The West’s homescapes are shifting

2020 has redefined what many call ‘home.’

 

“Home” is our focus this month — how shelter and connection to place define our lives and the lives of the people around us. This feels especially compelling right now, with a global pandemic forcing us to stay inside, or perhaps, if we’re essential workers, to live away from home.

Lissette Lopez rides her bike in the strong wind that blows in her neighborhood in Salton City, near California’s Salton Sea.
Mette Lampcov/High Country News

2020 has shifted our idea of what makes a home. It used to be that the list of necessary rooms included kitchen, bathroom, bedroom. You can add “office” to that now. Thanks to ubiquitous Zoom meetings and television shows, we’ve all become voyeurs, peeking inside the homes of others, checking out their books or beds or kitchens as they work, intimate yet far away. The freedom to work remotely has had serious economic consequences, which we break down in our Facts & Figures department. Check out the eye-popping numbers that accompany the urbanites fleeing to small Western communities, creating new boom towns, now called Zoom towns. This mass migration has driven home prices so high you’ll think we misprinted the numbers. We didn’t.

Our feature this month looks at an offshoot of this phenomenon: What happens when wealthy second-home owners try to change the politics of a place with their dollars? Nick Bowlin tells the epic tale of a recent election in Gunnison County, Colorado, where disgruntled second-home owners fought back after county officials asked them to leave when COVID-19 came to town. It’s an examination not just of how far money can take you, but of what makes a community, what causes us to call a place “home.”

In “What Works,” we hear about the rogue constables of Pima County in Arizona, led by Kristen Randall, who put away gun and badge and just started talking to people she was supposed to evict in Tucson. Two colleagues joined her, and the trio helped people stay in their homes and even saved the county money. Now the rebel constables are hoping their method can inspire other communities.

Katherine Lanpher, interim editor-in-chief

Lastly, meet Kimberly Myra Mitchell, the winner of this year’s Bell Prize, the essay contest for young writers that celebrates High Country News’ founder, Tom Bell. In her work as a wildland firefighter, she found an unexpected balm for her grief over her father’s death, a reminder that, no matter what happens, we still carry our people — our true homes — with us.

From our homes to yours, we wish you a good 2021.

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...