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The Radioactive Waste Next Door
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November 1, 2021

This issue takes us into Western communities that are facing serious challenges. In White Mesa, Utah, the nation’s only active uranium mill wants to import radioactive waste from overseas over the fierce objections of its next-door neighbors, the Ute Mountain Utes. Meanwhile, in Shasta Vista, California, cannabis-growing Hmong Americans defied evacuation orders to fight wildfires because they don’t trust the hostile county they live in. Climate change threatens Hatch, New Mexico’s famous green chiles, as well as the snow that sustains Rocky Mountain ski towns (among other things). We look into why reducing methane emissions matters. Still, wildfire experts see reasons for hope, and some communities are coming together: When Alaska’s Yukon River saw dismal salmon runs, other Native villages helped feed hard-hit communities. Black and Native communities are discussing their complex relationship, and Chuck Sams might become the first Native American to lead the National Park Service. Finally, archaeologists are starting to realize that Indigenous people have been around longer than academics have, after all.

Feature

The nation’s last uranium mill plans to import Estonia’s radioactive waste
The nation’s last uranium mill plans to import Estonia’s radioactive waste
Utah says the White Mesa Mill isn’t contaminating groundwater, but its neighbor, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, disagrees.
The winnowing of winter
The winnowing of winter
As the climate crisis worsens, what will happen to snow?

Reportage

Afghan refugees find a home in the West
Afghan refugees find a home in the West
A resettlement agency in Twin Falls, Idaho, prepares for newcomers.
Hmong Americans in Northern California fight wildfire — and distrust
Hmong Americans in Northern California fight wildfire — and distrust
Wary of local authorities, a community forms an ad-hoc firefighting force to defend its property.
How tribal leaders want Chuck Sams to lead the Park Service
How tribal leaders want Chuck Sams to lead the Park Service
The Umatilla leader would be the first Native person in charge of the agency, which has a thorny history with tribes.
Can Hatch green chiles outlast the climate crisis?
Can Hatch green chiles outlast the climate crisis?
Growers of New Mexico’s iconic crop wrestle with drought, water rights and labor shortages.
Alaska Native villages band together to keep the Yukon River’s wild salmon afloat
Alaska Native villages band together to keep the Yukon River’s wild salmon afloat
‘As a unified voice, we are unstoppable — and we can manage the river better.’
Decolonizing Idaho’s road signs
Decolonizing Idaho’s road signs
A new effort will add Indigenous history to historical markers across the state.
Why fire experts are hopeful
Why fire experts are hopeful
Wildfire scientists dispel common misconceptions about forest management, detailing what needs to change and why it’s urgent.

Editor's Note

On being grateful
On being grateful
Food justice in a time of thanksgiving.

Facts & Figures

Why reducing methane emissions matters
Why reducing methane emissions matters
What you can’t see can hurt.

Essays

The hidden fires
The hidden fires
Keeping honest about what we burn and why.

Conversation

The ways Afro-Indigenous people are asked to navigate their communities
The ways Afro-Indigenous people are asked to navigate their communities
Two leading scholars discuss the complex relationship between Black and Native people.

Heard Around the West

Wiggling ice worms; historical matchmaking; bizarre Utah politics
Wiggling ice worms; historical matchmaking; bizarre Utah politics
Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

Dear Friends

Raising fun — and funds — across the West
Raising fun — and funds — across the West
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