Looking for the road ahead

With so many unknowns, the West provides inspiration as guidance.

 

When this issue reaches you, we probably still won’t know who won the presidential election — or too many of the other races, either. It’s hard to predict what the aftermath of Election Day will be. Our cover photo shows a driver trying to make her way through the smoke of the Riverside Fire in Oregon. But it could be any of us, really, looking through the haze to figure out the road ahead.

Smoke from the Riverside Fire fills the air outside of Beavercreek in rural Clackamas County, Oregon, in September. Wildfire modeling of the past is failing in the face of the unprecedented conflagrations of today.
So many unknowns — yet there are still constants to be found. For inspiration, I look to the work of Beth Robinette, a rancher behind an innovative food hub for small ranchers and farmers outside Spokane, Washington. She and co-op co-founder Joel Williamson are the focus of this month’s feature story. It takes a lot of grit to fight Big Food and set up an alternative distribution system for fresh local produce, meat and grains. When COVID-19 hit, and they wondered if their collective would go under, the community provided a clear answer: No. We need you.

Robinette isn’t naive; she knows the agricultural system is broken. But she’s doing what she can, where she is. As Assistant Editor Carl Segerstrom writes: “When people and land aren’t seen as separate, but instead as essential and intertwined, then a more resilient food system can begin to take root in the Inland Northwest.”

People and land that are “essential and intertwined” lie at the heart of every issue of High Country News. In this month’s photo essay, that locus of land and people is heartbreaking on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, where families search for missing and murdered Indigenous women. Yet wonder endures; we also feature an essay by a hunter who has a coming-of-age insight while flattened in the Montana sagebrush, hunting for antelope.

Katherine Lanpher, interim editor-in-chief
Elsewhere, we take two very different looks at California. Thirty years ago, thousands of protesters gathered in the North Coast’s forests to fight industrial logging. Today, we can see Redwood Summer for the turning point it was, the beginning of a new kind of environmental activism. Recent progressive history has also revealed the West’s long legacy of racism. Historian Lynn Hudson’s new book explores the civil rights struggles of Black California activists in the 19th and early 20th centuries. As one NAACP leader said, “I didn’t see any difference in Pasadena and Mississippi except they were spelled differently.”

It was my privilege to start my short tenure here as interim editor-in-chief with this issue. (Please see our farewell to Editor-in-Chief Brian Calvert.) I’ll be around until HCN discovers its next great leader. There’s a story for almost every iteration of the West in this issue. Read. Enjoy. And know that we’re right there with you, step by step, figuring out the path ahead.

Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

High Country News Classifieds
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE: NEAR CHRICAHUA NATIONAL PARK
    2 (20 acre sites): 110 miles from Tucson:AZ Native trees: Birder's heaven: dark skies: Creek: borders State lease & National forest: /13-16 inches of rain...
  • DIRECTOR - SONORAN DESERT INN & CONFERENCE CENTER
    The Sonoran Desert Inn & Conference Center is a non-profit lodging and event venue in Ajo, Arizona, located on the historic Curley School Campus. We...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field Seminars for adults: cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. With guest experts, local insights, small groups, and lodge or base camp formats....
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.