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Know the West

A skipped issue, and a farewell to Bill Mitchell


Paonia, Colorado, home of High Country News, has been in the middle of a heat wave, with temperatures lurking around 90 degrees for far too long. We’re looking forward to skipping an issue, per our usual schedule, and will see you again in July!

Despite the heat, Claire Goodis-Baker and Lynell Kyser of Denver stopped by the office (where, fortunately, it was much cooler). The pair, with their cute pups Maya and Tigger in tow, scoped out HCN’s local stomping grounds before coming by to say hello. Claire and Lynell, both retiring soon, are considering settling in the area. Thanks for coming by!

This month, we’re saying farewell with a heavy heart to a longtime friend and former board member: Bill Mitchell, who passed away May 25. Bill served as HCN board president from 2004 to 2006, and, as Executive Director Paul Larmer recalls, “always brought his curious mind, his decency and his sense of humor to the meetings. I always felt more capable and calm having Bill by my side.”

Bill was an organizer, who in the mid-1980s helped start the Military Production Network, a group dedicated to closing and cleaning up the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities. Colleague Bob Schaeffer recalls Bill’s “fidelity to the principles of democracy,” as he pulled together activists around the country. Though he was the organization’s strategic leader and chief fundraiser, “the microphone was in the hands of the leaders and activists who were from the communities where the nuclear weapons plants were located,” Schaeffer says. “Bill Mitchell never put himself out front.”

Current board member Bob Fulkerson, who directs the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, says Bill “was responsible for getting our first big grant in 1986 to work on nuclear weapons and waste, and it’s likely our fight against Yucca Mountain would have turned out differently but for his garnering national support for our work.”

Through the 1990s and early 2000s, Bill was a program officer for the Seattle-based Brainerd Foundation, where he helped numerous grassroots conservation groups, especially those fighting and coping with mining pollution. He also had his eye on the health of the environmental community itself. Fulkerson says Bill was “the first white man I ever heard talk about the imperative of addressing race and racism in progressive organizing. He demonstrated how white men with privilege can grow, can listen, can move from aspirational to true allies.”

We will miss you, Bill.

A few corrections: Our May 30 “Cats along the border story” stated that a loophole allows ranchers in Mexico to kill jaguars that prey on livestock. In fact, it has been a federal offense to kill a jaguar in Mexico since 1987. Nevertheless, enforcement and prosecutions are rare, and several cats are lost each year to ranchers who suspect them of killing cattle. In the same issue, in our story “Under Water,” San Francisco County residents, not Bay Area residents, have voted against draining Hetch Hetchy. The proposal has not yet gone to a statewide vote. And from that issue’s Dear Friends, we mistakenly located the conservation organization Pronatura Noroeste as being in New Mexico. It is in Mexico. Our apologies.