April Ashland

April worked first as an intern for UPR, before graduating from Utah State University with a B.S. in Print Journalism. Now she manages all things web and social, while reporting on current events from time to time. She's a crochet, warm tea and books kind of gal, and her current obsession is with NPR's Serial.

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Elsha Stocksetch

Saturday morning, runners of the Southern Utah half marathon will cover the Virgin River Trail as hundreds of people rush by, clothed in neon and black, feet slapping the pavement, and numbers pinned to their backs. It's a typical race- with less than typical contestants.

In the past three years Elsha Stocksetch has crossed the finish line in 31 races, the most recent being a marathon just last weekend. Her next race is Saturday, along with friend Walter Brown.

“Elsha's amazing. You know she, has overcome obstacles like I have, where we shouldn't be alive, she's done it,” Brown said.

Brown will be Stocksetch’s partner in the race- because instead of pounding the pavement in the latest neon shoe, Stocksetch will be treading the course in a three-wheeled jogging stroller, Walter behind her, every inch of the 13-mile course.

quagga mussels
Natalie Muth / DWR

Quagga mussels. They're calling them a skiff-transmitted disease. They start as a microscopic organism on boats, and then stage a hostile takeover of the environment.

Division of Wildlife Resources' Sarah Seegert says the invasive species is dangerous to waterways and society.

Utah’s close proximity to nature means roadkill is common along the highways around the state. Daniel Olson came to Utah in 2008 to study how roads are affecting deer, and how many deer were being killed in Utah. 

Tracking roadkill locations around the state was done on paper by many people, making the gathering and analyzation of the data overwhelming. Olson says he recognized then that smartphones have enough functions to be data collection tools, so he teamed up with others to create an app to help the process. The information from this is used by the Utah Department of Transportation and Division of Wildlife Resources.

"This information shows them areas where we have hotspots, where high numbers of wildlife-vehicle collisions occur. Then they can go in and start doing mitigation measures such as installing exclusionary fencing, which is typically eight-feet-tall, so that will prevent animals such as deer from being able to access the roads," Olson said.

kids in studio
April Ashland / Utah Public Radio

Sound Beginnings at Utah State University is an early education program that provides home and center-based services to children with hearing loss whose families want their children to learn to listen and talk.

About 80 children signed up this year, and they came to the UPR studios. You can listen to their team chants below:

Utah Public Radio must raise $25,000 to replace two essential pieces of equipment before we wrap up the fiscal year on June 30th: KUSR’s transmitter and an equipment cooling unit. Make a special gift in support of our Technology Fund Drive today! Make a gift right now by clicking here.

In 1998, UPR installed the KUSR transmitter, which now needs to be updated. Much like phones, computers, and boomboxes (sorry, walkmans...er...CD players... mp3 players) needed to be updated, so does our technology. We need a new transmitter to stay up-to-date and on-air. The cost is $19,000. The one we have is on its last leg.


GeoMetWatch logo

GeoMetWatch is a Las Vegas-based company that collects and delivers weather information to forecasters. They began working with Utah State's Advanced Weather Systems Foundation and Space Dynamic's Lab in 2010. The groups collaborated to build and finance a satellite-based weather system.

The company is now suing the university, stating USU conspired with a private investor Alan Hall to steal trade secrets and drive them out of business. Hall is now president and CEO of USU's new partner company, Tempus Global Data, which was announced as the new partner in April, about same time USU severed ties with GeoMetWatch.

April Ashland / Utah Public Radio

Amidst a cluster of buildings off highway 89 in Wellsville is an open space of ground surrounded by wooden stakes. This area will soon be classroom space for students in Utah State University's College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. This space and the two buildings closest to it were given a name Tuesday morning- the Sam Skaggs Family Equine Education Center.

USU provost Noelle Cockett, formerly the dean of the College of Ag, helped plan the project in 2007. The building of the center began in 2009, and Cockett spoke at the groundbreaking about the completion of the project.

"So now we have the groundbreaking for the classroom. And I noticed on the invitation it said the 'final phase' of the Equine Education Center. I don't know if that's actually true about horses, isn't there always something more you can buy for horses? But really I think this will be the last jewel in what is an amazing center," Cockett said.

graham's beardtongue penstemon
Utah Geologic Survey / Utah Department of Natural Resources

The Graham's beardtongue and the White River beardtongue are found in Utah in the same place as oil- in the Uintah and Duchesne county oil shale outcroppings.

This week, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would postpone deciding whether or not to designate critical habitat for the flowers under the Endangered Species Act. Instead, it released a proposed conservation agreement.

Laura Romin is with the Fish and Wildlife Service, formerly a biologist, now the deputy field supervisor for Utah. She says the agreement allows for some of the species to be retained.

"The basis of the agreement is to establish some conservation areas for each of these species, and in the conservation agreement, we would limit surface disturbance," Romin said. "There's certainly the risk of some of the individual populations disappearing, however we're currently in the process of evaluating the level of threat of energy development to the species as a whole."

Lori Ann Burd, from the Center for Biological Diversity says she doesn’t believe the goal of the agreement is really conservation.

Mike Christensen / Division of Wildlife Resources

About 17,000 tiger muskies will arrive in Salt Lake City Tuesday evening to re-supply six state reservoirs. Tiger muskies are long, torpedo-shaped fish, with sharp teeth. They can weigh more than 30 pounds, and get longer than a child is tall. Right now, Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources is restocking these fish in reservoirs across the state.

Drew Cushing with the DWR says Tiger Muskies are very good for both the natural fish populations and anglers.

"Well these fish are unique in the fact that they are sterile. These are fish that’s a hybrid between a true muskie and a northern pike. They’re more friendly to use in places where we have native species concerns because they can’t reproduce. This is a way we can stock a water and get a trophy fishery out of it, and then protect the native species by eliminating the possibility of their reproducing."

The fish are currently about an inch long, and have a voracious appetite-- they have been eating each other on the long journey from Nebraska. Cushing says their appetite for other fish is partly why the DWR stocks them.

April Ashland / Utah Public Radio

"My Address Is" is a Utah Public Radio series exploring Utah issues associated with how and where we live. This is part 1 of 6.

Don Baldwin decided as a young man he wanted to be a dairy farmer, but the square mile, 600-head dairy he now owns in Lewiston began as a much smaller operation.

I grew up in Salt Lake City on the east bench. I come from a non-farm background, and we bought two heifers that had already calved, and 13 springers on Thanksgiving weekend in 1981. We originally started with just those two cows on a rented dairy, an old dilapidated dairy, it took us almost a week to get enough milk in the bottom of a very small tank that they could even measure it where the truck could pick it up.

And we just started from there. Laurie and I working together. She worked as much as I did. I helped her in the house, she helped on the farm. Lots of times we had the kids with us in a cardboard box sitting in the barn or with us in a tractor, you know that's how they grew up was with us. And the kids worked too.

Don’s job on the farm is more than just an owner and dairyman, he grows most of the food used to feed his cattle, from plowing the ground to fertilization and harvesting and mixing the ingredients together. In a given week, he is husband, father, chemist, veterinarian and mechanic.

Don’s existence is intrinsically tied to the milk his cows produce and the land. He says public perceptions about where food comes from has affected farmers.

He believes the majority of the public has lost their connection to the farm, and it affects all aspects of his life. Whether cities are encroaching on the farm and getting upset by the smell, how food is produced, or legislative issues, the American populace is separated from their food by too many generations.

Ok, right now, we are hauling manure onto our fields. It's a by-product of the dairy, and it represents a valuable source of nutrients for our cropping and crop rotations. People used to understand that was part of the game. Now, there's a hue and a cry if we start hauling manure that we are contaminating the roads, we are destroying the aesthetic value of the community because it smells.

Jerusha and paul with silk sunflowers
Bessie Wakefield

Jerusha Daines is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Three months ago, she got a cough that never got better. Now, she’s on the top of the donor list for a new set of lungs. After seeing doctors in Cache Valley, Jerusha and her husband, Paul, saw a specialist in Salt Lake, where she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension.

“We don't know how it happened. The doctors say it's idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. When we first saw the doctor, he said she's the healthiest person she's seen with this,” Paul said.

Oil and gas industries have been rising in the United States. Employment in the oil and gas industry has increased by 40 percent in the past seven years. That has led to dramatic growth in many regions around the country. Duchesne County in Utah, for example, is the second fastest growing county (compared to counties of similar size) in the United States. Utah Public Radio wants to hear about how you're experiencing the boom in your part of the country.

Has it affected your community positively or negatively? Do you or someone you know commute long distances for oil or gas jobs? Are you noticing more people coming to your town?

Click here to share your story.

US map of illicit drug use
SAMHSA / Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality

Nationally, 18 percent of adults have a mental illness and seven percent have a substance abuse disorder. Now, a national project attempts to find solutions.

At a time when state and local budgets are tight in both cities and rural areas, it can be difficult to find and provide information giving a realistic picture of mental illness and substance abuse solutions to leaders. Enter Don Albrecht.

“The concern of this project is that nationwide there are lots of concerns about substance abuse and growing mental health issues. And a lot of times the people in decision making roles within the communities, number one, they're not aware of the extent of the problems in their communities compared to other communities, number 2, a lot of times they don't really know how to address these issues. And there are great differences in the extent of this problem from one community to another. It varies greatly from one city to another city."

The CAPE project combines the efforts of the four rural development centers, giving the project national reach. Albrecht is the director of the Western Rural Development Center.

This week, the November voting process begins with the caucus system. Tuesday and Thursday Democrats and Republicans will hold neighborhood caucus meetings at local schools, and other meeting places. Utah director of elections Mark Thomas says caucuses are just the beginning of the election cycle.

"Well, the caucus system is how political parties in Utah begin the process of selecting the candidates they ultimately nominate for the ballot,” he said.  

Osprey with spread wings
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Volunteers with the non-profit Raptor Inventory Nest Survey will become "citizen scientists" to troop around the state from March to June to count nesting birds of prey. RINS Director Robyn MacDuff says experience is not necessary to volunteer.

"We do quite an extensive field training, we have workshops where it's sort of a classroom setting, then we meet our volunteers in the field, and work with them in the field. A lot of times that isn't just one time."

Feb. 10-16 has been designated as national "Random Acts of Kindness Week." According to Rebecca Glathar of The National Alliance of Mental Illness of Utah, simple kindnesses, such as a smile, can save a life.

"There have been studies that have shown something as simple a smile has changed the mind of an individual who's considering taking their own life," Glathar said.

Founder of 365Aware, Braden Thompson, says he is grateful for the little opportunities- like when he passed a man carrying groceries up a hill in the cold.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that Salt Lake City-based Prime Snax Inc. is recalling about 90,000 pounds of beef jerky products which have shipped around the country.

The recall has been issued because the jerky was processed with soy lecithin, an allergen not declared on the label. Utah State University Meat Scientist Jerrad Legako said soy lecithin helps create the good jerky texture.

The five finalists are here! Vote by this Tuesday, February 18 for your favorite design. The top number of votes will be on the next Utah Public Radio coffee mug, available during the Spring 2014 UPR Membership Campaign.

April Ashland / Utah Public Radio

Logan’s 27th annual chocolate festival is where amateur and professional chefs put their chocolate skills to the test.

In 1987, the Logan Planned Parenthood Advisory board created the chocolate festival as a way to raise money and interact with the community.

Over the last 26 years, the number of entries has ranged from 30 to 75. But one constant group of professionals emerge- the pastry chefs of Crumb Brothers Artisan Bread. Why? Well, because it's tradition.

"Crumb Brothers has done this since Crumb Brothers has been around. It's a fun tradition. It involves the whole community," said chef Samantha Powell.

Powell is joined by chefs Jen Rudd and Kanako Arnold in this year's competition team. With a history of winning, they say the pressure to do well is on.

"There is some pressure. It's fun and it's exciting. Really, I get so many ideas from the amateur division. They are so creative. But yes, there's a little pressure. You think you have to do something better and something more creative every year," Powell said.

"If it doesn't win, what does that say about it?" Rudd said.

"Did we fail the person before us? Things like that," Powell said.

One gun bill has been scrapped and others are still on the table in this session of the legislature. Cache Valley Rep. Ed Redd's house bill 202 would have limited the ability of those who have been civilly committed to the custody of a mental health institution to get a gun. 

"You know somebody can't just diagnose, a physician can't just diagnose a person as being mentally ill and take away their rights to possess a weapon. Civil commitment is a process," Redd said.

He now says the bill is no longer necessary.

girl at computer

"Hi, I'm Jena, I'll be doing your taxes today."

Jena is one of hundreds of volunteers working mornings, evenings and weekends to help Utahns file their taxes- for free. The catch? You need to have made less than $52,000 in 2013.

"Back in 1969, the congress mandated to the Internal Revenue Service that they assist the general public with tax filing, due to the complexity of the tax code. So out of that came the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program," said IRS Spokesman Bill Brunson.

The VITA program is almost entirely run by volunteers, and sites are usually located at community and neighborhood centers, such as libraries and schools.

At Utah State University, the Beta Alpha Psi honor society will spend their Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings from Feb. 4 to April 1 helping the public with their taxes. Just like other volunteers around the state, they've spent weeks preparing, learning, and testing to be able to file taxes.

Beta Alpha Psi Faculty Advisor Bonnie Villarreal said the students receive training, just as all VITA volunteers would.

"The IRS provides training materials to us, and tests that have to be passed for someone to work in the VITA clinic. They have to get an 80 percent, and they only get two tries at it," Villarreal said. "Every volunteer gets trained in the standards of conduct that the IRS expects, and there are different levels and topics of tax law they can be trained in depending on what they want to be able to do."

Tax-Filing Season Begins Friday

Jan 31, 2014
W-2 tax form
Internal Revenue Service

Tax-filing season is here again and is scheduled to run from Jan. 31 to April 15. However, tax payers can file for more time if needed.

"If an individual needs additional time to file, they can request it by filing a form 4868 on or before midnight Tuesday April 15, and receive an additional six months of time to submit the return, not pay the tax," said Bill Brunson, Internal Revenue Service spokesman.

Friday is also the due date for employees to receive W-2 forms -- wage and tax statements -- and 1099 forms for interest on bank accounts and dividends from mutual funds.

U.S. House Republican leaders released their guidelines for a bi-partisan effort to overhaul the immigration system on Thursday. The Republican statement on standards for immigration reform call for a step-by-step approach and multiple little bills rather than one large piece of legislation few understand.

The statement says, "Our nation's immigration system is broken and our laws are not being enforced. Washington's failure to fix them is hurting our economy and jeopardizing our national security."

Former Utah Republican Chairman Stan Lockhart said he knows this all too well.

"So in Utah we've actually had our state legislature get involved in this issue because the federal government just showed so much inaction, and it's our experience that the current policies with the extreme difficulty to get a legal visa has created an environment of de-facto amnesty," Lockhart said.