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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
  • 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...