Oilfield workers on Facebook, dynamite in a sperm whale, and more.

  • Colorado: Their word, not ours.

    Steve Ryder
 

NORTH DAKOTA, MONTANA
There's now a brilliant, low-cost way to start a newspaper smack in the middle of nowhere: Just open up a Facebook page or two, and share what you know and what you'd like to know more about. Ask local readers to pitch in with Smartphone photos and tips, and voilà! You're in business, though it's community you're making, not money. That approach has been surprisingly successful in a remote area of the West known as the Bakken, the huge oil play that straddles the border of North Dakota and northeastern Montana. Since 2000, the Bakken has attracted thousands of workers to create what's become the second-most productive oilfield in America after Texas; in 2013, its output rose to 1 million barrels of oil a day. But how do oilfield workers living in far-flung man camps, rentals and motels stay in touch? One answer is Facebook, or so says "Mr. X," a man who wishes to remain anonymous to protect his oil-patch job. He created two Facebook pages in 2012, and one of them, "Bakken Oilfield Fail of the Day," now boasts over 72,000 followers. As the Billings Gazette puts it, that's comparable to the Facebook page for World Peace, which has 76,149 likes. Mr. X says his other page –  "Missing Persons and Property from the Bakken Oilfield" – hooks up people who report thefts with readers who not only identify stolen vehicles or tools, but also sometimes volunteer to guard them until police or the owners can retrieve the property. Theft has become rampant in the area, with three or four trailers or trucks stolen every night. Mr. X says he enjoys even wider reach because so many share his news on their own Facebook pages. Recently, for example, more than 93,000 readers helped a woman find her missing daughter. But the bread-and-butter news for workers remains the endless number of stolen vehicles, plus photos of wrecked semis or company trucks wallowing in mud and some sad outhouses that have seen better days.

FRANCE, ARIZONA
Someday, there will probably be a movie about how a nonprofit foundation plotted to save objects sacred to an Indian tribe by stealthily and secretly outbidding rich people at an auction. Tom Mashberg tells the wonderful story in The New York Times. The Hopi Tribe, whose religious objects were on the block at a French auction house, lost a court battle to stop the sale and knew nothing of the Annenberg Foundation's decision to act on its behalf. Some tribal members were deeply upset by the loss of headdresses and other items, some more than a century old, that they consider not just religious, "but living entities with divine spirits." That's when Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, vice president and director of the foundation, got involved. "These are not trophies to have on one's mantel," he said. "They are truly sacred works for the Native Americans. They do not belong in auction houses or private collections." He authorized the foundation to spend up to $1 million for the pieces, eventually buying all but three of the 24 Hopi objects as well as three Apache artifacts. Though the Drouot auction house in Paris was at one point suspicious of the determined but anonymous American who bid by phone, no one glommed onto the fact that a major foundation had determined to take all, if possible. Co-conspirators edging out other bidders included a Paris lawyer, Pierre Servan-Schreiber, who had represented the Hopi in court for free, Philip J. Breeden, a cultural attaché from the U.S. Embassy, and foundation staffers. As Executive Director Leonard J. Aube explained afterward, "It was a leap-of-faith kind of moment for us. Not a lot of foundations are geared up for this kind of clandestine, late-night activity." For Sam Tenakhongva, a Hopi cultural director, the foundation's victory was bittersweet: "No one should have to buy back their sacred property," he said. "But now at least they will be at home with us, and they will go to rest."

OREGON
As 2013 came to a close, the death of George Thomas Thornton, 84, made news, but only because of an unfortunate decision he'd made decades ago. In 1970, Thornton, a highway engineer, was faced with the dilemma of what to do about a 45-foot-long dead sperm whale that was decomposing on an Oregon beach. Dynamite was Thornton's solution, though for many years he refused to talk about the consequences – smelly whale parts flying through the air and splattering 75 observers a quarter-mile away, plus a big hunk flattening a parked car. Later, when he described the explosion, he said that it just "blew up in my face," reports the Associated Press. The resulting mess inspired elaborate alliteration from eyewitness TV reporter Paul Linnman: "The blast blasted blubber beyond all believable bounds."

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNITY OUTREACH MANAGER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Outreach Manager to reach and forge new relationships with individuals and groups who represent communities historically...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CLIMATE JUSTICE FELLOW
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks applicants for a climate justice fellowship. The fellowship...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Wild Rockies Field Institute is seeking a visionary Executive Director to lead the organization in Missoula, Montana. Individuals with a proven track record in...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • ARIZONA PROGRAM MANAGER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks an Arizona Program Manager. The Arizona Program Manager works...
  • CROWN OF THE CONTINENT COMMUNITY CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY is seeking a Community Conservation Specialist, for the Crown of the Continent DEPARTMENT: Conservation CLASSIFICATION: Grade 6 Specialist/Representative (Low of $54K) REPORTS...
  • ASSISTANT FARM DIRECTOR
    About The Organization Building community through fresh vegetables is at the heart of the Sisters-based non-profit, Seed to Table Oregon. Based on a four-acre diversified...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • DYNAMIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    VARD is seeking an Executive Director to lead a small legal & planning staff dedicated to the health and sustainability of Teton Valley Idaho and...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.