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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 PROJECT MANAGER
    Conservation Project Manager Position Description Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for...
  • NOVA SCOTIA OCEAN FRONT
    Camp or Build on 2+ acres in Guysborough. FSBO. $36,000 US firm. Laurie's phone: 585-226-2993 EST.
  • TECHNICAL ADVISOR TO THE GOOD NEIGHBOR AGREEMENT
    Northern Plains Resource Council seeks an independent contractor to implement the Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) between local communities and the Sibanye-Stillwater Mining Company in Montana....
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    Start each month with a poem in your inbox by signing up for Taylor S. Winchell's monthly Poem+ Newsletter. No frills. No news. No politics....
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Utah's largest conservation organization, has an immediate opening in its Salt Lake City office for a staff attorney. SUWA's...
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  • HIKING TO THE EDGE:
    Confronting Cancer in Rocky Mountain National Park. Poetry and photos on survival thinking. E-book and paperback available at Amazon.com.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • IPLC RIGHTS AND EQUITY PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FUTURE WEST
    Future West seeks an executive director to lead this dynamic organization into the future. Based in Bozeman, MT this well-respected nonprofit provides communities in the...
  • PART-TIME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mitchell Museum of the American Indian Location: Evanston, IL Salary Range: $45,000 @ 24 hours per week. send resume: [email protected] www.mitchellmuseum.org
  • COMMUNICATIONS LEAD
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR
    Since 1989, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has been doing work you can believe in protecting the lands and waters that all life depends on....
  • OUTDOOR PROGRAM - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    St. Lawrence University seeks to fill the position of Assistant Director in the Outdoor Program. To view the complete position description, including minimum qualifications required,...
  • PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a dedicated advocate for conservation and public lands Public Lands Director a "make a difference" position Conserve Southwest...
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