Movements, waning and waxing

 

Ten months ago, when a small group of anti-federal agitators occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, HCN produced a package of stories about the seemingly revitalized Sagebrush Rebellion. Armed with guns and cellphones and backed by political forces eager to put federal lands in the hands of state and private interests, these new “insurgents” looked formidable.

Yet now, anti-federal activity in the West seems to have calmed down, and a jury in Portland will soon decide whether seven of the Malheur occupiers conspired to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs. The land-transfer fever is also cooling: Utah’s governor has balked at the legal fight pushed by hardliners in his Legislature, and the issue largely has been sidelined during this brutal election season.

Instead, a different kind of campaign is gaining momentum in the West: a modern amalgamation of the civil rights and environmental movements of the 1960s, buoyed by a new generation of climate and social justice activists and led by an emboldened Native American community.

You can see it in North Dakota, where representatives from Indigenous tribes around the globe have joined members of the Standing Rock Sioux to protest the construction of the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry Bakken crude within a half-mile of the tribe’s reservation. With supplies pouring in from across the country, many plan to brave the coming winter in tents and trailers, hoping that their stand, along with a legal challenge by EarthJustice, will get the pipeline re-rerouted away from revred sites and water sources.

Already, the protest has caused the Army Corps of Engineers and Interior Department to temporarily halt construction and start a series of listening sessions to assess whether there should be “nationwide reform” on how tribes are consulted when infrastructure projects affect their homelands.

Executive Director and Publisher Paul Larmer

The five tribes that have asked President Obama to create a 1.9 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument on sacred lands in San Juan County, Utah, have their own ideas about consultation: They want a permanent seat at the table. As Jonathan Thompson reports, the proposed monument would give tribes a majority vote on a management committee, a federal land first.

Predictably, San Juan County’s largely Mormon and politically conservative majority, which has periodically clashed with land managers and environmentalists over the past 50 years, strongly opposes the monument. More surprisingly, so do a number of tribal members, many of whom are also Mormon and do not trust the federal government. Thompson’s story is a good reminder of just how complicated Western issues can be.

Still, if Obama decides to protect the Bears Ears, it will serve as a powerful affirmation of the claims of those Americans with the longest and deepest ties to the land. And it will signal that conservation and social justice can go hand-in-hand in the modern West.

High Country News Classifieds
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • WYOMING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS COORDINATOR
    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is seeking Coordinator to implement public education and advocacy campaigns in the Cowboy State to unite and amplify hunter, angler,...
  • ASSISTANT TOWN ATTORNEY
    Town of Jackson, Wyoming, $66,700 - $88,000 DOQ, full benefits. Law Degree Required. Rental housing options available. For a complete job description and to apply,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...