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High Country News

High Country News

October Vol. 52, No. 10

High Country News is the nation's leading source of reporting on the Western United States. Through in-depth reporting, High Country News covers the West’s social, political and ecological issues.

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12 Edities

in deze editie

1 min.
know the west.

High Country News is an independent, reader-supported nonprofit 501(c)(3) media organization that covers the important issues and stories that define the Western U.S. Our mission is to inform and inspire people to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities. Beginning April 1, 2020, High Country News (ISSN/0191/5657) publishes monthly, 12 issues per year, from 119 Grand Ave., Paonia, CO 81428. Periodicals, postage paid at Paonia, CO, and other post offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to High Country News, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428. All rights to publication of articles in this issue are reserved. See hcn.org for submission guidelines. Subscriptions to HCN are $37 a year, $47 for institutions: 800-905-1155, hcn.org. For editorial comments or questions, write High Country News, P.O. Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428…

2 min.
a helluva season

THERE’S NO DOUBT 2020 has been a difficult year. The pandemic, the protests, the wildfires and smoke. And now, a fast-approaching election of the highest stakes. This year, it seems like democracy itself is up for grabs, as disinformation, census undercounts, and voter suppression have all become real threats to pluralism and representation. The Western U.S., for its part, has proven at times a staunch defender of democracy: Thanks in part to mail-in voting or to Voting-Day registrations, Colorado had the second-highest voter turnout in the country in 2018, Oregon the fifth, and Washington the seventh. But the West, too, is a place where the disadvantaged have little say in the decisions that impact them most. This issue explores the reaches of the West where election season matters most. In our…

4 min.
letters

NARROWING NEPA One result of the Trump administration’s insidious policy changes to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, is the Bureau of Land Management’s use of so-called “vegetation treatment” programs (“Narrow NEPA,” September 2020). These environmentally destructive efforts involve stripping natural lowland forests, shrublands and grasslands using chaining, mowing, masticating, herbiciding and burning. The areas are then seeded with non-native forage grasses, which are favored by cattle and big game. These programs are supported by many ranchers and hunters, because they open up new land for grazing and hunting with little regard for protection of natural ecosystems. In the past, the BLM was required to go through the NEPA process for larger vegetation-removal proposals. This provided an opportunity for input from scientists and the public, which slowed down, modified…

7 min.
raw data

THE SEWER IS THE LAST STOP for Bozeman, Montana’s waste, but lately, it’s the first one for Blake Wiedenheft’s work. An associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Montana State University, Wiedenheft has joined other virologists, epidemiologists and immunologists as a member of the university’s COVID-19 task force. Back in March, a colleague mentioned testing wastewater for evidence of COVID-19 in human waste. The next day, Wiedenheft drove down to Bozeman’s wastewater treatment plant to see if he could grab a sample. Given how few cases there were in the area at the time, and that 6 million gallons of water flow through the plant daily, he wasn’t sure if the virus would be detectable. But Wiedenheft immediately found evidence of it — and it kept appearing in the four samples…

4 min.
undercounted, undermined

THE FIRST PLACE the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed for the 2020 census was Tooksook Bay, Alaska, part of the agency’s long tradition of conducting early counts in the state’s remote villages. In March, with about half of rural Alaska still uncounted, enumerators were pulled out of the field because of COVID-19, as the bureau shifted its schedule to accommodate the barriers the pandemic presented. Then, in August, the Census Bureau quietly released an updated deadline for the census, moving it from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30, eliminating four weeks of critical outreach. September is moose-hunting season in Alaska, so people are generally harder to reach; it’s also the beginning of storm season, which means power outages and delays for mail delivery by plane. As a result, despite the early start,…

8 min.
killing the vegas pipeline

FOR DECADES, the Great Basin Water Network has made a point of strange bedfellowing. Its ranks include ranchers, environmentalists, sportsmen, rural county commissioners, Indigenous leaders, water users from Utah, and rural and urban Nevadans. Over the years, these groups united against a single cause: the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s “Groundwater Development Project,” a proposal to pump 58 billion gallons of water a year 300 miles to Las Vegas from the remote rural valleys of Nevada and Utah. Nevadans called it the Las Vegas Pipeline; its ardent foes called it a water grab. In May, their three decades of resistance to the pipeline ended in victory: The project was terminated. “Never give up the ship,” Delaine Spilsbury, an Ely Shoshone tribal elder who played a significant role in the Water Network, said…