If it weren't the sage grouse, it could be that cute black-footed ferret, the Utah prairie dog or the gray wolf (oops, someone already shot one of those!). These and other animals are endangered in Utah, and it falls to the evil federal government to protect them from man's harm. The operative word here is "evil," and that is why the sage grouse has become a metaphor for federal intrusion. Utah would fight any plan to save the sage grouse because permeating the entire discussion are the extractive industries—coal in general, and the Alton Coal strip mine specifically. Alton, with a history of bad deeds, wants to expand operations. And Utah, most vocally Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is all in favor of more mining.After all, there's money in them thar hills.
Up With Pups
If you don't want to save the sage grouse, maybe puppies will pull your heartstrings. They certainly made a difference to the Salt Lake County Council. Early this month, the council voted unanimously to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits from commercial breeding mills. The Humane Society of the United States says 2 million–4 million dogs bred in puppy mills are sold each year to uninformed consumers. Bad breeders are on the rise, partly due to the demand for designer dogs, Michigan State University's Animal Legal and Historical Center notes. Only 26 states so far have laws against puppy mills. The County Council is leading the way. "The lack of overarching federal law and lack of state law enforcement leads to the problem of puppy mills," the center says.
You know what they say: "You can't avoid conflicts of interest in this state." The Salt Lake Tribune—again—detailed how legislators with obvious conflicts of interest continue to influence and vote on laws to which they have some personal ties. The most recent glaring example is Medicaid expansion. The prison move also had a lot of developers and others who stood to benefit. Not surprisingly, the Center for Public Integrity gave Utah an overall grade of D—with an F on Legislative accountability, which includes conflict of interest. A report is due out in November, and Utah may not show up much better, according to Joel Campbell, associate professor of communications at BYU. Why does this matter? "Conflicts of interest interfere with the basic ethical principle of fairness—treating everyone the same," a Santa Clara University report notes. And they undermine trust.