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A Community Divided
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December 1, 2020

In this issue, High Country News checks out election results from across the Western U.S., with a special focus on issues involving climate, justice and power at both the local and national levels. Our feature story visits Evanston, Wyoming, where a grassroots movement called WyoSayNo fought to block private companies from building an immigrant detention center in the economically struggling town. In California’s Coachella Valley, we meet families who have been waiting for years to get clean and safe drinking water. We consider the lasting impacts of William Perry Pendley’s illegal stint as head of the Bureau of Land Management, noting how his efforts to undermine new backcountry conservation areas in Montana also undermined trust in land management. In Denver, we look at how legacy environmental organizations are working to move past their racist beginnings and rebuild relationships with neglected communities of color. We meet a group of Black cowboys, who are enthusiastically training for the annual Arizona Black Rodeo in Phoenix, and hear from environmental lawyer Dinah Bear about what the Trump administration’s changes to the National Environmental Protection Agency mean for the West. Finally, some of our favorite Western writers recommend good books for winter reading, and we experience how joy and sorrow come together in Olivia Durif’s reflection on the intimacy of natural burials at a quiet Washington preserve.

Feature

Divided prospects: The fight over an immigration detention center
Divided prospects: The fight over an immigration detention center
When a private prison company came to Evanston, Wyoming, local officials believed an economic revival was at hand. Instead, it unleashed a bitter debate.

Reportage

A whistleblower speaks out over excavation of Native sites
A whistleblower speaks out over excavation of Native sites
In California, archaeologists unearthed Indigenous burials 11 years ago, but the remains have yet to be repatriated.
How fossil-fueled politics undermined a backcountry compromise
How fossil-fueled politics undermined a backcountry compromise
William Perry Pendley’s illegal stint as agency head undoes a first-of-its-kind land designation in Montana.
Trump administration chops logging restrictions in the Tongass National Forest
Trump administration chops logging restrictions in the Tongass National Forest
But President-elect Biden could reinstate them once in office.
Elections in the West highlight divisions and diversity
Elections in the West highlight divisions and diversity
Justice, power and environment: The 2020 elections were defined by grassroots organizing and deep partisanship.
In California, 1 million people lack access to clean water
In California, 1 million people lack access to clean water
Why one community has struggled with arsenic in its water for so long, despite the state’s Human Right to Water law.
A helpline connects Indigenous immigrants to crucial COVID-19 information
A helpline connects Indigenous immigrants to crucial COVID-19 information
For communities who speak Indigenous Mayan languages like Mam, the Oregon program is a vital resource.
Black cowboys reclaim their history in the West
Black cowboys reclaim their history in the West
At an annual rodeo in Phoenix, the contributions of African Americans are finally recognized.
How conservation groups confront distrust from communities of color
How conservation groups confront distrust from communities of color
In order to attract a broader constituency, organizations must first address a history of missteps and exclusion.
Climate change intensifies tsunami threat in Alaska
Climate change intensifies tsunami threat in Alaska
As glaciers retreat and permafrost thaws, massive landslides threaten coastal communities.

Editor's Note

Good news still exists
Good news still exists
The West saw many challenges this year, but there were also joys to be found.

Facts & Figures

20 signs that the climate crisis has come home to roost
20 signs that the climate crisis has come home to roost
From Alaska to Wyoming, evidence shows the climate is off-kilter in the West.

Essays

How an intimate burial can make death human-sized
How an intimate burial can make death human-sized
In burying a stranger, a writer learns that dying can be as small and personal as life.

Conversation

Trump gutted NEPA regulations, but a Biden presidency could restore them
Trump gutted NEPA regulations, but a Biden presidency could restore them
An environmental lawyer discusses the future of the country’s bedrock environmental law.

Perspective

Stop the destruction of Tohono O’odham lands
Stop the destruction of Tohono O’odham lands
Tohono O’odham Chairman Ned Norris Jr. urges Congress to take action and stop Trump’s border wall.

Review

Looking for fresh reads? Western authors weigh in.
Looking for fresh reads? Western authors weigh in.
Here are some books from 2020 you don’t want to miss this winter.

Heard Around the West

Invocation perseverance; prolific Griz 399; errant GPS
Invocation perseverance; prolific Griz 399; errant GPS
Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

Dear Friends

Former HCN interns look back
Former HCN interns look back
Our internship provides real-world skills, and a community, for a lifetime.

Letters

High Country News Classifieds
  • CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST (NORTH CENTRAL WA)
    Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, and the chance to work with many different kinds of people and accomplish big conservation outcomes? Do you...
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • 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...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • ANNUAL FUND MANAGER
    Working closely with the Foundation's leadership, the Annual Fund Manager is responsible for the oversight and management of the Foundation's annual operating fund. This is...
  • DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR
    Looking for someone who loves public land and understands the value and importance of data in reaching shared goals as part of a high-functioning team....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The conservation non-profit Invasive Species Action Network seeks an executive director. We are focused on preventing the human-caused spread of invasive species by promoting voluntary...
  • NEW BOOK: A FEAST OF ECSTATIC VERSE AND IMAGERY
    Dynamic fine art photographer offers use of images to raise funds. Available for use by conservation groups. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com.
  • WANTED: TALENTED WRITER
    Write the introduction to A Feast of Ecstatic Verse and Imagery, a book concerning nature and spirituality. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com. Writer who works for conservation/nature...
  • MT STATE DIRECTOR- THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
    The Montana State Director is a member of The Wilderness Society's (TWS) Conservation program team who plays a leading role in advancing the organization's mission...
  • HIGH COUNTRY NEWS EDITORIAL INTERNS
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is looking for its next cohort of editorial interns....