Refuge is a practice

Protecting ourselves and other species has always been an active endeavor.

 

Lamprey are among the oldest living vertebrates on Earth. Long before the appearance of salmon or sturgeon — or even dinosaurs — lamprey were wiggling through the shallow seas and up the rushing rivers of Pangaea, surviving on the strength of their muscular bodies and formidable, suction-cup mouths. By the time humans began wandering the planet, lamprey had survived no fewer than five mass extinctions. As B. Toastie recounts in this issue, the first peoples of the Columbia River Basin made an agreement with the Pacific lamprey: The people would care for the lamprey, and the lamprey would care for the people. The past century of dam development, river pollution and climate change — perpetrated by those who made no such agreement — has challenged both parties as never before. And yet, as Toastie writes, the agreement reached thousands of years ago still endures today.

Bridge and Laurie in the arboretum.
June T Sanders/High Country News

Throughout the Columbia Basin, Indigenous people and lamprey are engaged in what might be called “making refuge,” a sustained effort to ensure and enhance one another’s survival. While the people continue to care for the lamprey and its habitat, and work to restore the species to its original range, the lamprey continues to provide both abundant protein and occasions for celebration. And this is not the only way of making refuge: As photographer June T Sanders and essayist Abigail Hansel document in this issue, a unique community on the border of Washington and Idaho is blooming amid and despite intensifying extremism. In several Western states, as Anna V. Smith reports, grassroots activists and elected state officials are working to make refuge for abortion care, and in Arizona, as Caroline Tracey writes, mobile-home tenants are incorporating science in their campaign to make their homes a refuge from the heat.

We often speak of refuges as isolated, static places, dependent on walls or boundaries. But refuge doesn’t require isolation — in fact, it often requires the opposite. And protecting ourselves and our fellow species has always been an active endeavor, one in which protectors and protected must detect new dangers and adapt to changing conditions. This work can be hard — as hard as a lamprey’s inch-by-inch struggle up the fast-drying cliffs of Willamette Falls — but as I hope you’ll see in this issue, it is rewarding, too.

Michelle Nijhuis, acting co-editor

After another summer marked by extraordinary heat waves, droughts, floods and wildfires, the work of making and expanding refuge in the West feels especially urgent. No matter who we are or where we live in the region, we’re alert to new and greater dangers, and adapting to less and less predictability. May the community of readers, writers and artists that is High Country News provide some refuge for all of you, and may each of you press on in making refuge for the lives and places you love.

We welcome reader letters. Michelle Nijhuis is an acting co-editor at High Country News. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor. See our letters to the editor policy.  

High Country News Classifieds
  • POLICY DIRECTOR - FRIENDS OF THE INYO
    Seeking Policy Director to lead our policy programs to ensure the health/vibrancy of CA's Inyo/Mono Co. public lands. FT or PT. Remote OK but frequent...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Friends of the San Juans (Friends), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is seeking an experienced, passionate, and charismatic environmental leader to continue its strong community leadership...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, ARIZONA CHAPTER
    What We Can Achieve Together: Arizona's Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure...
  • CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Capacity Building Program Manager works directly with the business unit's Arizona Healthy Cities Program Director to advance the Healthy...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND OFFICE MANAGER - FRIENDS OF THE INYO
    Friends of the Inyo - Donor database management & reporting, IT/HR, and office administrative support. PT or FT. Partly remote OK but some in-office time...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    New Mexico Land Conservancy is seeking a qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating,...
  • GRAPHIC AND DIGITAL DESIGNER
    Application deadline: December 17, 2022 Expected start date: January 16, 2023 Location: Amazon Watch headquarters in Oakland, CA Amazon Watch is a dynamic nonprofit organization...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eugene, Ore. nonprofit Long Tom Watershed Council is seeking a highly collaborative individual to lead a talented, dedicated team of professionals. Full-time: $77,000 - $90,000...
  • GIS SPECIALIST
    What We Can Achieve Together: The GIS Specialist provides technical and scientific support for Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, data management, and visualization internally and...
  • LOWER SAN PEDRO PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Lower San Pedro Program Manager directs some or all aspects of protection, science, stewardship and community relations for the...
  • FOREST RESTORATION SPATIAL DATA MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Forest Restoration Spatial Data Manager fills an integral role in leading the design and development of, as well as...
  • WATER PROJECTS MANAGER, SOUTHERN AZ
    What We Can Achieve Together: Working hybrid in Tucson, AZ or remote from Sierra Vista, AZ or other southern Arizona locations, the Water Projects Manager,...
  • SENIOR STAFF THERAPIST/PSYCHOLOGIST: NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENT SPECIALIST
    Counseling Services is a department strategically integrated with Health Services within the Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management. Our Mission at the Counseling Center...
  • THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IS HIRING A LOCAL INITIATIVES COORDINATOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks a Local Initiatives Coordinator to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator to develop, manage and advance...
  • LAND AND WATER PROTECTION MANAGER - NORTHERN ARIZONA
    We're Looking for You: Are you looking for a career to help people and nature? Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our...
  • SENIOR CLIMATE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) seeks a Senior Climate Conservation Associate (SCCA) to play a key role in major campaigns to protect the lands, waters,...
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • STRAWBALE HOME BESIDE MONTEZUMA WELL NAT'L MONUMENT
    Straw Bale Home beside Montezuma Well National Monument. Our property looks out at Arizona fabled Mogollon Rim and is a short walk to perennial Beaver...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.