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Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

New Hampshire says live free or serve life in prison, more controlled burns could help the West, and the Blackfeet bison herd is growing.
Bison in Grand Teton National Park.

Bison in Grand Teton National Park.

This week at Pacific Standard, we brought you stories on the Trump administration's latest crackdown on public benefits, Maine's ban on Native American mascots in public schools, and what will happen if the president ends worst-case climate scenario modeling.

But it was a busy news week, even with Memorial Day on Monday, and there was much more going on than our small newsroom could cover. Here are a few more stories we've been watching.

New Hampshire Abolishes the Death Penalty

State lawmakers on Thursday overrode the New Hampshire governor's veto to abolish the death penalty. When Republican Governor Chris Sununu vetoed the bill earlier this month, he wrote that the bill was "an injustice" to "law enforcement and victims of violent crime around the state." Veto-override votes passed in the state House last week and on Thursday in the state Senate.

New Hampshire was the last state in New England where the death penalty was still in place, although the state has not executed anyone since 1939. Twenty-one states have now gotten rid of capital punishment.

A Study Suggests the West Needs More Prescribed Burns

According to a study published Wednesday in the journal Fire, the use of prescribed or controlled burns has decreased significantly in parts of the American West, while the Southeast has seen an increase. The study authors posit that this could help explain why southeastern states have seen fewer wildfires in recent years. (President Donald Trump has frequently lobbed inaccurate criticism at the West's forest management techniques.)

The West faces challenges when it comes to prescribed burns: It's a dry region, and years of fire suppression have led some areas to become severely overgrown. That means larger fuel loads, which can make fires more destructive.

"It's really hard to convince people they should be doing more prescribed fire and even allocating money for that when you've got huge destructive wildfires every year," researcher Crystal Kolden told the Los Angeles Times.

Bison Are Released on the Blackfeet Reservation

Over a year ago, 14 bison were sent from Elk Island National Park in Alberta to the Oakland Zoo in California as part of an effort to restore the growing herd of buffalo on the Blackfeet Reservation near Glacier National Park, the Missoulian reports. That may sound roundabout, but a complicated history led to this point: In short, after settlers decimated North America's bison population in the 19th century, some bison from the Blackfeet homeland ended up in Alberta, and the Blackfeet adopted some of the descendants of that herd a few years ago.

Many of the bison that were sent to Oakland, it turned out, were pregnant, and now, a dozen yearlings have been trucked back to the Blackfeet reservation. "These returning bison and those in the future will play a critical role in re-populating the open range," Amy Gotliffe, director of conservation at Oakland Zoo, told National Parks Traveler.