Best of the West: Saving starry skies, outdoor recreation offices expand, autonomous vehicles power up

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting November 6, 2017, that you don't want to miss. Image courtesy: The International Dark-Sky Association

As population growth in the West continues, some regions are working to preserve less-populated areas as “dark sky” sanctuaries. Light pollution obscures views of starry skies, and with western metro areas booming, National Parks remain some of the best places in the U.S. to experience near-total darkness.

Payson, Arizona is looking to become an official Dark Sky community, joining the ranks of Ketchum, Idaho, and Westcliffe, Colorado, among others.

For those unable to escape city lights, some are bringing the experience to the people. In Utah, a new observatory with a revolving dome opens ‘a portal to the cosmos’, where visitors can view the milky way, constellations and planets rarely seen by the naked eye. Even from your computer, you can experience starry skies over ghost towns of the West through this stunning timelapse video

A/V Innovations: Autonomous vehicle technology continues to progress. California-based Waymo has begun testing driverless vehicles in Arizona, and Uber says it will bring flying taxis to Los Angeles in 2020. In Nevada, a driverless shuttle bus was involved in a minor crash, which was the fault of the human driver in the other vehicle.

Wyoming is expected to create an Office of Outdoor Recreation to prioritize the growing industry, which generates $5.6 billion in consumer spending annually for the state. Oregon recently created its own Outdoor Recreation Office, joining Utah, Colorado, Montana and Washington with similar offices. 

West is Best: Forbes released its annual Coolest Cities and Best Places for Business and Careers lists, and it’s no surprise that the West makes a strong showing. Austin, Texas made both lists, as did several other western standouts. 

Little Bug, Big Threat: An invasive species, the pecan weevil, is threatening New Mexico’s $180 million pecan industry. Quarantines were enacted in orchards where the infestation has been detected, but farmers worry unaffected areas could be economically impacted as well.  

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