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When the Smoke Clears
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November 1, 2020

With election results looming and wildfires still burning, this issue’s on-the-ground reporting – from the Inland Northwest to southern Arizona – canvasses the landscape for solutions. Our feature takes a deep dive into the history, and future, of a co-operatively managed food distribution hub in Spokane, where small farmers collaborate in the name of community – and where the pandemic opened the door for new partnerships. We spend time in Arizona’s Patagonia Mountains with the Soto family, whose connection to their land has survived the boom-and-bust cycles of a legendary mining region. Documentary photos convey their story and enrich the entire issue. A photojournalist memorializes the “silent guests” on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana, where missing and murdered Indigenous women refuse to be forgotten. This issue roves the Intermountain West with stories about wildlife connectivity; a hunter for whom queerness and rural identity are forever intertwined in the high Montana sagebrush; and a Las Vegas couple navigating multiple jobs, parenting and homeschooling. We also hear from researchers, who explain why wildfire models cannot keep up with the extremes of climate change, and how COVID-19 imperils efforts to keep invasive species from spreading. Finally, we spend time with a historian, who ponders the lessons of Redwood Summer; a poet, whose lyrical portraits fight off harmful misrepresentations; and a novelist, who updates a Latin American literary trope for the digital age.

Feature

Northwest co-op builds for a local food future beyond big ag
Northwest co-op builds for a local food future beyond big ag
‘I’ve always felt like this was something to do in case the world doesn’t end.’

Reportage

Once a boom town, now a ghost town. Always a hometown.
Once a boom town, now a ghost town. Always a hometown.
Over generations, the Soto family has lived through cycles of mining booms and the broken promises that come with them.
Today’s wildfire modeling ‘just sucks’ for flames fueled by climate change
Today’s wildfire modeling ‘just sucks’ for flames fueled by climate change
How scientists use models to understand blazes — and where those models fall short.
Cornell University addresses stolen Indigenous land in new project
Cornell University addresses stolen Indigenous land in new project
The university obtained almost 990,000 acres of expropriated Indigenous land through the Morrill Act and hopes to provide some remedies.
Indigenous data sovereignty shakes up research
Indigenous data sovereignty shakes up research
In the COVID-19 era, tribal nations want research in service of their people.
How a pandemic-related drop in Oregon Lottery revenues could lead to a rise in invasive plants
How a pandemic-related drop in Oregon Lottery revenues could lead to a rise in invasive plants
Spiky-stemmed gorse pushes out native plants — and COVID-19 is imperilling measures to keep it in check.

Editor's Note

Looking for the road ahead
Looking for the road ahead
With so many unknowns, the West provides inspiration as guidance.

What Works

In Las Vegas, the burdens of remote learning rest heavy on working parents
In Las Vegas, the burdens of remote learning rest heavy on working parents
One of the nation’s largest school districts is trying to provide laptops and Wi-Fi to more than 300,000 students.

Facts & Figures

Infographic: A patchwork of lands fragments wildlife migration
Infographic: A patchwork of lands fragments wildlife migration
New legislation helps connect private and public parcels for wildlife flow.

Essays

Hunting for myself in the high Montana sagebrush
Hunting for myself in the high Montana sagebrush
A hunter celebrates a new vision of queerness and rural culture.

Conversation

California’s history of anti-Blackness hides beneath its progressive reputation
California’s history of anti-Blackness hides beneath its progressive reputation
A new history of the state traces early civil rights battles spearheaded by Black activists.

Photo Essay

In the face of #MMIWG, Indigenous women fight back
In the face of #MMIWG, Indigenous women fight back
On the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, girls and women box, march and continue searching for those lost.
The West: Familiar and phenomenal
The West: Familiar and phenomenal
See winners from our annual photo contest.

Perspective

The lessons of Redwood Summer, thirty years later
The lessons of Redwood Summer, thirty years later
A summer of protest ultimately marked a turning point in environmental activism.

Review

In challenging times, love is an act of resistance
In challenging times, love is an act of resistance
Heid E. Erdrich’s new award-winning poetry collection, ‘Little Big Bully,’ seeks resilience through human connection.
Between California and Colombia, the internet becomes home
Between California and Colombia, the internet becomes home
In ‘Aphasia,’ Mauro Javier Cárdenas explores the liminal spaces of divided language, place and family.

Heard Around the West

Maskless in Montana; stuck in a rut; hot pronghorn
Maskless in Montana; stuck in a rut; hot pronghorn
Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

Dear Friends

High Country News in the ’80s
High Country News in the ’80s
Resentment from environmental regulations and the Sagebrush rebels ramped up in the ‘decade of greed.’

Letters

High Country News Classifieds