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
  • 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,...
  • 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,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...