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
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • ANCESTRAL LANDS ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGER
    Starting Salary: Grade C, $19.00 to 24.00 per/hour Location: Albuquerque or Gallup, NM Status: Full-Time, Non-Exempt Benefit Eligible: Full Benefits Eligible per Personnel Policies Program...
  • GRAND CANYON DIRECTOR
    The Grand Canyon director, with the Grand Canyon manager, conservation director, and other staff, envisions, prioritizes, and implements strategies for the Grand Canyon Trust's work...
  • ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a part-time Administrative Assistant to support the organization's general operations. This includes phone and email communications, office correspondence and...
  • HISTORIC LODGE AND RESTAURANT - FULLY EQUIPPED
    Built in 1901, The Crazy Mountain Inn has 11 guest rooms in a town-center building on 7 city lots (.58 acres). The inn and restaurant...
  • ONE WILL: THREE WIVES
    by Edith Tarbescu. "One Will: Three Wives" is packed with a large array of interesting suspects, all of whom could be a murderer ... a...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR, SALAZAR CENTER FOR NORTH AMERICAN CONSERVATION
    The Program Director will oversee the programmatic initiatives of The Salazar Center, working closely with the Center's Director and staff to engage the world's leading...
  • WILDEARTH GUARDIANS - WILD PLACES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Salary Range: $70,000-$80,000. Location: Denver, CO, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Missoula, MT or potentially elsewhere for the right person. Application Review: on a rolling basis....
  • RIVER EDUCATOR/GUIDE + TRIP LEADER
    Position Description: Full-time seasonal positions (mid-March through October) Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10 year old nonprofit organization fostering community stewardship of...
  • BOOKKEEPER/ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
    Position Description: Part-time, year-round bookkeeping and administration position (12 - 16 hours/week) $16 - $18/hour DOE Organizational Background: Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) is a 10...
  • LAND STEWARD
    San Isabel Land Protection Trust seeks a full-time Land Steward to manage and oversee its conservation easement monitoring and stewardship program for 42,437 acres in...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ventana Wilderness Alliance is seeking an experienced forward-facing public land conservation leader to serve as its Executive Director. The mission of the Ventana Wilderness Alliance...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • GRANT WRITER
    "We all love this place we call Montana. We believe that land and water and air are not ours to despoil, but ours to steward...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    The Development Director is responsible for organizing and launching a coherent set of development activities to build support for the Natural History Institute's programs and...
  • WILDLIFE PROJECT COORDINATOR
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation helps protect and conserve water, wildlife and wild lands in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by supporting organizations and people who...
  • OLIVERBRANCH CONSULTING
    Non-Profit Management Professional specializing in Transitional Leadership, Strategic Collaborations, Communications and Grant Management/Writing.
  • GREAT VIEWS, SMALL FOOTPRINT
    Close to town but with a secluded feel, this eco-friendly home includes solar panels, a graywater reuse system, tankless hot water, solar tubes, and rainwater...