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Utah's official state tree is now the aspen

Published March 26, 2014 8:48 pm

Enactments • Governor signs measures elevating aspen as a state icon, suppressing administrative subpoenas as law-enforcement tool.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Gov. Gary Herbert has signed nearly two dozen bills this week, including a measure making the aspen the state tree and clamping down on an investigative tool that had been overused, largely unchecked, by law enforcement.

The idea of changing Utah's state tree from the Colorado blue spruce to the aspen, which is more common across Utah, was conceived initially by a class of fourth-graders at Monroe Elementary School in Sevier County.

They live fairly close to the 80,000-year-old Pando aspen grove, near Fishlake National Forest, which is recognized as the largest living organism since it shares a root structure. It is at risk due to climate change.

Senate Bill 41 breezed through the Senate and won approval in the House, despite 19 members voting against it.

The governor signed the bill into law Tuesday. On Wednesday, he traveled to Monroe to participate in a mock signing with the school's students.

Also on Tuesday, the governor signed a bill setting more rigorous standards for law enforcement use of administrative subpoenas. The documents allow investigators to get certain financial and personal information from Internet companies and cell phone providers without acquiring a warrant from a judge.

The tool had been sold to legislators as critical for use in emergencies, when investigators don't have time to get a court order.

But a review of warrants by The Salt Lake Tribune found that, on average, 37 days lapsed between the purported crime and the issuance of such a subpoena.

Sean Reyes, the new attorney general, also acknowledged last month that his office, which had issued the vast majority of the subpoenas, was discontinuing their use except in extreme circumstances and with his approval.

Herbert also signed HB289, extending a law due to expire, that allows moped riders, motorcyclists or cyclists who stop at a semaphore — but don't trigger the sensor to change the light — to proceed through the red light after 90 seconds, as long as no other traffic is approaching.

gehrke@sltrib.com