In Our View: #savebela

When Connie Ley died in late November in Indiana, a provision in her will required her 9-year-old German shepherd named Bela be euthanized and that his ashes be sprinkled with hers if a suitable home could not be found for the dog.

Bela and one of his caregivers at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.Ley worried that her faithful companion, who had shown aggressive tendencies in the past, could be a danger to any other person who might try and adopt the dog.

The Internet began to buzz and the hashtag #SaveBela was born as the public expressed outrage and voiced pleas to save the life of a perfectly healthy dog.

“Let Bela live the rest of his life where he can be loved and cared for. He could be buried next to his owner when his time comes. #SaveBela” wrote one woman.

In Indiana a dog is considered property, and Ley’s will was clear. There were just three options:Either the dog would be killed, Ley’s best friend had to take ownership of the dog or he had to be sent to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab.

Thankfully, Best Friends stepped up.

After negotiations with Ley’s attorney led to an agreement to release the dog into the shelter’s custody, Best Friends representatives John Garcia and Meghann Burke traveled to Indiana to meet Bela and to bring him back with them to Kanab.

“The initial meeting was a really spectacular moment,” said Garica. “It was incredible to see how many people cared about him and the relationships he had built with them.”

“He’s been awesome, people-wise,” Burke said, “and he learned to do doors and elevators in hotels.”

“Our trainers and specialists will give him special attention, and our caregivers will work to make sure he has a comfortable life, a wonderful life,” said Best Friends CEO Gregory Castle. “While the health and welfare of Bela is our first priority, we need to ensure that we are observing the provisions of Bela’s owner’s will as a priority as well. We will see what his future holds, but all indications so far are that he is a beautiful and wonderful dog.”

Having an animal shelter with as high a profile as that of Best Friends is an absolute blessing for animals like Bela, and we are proud to be able to claim the volunteers and employees of the Kanab shelter as our family, friends and neighbors in Southern Utah.

The reputation that Best Friends has — they are known worldwide for major stories like Bela’s, their status as the shelter that can handle the care of Michael Vick’s dogs, and for being the home of the DogTown reality television show — puts them in a unique position as arguably the most famous animal shelter in the United States.

It’s a hefty responsibility to be certain, but in every case the representatives at Best Friends have handled their celebrity with grace and aplomb.

While the work they are doing is important, it should also be remembered there are animal shelters throughout the United States committed to the same mission as Best Friends that are also doing what they can to ensure there are no more homeless pets.

In Southern Utah, organizations like Providing Animals With Support (PAWS), the Ivins No Kill Animal Supporters (INKAS), Cedar Animal Rescue and the Homeless Animal Rescue Team (HART) accomplish many of the same goals as Best Friends, albeit on a much smaller scale, and we commend them for the work they do as well.

But Best Friends is the big dog in the room, the organization with national clout and the one people think of throughout the rest of the nation and much of the world when they think of an animal rescue shelter other than their local dog pound.

We commend all those who look after unwanted pets and who work so diligently to save homeless animals. We hope they will keep up the good work and would encourage our readers to find an opportunity to volunteer or donate to the cause of helping animals find homes. Even if Best Friends in Kanab is too far of a drive for you, there are plenty of smaller organizations and animal shelters throughout Southern Utah that can use your help.

Top Five places to visit on Lake Powell

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With winter closing in and those first few nights of freezing temperatures already behind us, most boat owners have at this point already winterized their vessels and tucked them away for a long winter’s nap.

In hopes that it’ll maybe help a few of you to fight off the onset of seasonal affective disorder, I thought I’d put together a list of my five favorite spots to visit on the western side of Lake Powell.

As you sit by the fireplace bundled up and trying to keep warm, you can look at the photos and read about these fantastic places to visit at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and dream about the warm sun and sand, the cool water, and spectacular red cliffs that will be waiting for you on the lake come springtime.

Honorable Mentions — In no particular order — Hole-in-the-Rock; Rock Creek Canyon; Oak Creek Canyon; Gunsight Canyon/Padre Bay and Antelope Canyon.

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5. Labyrinth Canyon

Slot canyons filled with twisting corkscrews of sandstone make for some fantastic hiking at the back end of this canyon. Only problem is, a good portion of them go under water as the lake fills up. But with the lake as low as it has been the last few seasons, now is as good a time as any to camp on nearby Padre Bay and spend the day exploring some of the second most spectacular slots in Glen Canyon.

4. The Escalante Arm

The Cathedral in the Desert, LaGorce Arch and Three Roofs Ruins are the featured attractions on the Escalante Arm of the lake. Depending on the lake levels there are a few places to camp on the Escalante, despite a lack of sandy beaches, but the best bet for exploring this arm of Lake Powell is to camp at nearby Oak Creek Bay and make it a day trip.

It takes a bit of a scramble up the side of a steep canyon wall to get to the restored Anasazi ruins at Three Roofs, but it’s worth the effort to get the chance to explore the large cut in the canyon wall that the ancient inhabitants of Glen Canyon called home. LaGorce Arch in Davis Canyon can usually be seen from the lake while Cathedral in The Desert is an alcove at the far end of Clear Creek Canyon that offers a quiet solitude beneath an arched roof of canyon walls that really does remind one of a cathedral.

3. Navajo Canyon

A beautiful sand dome for beaching your boat, some of the most spectacular scenery on the lake, seclusion and an amazing hike up the stairs carved into the sandstone by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930’s — just across the bay from the sand dome — are the attractions in Navajo Canyon.

Turn right and traverse a half a mile or so east on one of the higher benches on the hike up the CCC stairs and there’s an unnamed arch you might stumble upon. You can see it from the lake below and walk across it if you hike over to it from the stairs.

2. West Canyon

A perennial stream flows through West Canyon so there’s always plenty of wildlife to be seen and it’ll keep your toes cool as you hike through the trickle of water on your way to the slot canyons that lie anywhere from a few hundred feet to a couple of miles form the end of Lake Powell depending on the water levels.

The slot canyons here are often filled with water and require wading in some spots and swimming in others. In the triple-digit heat of the summer West Canyon is a spectacular place to enjoy the combination of the cool shade of the narrow canyon and the wading you’ll need to do to get through the slots.

Hanging gardens cling to the walls of subway like tubes in parts of the canyon, and the beauty of the slots here are rivaled only by those at nearby Antelope Canyon on the Navajo Reservation.

1. Rainbow Bridge National Monument

It’s one of the world’s largest known natural bridges and has been protected as a part of the National Park system for more than 100 years. It’s 290 feet from the base to the top of the arch – about as tall as the Statue of Liberty — and it spans 275 feet over the riverbed that runs beneath it. Rainbow Bridge and Navajo Canyon are the two spots on Lake Powell on this list you can reach by tour boat — and deservedly so.

Rainbow Bridge really is the jewel in the center of the crown that is Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It’s an awe inspiring testament to the power of nature carved by water right from the canyon walls.

Here’s hoping the winter will pass quickly and come spring time, I hope I’ll see you all back on the lake.

Email Jud Burkett at

On the Lake: The Magical Night Sky

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There is something magical about the night sky in the wide open spaces of Southern Utah.

When you look up and the Milky Way stretches through the darkness — millions of pinpricks of light glowing with a brilliance that dazzles and reminds one of just how small we are and how vast the universe around us is — it’s easy to see why our ancestors created myths surrounding the shapes they saw.

The beauty is breathtaking especially when the moon has set and even the light it casts isn’t mucking up the view of the stars.

Glen Canyon is a fantastic place to take in that view, especially the further away you get from Page and the light pollution the town emits.

One of my favorite things to do on Lake Powell on those crystal clear and moonless nights is to set up my tri-pod, and leave the shutter on my camera open for an extended period of time to try and capture some of the beauty on display.

And while I often make images I really like on those late night photo session, photographs alone don’t really do it justice.

Being there, turning your head and being able to see the sheer magnitude of the stars, all around you, meteors streaking across the sky, the faint light of the stars playing on the water and the cliffs of Glen Canyon, it’s an experience that far too few people get to enjoy anymore.

Not too long ago, we all experienced it, nearly every night.

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Our ancestors sat around the fire at night and marveled at the stars, so much so that they began to tell tales of Orion the Hunter and Ursa the Bear.

It’s only been in the last few hundred years that light pollution has blotted out the stars and hidden them from the view of the vast majority of us.

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Street lights, neon signs, light spilling from our homes, all of it adds up quickly and hides from view the true majesty of the night sky.

I feel fortunate to, at the very least, live close enough to some of the more vast stretches of dark night skies left in the United States. It’s not too difficult for us here in Southern Utah to get out a little way from the cities and towns and rediscover the brilliance of the night sky that has entranced humanity for thousands, if not millions of years.

I spent six years living in New York City in my youth, a town in which light pollution prevents one from seeing much of anything in the night sky that’s any dimmer than Mars or Venus. Most of the sky that you can see between the canyon walls of skyscrapers just glows with a yellowish-orange tinge that seems so unnatural.

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Perhaps living without those stars gave me a greater appreciation for them when I moved back to a place where they shine as brightly as they do here.

I love the quiet of the darkest part of the night, spending 15 minutes or so doing nothing but sitting and waiting for enough time to pass to capture the faint light and spinning of the stars as they rotate through the sky and reflect upon the image sensor in my camera.

And while it’s sometimes a little challenging to wake up the next day after having been up until the wee hours of the morning taking a only the handful of pictures that can be had when each image takes as long as a half an hour to capture, I keep finding myself tucking my family in for the night and then breaking out my camera when we’re on the lake.

After all, I can always catch up on my sleep when I’m back in St. George and looking up the orange glow of streetlights.

Email Jud Burkett, Chief Photographer for The Spectrum & Daily News, at

In Our View: Unacceptable

Southern Utahns should be embarrassed.

The fact that we barely managed to get 40 percent of the eligible voters in Washington and Iron Counties to the polls is shameful, and the fact that turnout in the rest of this state was just as bad should have us all blushing redder than Utah’s newly elected congressional delegation.

Many in this community regularly profess their pride in our nation. We wave the flag when it comes to parades and rodeos, we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the National Anthem with respect at every local sporting event or public meeting, we encourage our young men to participate in Boy Scouts, we pay to have flags planted in our front yards for every holiday and next week we’ll support our veterans as well with programs and speeches on Veterans Day.

But more than half of us took the freedoms and rights for which those brave men and women fought on battlefields from Normandy to Fallujah for granted when we let others decide who would represent us in our democracy.

All of the flag waving and chest thumping we do is hollow, meaningless and empty if we as citizens don’t take voting seriously.

We can talk about the reasons many chose to stay home — often we point to the fact that elections here in Utah are usually extremely one-sided — but in this past election there were other equally important issues on the ballots in Washington and Iron Counties like the Washington County Recreation Arts and Parks Tax and the property tax increase in Enoch and, still, the majority of us failed to show up to cast a ballot.

While there are close to 100,000 people in Washington County who are eligible to vote, only 28,048 votes were cast either for or against the RAP Tax.

Of the 3,500 or so eligible voters in Enoch, 1,516 voted on the question of whether or not to increase property taxes.

While the turnout last Tuesday is disconcerting, it’s not really unexpected. Voter participation has been trending downward in Utah for decades but the numbers have truly gotten to the point where something needs to change.

The legislature can and should be looking for dramatic, game-changing ideas that will reinvigorate Utah voters. Simply building a website filled with voter information and creating a series of mildly humorous commercials featuring the lieutenant governor is obviously not enough to reverse the trends we’re witnessing in voter participation.

Earlier this summer Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times advocating the adoption of the top-two primary system throughout the United States. And while ideas that come from Democrats are often shunned in this neck of the woods, it’s just the kind of game-changing and drastic idea that could light a fire under Utah voters.

In most of our districts it would mean two Republicans duking it out but having the top two primary vote getters in the November general election would mean that these elections would matter. Those two Republicans would be forced to campaign more enthusiastically and reach out to more voters because neither candidate would be able to rely on their base voting strictly for their party values.

More candidates going door to door, scheduling more debates, more interviews, and generally pushing for more face time in the media would be the fastest way to inform more people on the issues and candidates. And hopefully more informed voters would be more likely to show up on election day. Not only that but two Republican candidates on the November ballot would force those candidates to sell voters on their qualifications and not just on the letter behind their names.

Whether it’s a top two primary or some other drastic change to the way we elect politicians in Utah, it should be painfully obvious now that we have work to do. Forty percent is truly unacceptable.

In Our View: Miles to go

Last week the voters in Washington County and the City of Enoch were asked to decide the question of whether or not they wanted to increase their taxes.

In Washington County, the RAP tax, designed to provide additional funds to further the recreation opportunities, arts offerings and parks available to residents, appears likely to pass barring a surprising result in the counting of absentee and provisional ballots. While in Enoch, the vote on an increase in property taxes that would have paid for a variety of general fund items from the city’s library to fixing potholes was defeated.

In both cases, the results mean that decisions will have to be made.

In the case of Washington County, the county commissioners will now appoint a committee that will ultimately choose how the new tax money, once collected, will be spent.

In Enoch, the city council will need to choose what services to cut in order to get the budget back into the black.

We have no doubt that neither of these decisions will be made lightly, but they also require further input from the citizens of Washington County and Enoch.

While in the case of Enoch, the types and levels or services they will be able to offer their citizens will decrease, and in Washington County they will increase. In order for those who will ultimately choose to make the best decision, they will need to hear from you, and not just those of you who voted for the RAP tax or against the increase in property taxes, but all of you.

Our reporters will stay on top of these stories as they progress and will do their best to provide you with the information on the proposals for where money will be spent or cut. Some of these decisions could have major positive or negative impacts on members of our communities. It will be up to you to make your voices heard, to speak up and attend city council meetings and to stay informed when it comes to RAP tax proposals in order to make certain that the best decisions are made.

The elections were just the first step, and we’ve got miles to go yet before we can be confident out tax dollars are being spent in the most effective way possible.


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Basketball has already started. I shot my first game of the season this week, and I have to admit, I had fun. I like shooting basketball. It’s probably my third favorite sport to shoot after hockey and baseball. Hockey I like because I like the game and the constant action and flow of the game make it a fun and challenging game to photograph and baseball I like because it’s another game I enjoy watching and usually, here in St. George, the weather is warm and the sun is shining and it’s just great to be outside shooting baseball.

In Our View – Bye bye Blue Bunny

I’ve officially been handed the reins of the editorial page at the Specturm & Daily News so I’ll be writing the opinions of the editorial board a little more often. I’m posting them on my blog as a way of archiving some of the pieces of which I’m most fond because they don’t live forever on… This one was published on Wednesday, Sep. 3, 2014.

 St. George received a bit of bad news from the labor market front on Tuesday when Blue Bunny confirmed they will be closing their St. George plant.

Anytime a business announces a plant closure in Southern Utah — and there have been more than a few over the past few years — you have to pause for a moment and feel a bit of sympathy for the people whose lives will be impacted by lost jobs and lost incomes.

Some hurt more than others. We’ve had larger closures than Blue Bunny’s. We saw 350 people lose their jobs in Cedar City when O’Sullivan closed their plant there in 2000, and about 220 people lost jobs when Viracon closed its doors in St. George in early 2013, but honestly, the numbers don’t matter if it’s your job leaving town.

The next few months will bring plenty of challenges to the Blue Bunny employees whose jobs just vanished.

They’ll be refreshing resumes and pounding the pavement looking for work.

We sympathize with those who are now or will soon be out of a job. We hope their searches for employment will be short and that they’ll land even better jobs than the ones they lost with Blue Bunny.

But it’s part of the American model of capitalism that’s responsible for events such as these. Capitalism dictates that struggling businesses will close up shop, but hopefully, stronger, more vibrant businesses will quickly step in to fill the voids left behind.

We’ve got a fairly diversified local manufacturing economy, and our local and state representatives are continually doing their best to bring more and more manufacturing jobs to the state and to the area.

Losing the Blue Bunny plant will hurt, but gaining Family Dollar, SyberJet, the Industrial Brush Corporation and Litehouse Foods in the past few years are just a few examples of the kinds of successes that our local representatives can brag about when it comes to luring manufacturing and light industrial jobs to Southern Utah.

We have a great location for light manufacturing. We have a state government that’s extremely business-friendly and we have a fairly well-educated work force, so there’s no reason to think we can’t find a bigger and better replacement for Blue Bunny.

Blue Bunny has been a model business in our community for the past decade. It’s provided ice cream at more than a few city sponsored events, including the St. George Marathon, and there will be more than a few runners saddened to see that there won’t be an ice-cold Bomb Pop waiting for them at the finish line anymore. And that doesn’t take into account the many private charitable events in which Blue Bunny took part.

Blue Bunny will be missed, but there are other business opportunities out there. It will be difficult, but we can and we will eventually do better.