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for people who care about the West

Native Lives Matter; Elk slaughter; Labor union movement

HCN.org news in brief.


In 2015 Daniel Covarrubias, a 37-year-old member of the Suquamish Nation, was shot and killed by police in Lakewood, Washington, on his way home from the hospital. The shooting happened in a lumberyard, after Covarrubias reached into his pockets and raised a dark object towards the officers, who opened fire. Only afterward did they discover that the object Covarrubias had pointed was a cellphone. In the U.S., Native Americans are more likely than any other racial group to be killed by law enforcement, at a rate three times higher than whites. But even as public scrutiny over police shootings of African Americans have grown in recent years, Native American deaths have remained largely absent from the conversation. The Native Lives Matter movement hopes to change that by calling attention to what Chase Iron Eyes, a Lakota attorney and activist, calls America’s “undeclared race war.”  -Sarah Tory 

Marilyn Covarrubias covers her face while talking to reporters after her son, Daniel, was shot and killed by police in 2015; Daniel’s sister, Lanna, looks on. Per capita in 2016, Native Americans were the group most likely to die at the hands of police.
Ted S. Warren/AP Photo

Where you live has a lot to do with the price of the water that comes out of your kitchen faucet. Of the 12 Western cities included in a nationwide survey, the nonprofit journalism network Circle of Blue found Salt Lake City’s residential water the least expensive in 2017. There, approximately 12,000 gallons — at the top of the range the USGS estimates four people might use in a month — costs $31. The same amount costs $154 in Santa Fe, the surveyed city with the most expensive water. And prices are going up: In some cities, rates have more than doubled since 2010. -Emily Benson

9: Number of members of the Board of Scientific Counselors, out of 18, dismissed by the Environmental Protection Agency in May.

200: Number of advisory boards — many of which allow citizens to make recommendations on natural resource management — suspended by the Interior Department around the same time.

Government spokespeople say the dismissal of scientists and the suspension of citizen advisory groups are designed to bring federal agencies in line with the goals of the Trump administration. Yet the moves have instigated intense outcry from members of the public and of the wider scientific community, who say they block crucial input on federal decision-making. The Board of Scientific Counselors for the Environmental Protection Agency plays a critical role when it comes to the integrity of the science that environmental regulations are based on. The board helps ensure that agency research adheres to scientific standards; the group reviews research results before the agency uses them to develop regulations on issues ranging from water pollution to air quality. The Department of Interior’s freeze of Resource Advisory Boards includes 38 committees made up of members of the public representing diverse interests. Those committees directly advise the Bureau of Land Management on grazing, mining, recreation and other issues vital to the West, but they have been put on hold until at least September by the administration. -Tay Wiles

United Farm Workers poster from the 1960s.

This year’s “A Day Without an Immigrant” protest in early May illustrated the power of a movement that has become a major force in California. In Los Angeles, many laborers are immigrants, and they are increasingly organized, so this year’s walkout became a condemnation of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. The so-called “alt-labor” — service workers in restaurants, domestic work, farms and retail, among others — movement in Los Angeles may be the litmus test for whether a new generation of immigrant workers can mobilize into a lasting and progressive political force. -Ruxandra Guidi

“We will continue to persist, even if it means getting ‘man-handled’ for it. Bring it on.”

—Montana reporter Eve Byron after GOP candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter, and the next day was elected over Democrat Rob Quist for Montana’s one House seat. -Anna V. Smith

In April, rancher Larry Michael Harshfield was charged with the slaughter of 12 elk found dead on his property in northeastern Oregon (another 13 were found on the adjacent property). The killings highlight a simmering conflict: What rights does a rancher have on his private property, and what responsibilities do state agencies have in managing the wildlife that range there? The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife doesn’t compensate for financial losses but did offer fencing and kill permits, which Harshfield turned down. His trial is scheduled for late June. -Anna V. Smith

You say

Nancie McCormish: “It is undeniable that elk are managed in unnaturally high populations by sportsmen’s demand, not biological imperatives.”

Robert Luce: “The (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) must pursue prosecution under the law. They can’t just let it go. But can the trial be used as a catalyst to constructively address the frustration of the ranchers and lead to a solution?”

Quin Ourada: “Much of the moral issue in this case revolves around what element of the kill-permit issuance was too onerous. It seems that the only solution was eliminating the elk, and there was a channel to do so legally.”