinction Prevention Act

  • Slug: BC-CNS Extinction Prevention Act.  1,100 words.
  • 1 photo and caption below.

By Melissa Robbins
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Arizona is home to a number of species that are threatened by climate change and human activity. Under legislation proposed by Rep. Raul Grijalva, Arizona fish and butterflies may get additional federal funds for conservation efforts.

The Tucson Democrat, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, last month introduced the Extinction Prevention Act of 2019 to fund conservation efforts for butterflies in North America, fish that live in the desert Southwest, Pacific Island plants and freshwater mussels in the U.S.

The bill would authorize $5 million annually for each of the listed groups from 2020 until 2025. These funds would be distributed nationally or regionally to aid various preservation projects, including habitat restoration and research into at-risk populations. Continue reading “Efforts to protect butterflies, desert fish would get millions under Extinction Prevention Act”

Hepatitis A outbreak reaches 8 Arizona counties

  • Slug: BC-CNS Hep A Outbreak. 405 words.
  • 1 photo and caption below.
  • Video by Jessie Jo Pauly here.

By Abbagail Leon
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – A national outbreak of hepatitis A, which can cause nausea, jaundice and, in rare cases, kill, is sweeping through the state, Arizona health officials report.

Two people have died of the liver disease in Arizona. Since November, 353 cases have been reported, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Nearly 90 of those cases were reported in May in eight counties, including Maricopa County, the state’s most populous.

The best ways to protect against the highly contagious virus are through vaccination and regular handwashing, DHS said. Hepatitis A is contracted by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the virus through feces. That happens when an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after using the restroom. Continue reading “Hepatitis A outbreak reaches 8 Arizona counties”

Supreme Court to hear murder appeal that could affect 20 death-row cases

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Murder Mitigation,730
  • File photos available (thumbnails,  captions below)

By Julian Paras
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear the appeal of an Arizona death-row inmate who claims state courts wrongly used old law to reaffirm his death sentences for two 1991 murders.

A ruling in James Erin McKinney’s case could affect as many as 19 other Arizona death-row cases, said his attorneys. They argue that a Supreme Court ruling since McKinney’s crimes were committed requires that he be resentenced by a jury, not a judge.

But the Arizona Attorney General’s Office argued that McKinney’s case was final when it was first affirmed in 1996 – long before the Supreme Court issued the ruling in Ring v. Arizona that defense attorneys are invoking now. Continue reading “Supreme Court to hear murder appeal that could affect 20 death-row cases”

Excessive heat, high fuel loads in Arizona have experts predicting wildfires through fall

  • Slug: BC-CNS Wildfires. 615 words.
  • Photo and caption below.

By Melissa Robbins
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – At least nine wildfires are burning around Arizona, only three of which are prescribed burns. Fire experts say with high temperatures, combined with an increasing amount of brush drying up from the abnormally wet winter, the fire danger is high – particularly in southern Arizona, where the threat is above-average.

Two of the fires burning in the Tonto National Forest northeast of Phoenix were human caused, officials said, but they’re burning away from structures.

Bryan Henry, assistant predictive services program manager with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said this year’s monsoon season may be delayed, meaning the danger for wildfires will likely continue further into the fall than usual. Continue reading “Excessive heat, high fuel loads in Arizona have experts predicting wildfires through fall”

A natural path: Mother chooses midwife over hospital for second birth

  • Slug: BC-CNS Midwives. 680 words.
  • 16 photos and captions below.

By Nicole Neri
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – When Katrina Huynh gave birth for the first time four years ago, she chose a modern tradition – a local hospital. But she chose a Phoenix birthing center when her daughter was born in October.

Huynh, an executive at a health-insurance company in Arizona, said it was an unconventional and, for her, perhaps surprising choice.

“The first time, I had a really great OB (obstetrician). It was actually a really hard process to go to a birthing center because I liked him so much,” she said. “It was almost a little bit scary, switching to the birthing center, especially coming from someone who is very science-based, medically based – that’s my education, that’s my career.”

But Huynh became convinced it was the right move. She was seeking a more “naturopathic path” after she became pregnant again. She’s happy she did. Continue reading “A natural path: Mother chooses midwife over hospital for second birth”

Timely tips for staying safe during Arizona’s monsoon season

  • Slug: BC-CNS Monsoon Safety. 855 words.
  • 2 photos and captions below.
  • Video here.

By Amanda Slee and Tanner Puckett
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The towering, often terrifying thunderstorms that signal the start of Arizona’s monsoon season typically begin in mid-June and last through the end of September, but meteorologists say we’ll likely see a delayed start this year. The meteorology department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott this week predicted a much later start to the summer rainy season.

Monsoons in northern Arizona, for example, usually show up around the Fourth of July, but that could be delayed a couple of weeks, Embry-Riddle meteorologists said.

The word monsoon means a “seasonal reversal of wind.” For most of the year, winds in Arizona blow from the west, bringing mostly dry air, but during the summer, meteorologists say, the winds come from the south, bringing warmer and more humid air over the state.

But according to Embry-Riddle meteorologists, cooler waters in the Sea of Cortez – also called the Gulf of California – will likely delay the start of the 2019 monsoon.

With a delayed start comes more time to prepare for these storms, which can produce dangerous lightning, destructive winds and torrents of rain in mere minutes. Here are a few tips from utility companies, city officials and law enforcement officials for having a safe monsoon season. Continue reading “Timely tips for staying safe during Arizona’s monsoon season”

VA expands veterans’ access to health care from private providers

  • Slug: BC-CNS VA Changes. 720 words.
  • 2 photos and captions below.

By Dylan Simard
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The more than 500,000 military veterans in Arizona now have greater access to health care options beyond those available from the Department of Veterans Affairs. A nationwide program that took effect Thursday expands the circumstances under which veterans can access care outside the VA system.

“It’s going to allow veterans to access the health care that they need faster,” said Army veteran James Denton, who’s among more than 72,000 veterans in Phoenix.

The new Veteran Community Care program, which was outlined in the 2018 MISSION Act, sets new criteria for veterans to get treatment from private-sector providers. For example, if a veteran needs specialty care not offered through the VA, he or she can go to a specialist outside the system.

“The changes not only improve our ability to provide the health care veterans need, but also when and where they need it,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “It will also put veterans at the center of their care and offer options, including expanded telehealth and urgent care, so they can find the balance in the system that is right for them.” Continue reading “VA expands veterans’ access to health care from private providers”

Cross-border shooting in Nogales likely to turn on ruling in Texas case

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Border Shootings,1140
  • File photo, video story available (thumbnail,  caption below)

By Miranda Faulkner
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – When a Border Patrol agent standing in Nogales shot and killed a teen in Mexico in 2012, federal courts said the family of the boy could sue the officer for violating their son’s constitutional rights.

But when a Border Patrol agent in El Paso, Texas, shot and killed a Mexican teen in Ciudad Juarez in 2010, federal courts rejected the family’s lawsuit against the officer.

The Supreme Court is now stepping in to decide who’s right.

The high court said last week that it will consider the Texas case, and the ruling in that case is all but certain to determine the outcome of the Nogales case. Continue reading “Cross-border shooting in Nogales likely to turn on ruling in Texas case”

Southern border apprehensions surge to highest rate in 10 years

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Border Apprehensions,670
  • Photo, graphic and video story available (embed code, thumbnail,  caption below)

By Miranda Faulkner
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The number of migrants apprehended at the southern border surged to 144,278 in May, bringing the total for the first eight months of fiscal 2019 to 676,315, already more than any full year in the last decade.

More than 20,000 of those apprehensions were in Arizona, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which said agents in the Yuma and Tucson sectors had stopped 99,472 migrants through the end of May. Continue reading “Southern border apprehensions surge to highest rate in 10 years”

Can the government be sued for climate change? Appeals court hears arguments

  • Slug: BC-CNS Climate Lawsuit. 1,375 words.
  • 1 file photo and caption below.

By Tim Royan
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Federal judges are weighing whether the U.S. can be held legally responsible for failing to protect future generations from climate change. That’s at the heart of Juliana v. United States, in which 21 young people from around the country claim they have a constitutional right to be protected from man-made climate change.

In an unusual pretrial appeal, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit convened Tuesday in Portland, Oregon, and grilled lawyers for both sides. The judges have not said when they will rule.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2015, claims that for more than 50 years, the U.S. has known about carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels, and that pollution “was causing global warming and dangerous climate change, and that continuing to burn fossil fuels would destabilize the climate system on which present and future generations of our nation depend for their well-being and survival.” Continue reading “Can the government be sued for climate change? Appeals court hears arguments”

Tribal leaders, lawmakers push bill to ban mining near Grand Canyon

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Canyon Uranium,730
  • 4 photos, video story available (thumbnails,  captions below)

By Miranda Faulkner
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Tribal and environmental officials urged House lawmakers Wednesday to protect sacred land and natural resources by supporting a permanent ban on mining on just over 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon.

The “Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act” would prohibit all mining in the affected area, but supporters were focused on the uranium mining that has a troubled history on tribal lands. Continue reading “Tribal leaders, lawmakers push bill to ban mining near Grand Canyon”

How the sounds around you could be a harbinger of climate change

  • Slug: BC-CNS Climate Change and Sound. 1,610 words.
  • 2 photos and captions below.
  • Audio clip here.
  • Video here.

By Chloe Jones
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Saguaros and cardons tower against a soft gray sky as a family of quail tiptoes through the brush. Flowers glisten with raindrops. Under a tree, a man stands motionless. His eyes are closed, and he’s smiling softly.

Garth Paine is listening to Mother Nature.

Paine is an associate professor of digital sound and interactive media at the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. He co-leads the Acoustic Ecology Lab, where he studies how sounds can help understand the environment and potentially help predict climate change. Continue reading “How the sounds around you could be a harbinger of climate change”

Democrats push Dream Act through House, outlook in Senate less certain

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Dream Spat,880
  • 2 photos, video story available (thumbnails,  captions below)

By Miranda Faulkner
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The House voted mostly on party lines Tuesday to approve a bill that would protect millions of “Dreamers” from deportation and give them a pathway to citizenship, a bill Republicans said would only lead to more illegal immigration.

Just seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the bill, which passed Tuesday evening on 237-187 vote. The vote from Arizona’s delegation was even more cleanly partisan, with all five Democrats supporting the bill and all four Republicans opposing. Continue reading “Democrats push Dream Act through House, outlook in Senate less certain”