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High Country News

High Country News September Vol. 52, No. 09

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 Ausgaben

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2 Min.
here’s to another 50 years

FIFTY YEARS AGO, the founder of High Country News, Tom Bell, decided the world needed a better kind of ecological thinking. With the Intermountain West as a backdrop, he began to outline this thinking, in writing that stood in defense of the natural world. In subsequent decades, High Country News has expanded on Bell’s vision, offering readers in-depth journalism that features incisive analysis and investigations, poignant essays and narratives, sharp critiques, and a sense of wonder and humor — all in service of a better West. In this issue, we celebrate the legacy of Tom Bell and the 50-year history of High Country News, even as we chart a path forward. In recent years, we have broadened the scope of the magazine to better live up to our mission: to inform…

4 Min.

THE ACOMA SHIELD The saga of the disappearance and return of one of the Pueblo of Acoma’s six stolen shields was as intriguing as it was inspirational, but it also leaves troubling questions (“The Return,” August 2020). The article’s lack of any picture of this recovered shield struck me as particularly odd. The article also revealed that the shield’s last “owner” had, at the request of an auction house in France, added a fake element to it, admitting that “he had turkey feathers dyed to look like eagles’ and wove them into the shield himself.” I’m puzzled why these feathers, added simply to make it look more like an “authentic Indian artifact,” are still shown in all of the current images of the shield. Shouldn’t the addition of these fake feathers…

4 Min.
old-school organizers

ON MAY 5, the California affiliates of the Industrial Areas Foundation — the nation’s largest and oldest community organizing group — gathered for a Zoom call. Artwork and bookshelves were visible behind the faces on the grid-patterned screen, and an unmuted microphone created confusing cross-talk. It was a Zoom call like any other — except this one had 1,200 participants, including 10 bishops and several lawmakers. The IAF organizes in about 30 cities across the Western U.S. These affiliates — which are composed of religious congregations, unions, community groups, schools and nonprofits — aim to help working people build political power and social capital. Organizers teach people — many of them Latino in the California groups — how to demand accountability and responsiveness from the institutions that govern their lives. This…

6 Min.
conservation isn’t always climate action

ON JULY 22, CONGRESS PASSED the biggest public-lands spending bill in half a century. The bipartisan bill, called the Great American Outdoors Act, puts nearly $10 billion toward repairing public-lands infrastructure, such as outdated buildings and dysfunctional water systems in national parks. It also guarantees that Congress will spend the $900 million it collects each year through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF. The legislation boosts access to nature, funds city parks and will pay for a significant chunk of the massive maintenance backlog on public lands in the U.S. But it all comes at a cost to the climate. To pay the bill’s hefty price tag, Congress is tapping revenue from the fossil fuel industry. Though the new law has been cheered by conservation groups, it fails to…

1 Min.
narrow nepa

Backstor In January, President Donald Trump announced plans to overhaul the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA — the Nixon-era law that safeguards air, water and land by requiring federal agencies to conduct detailed environmental assessments of major projects. NEPA has delayed infrastructure projects and hampered economic growth, Trump said. “It takes many, many years to get something built. The builders are not happy. Nobody is happy.” (“Trump targets a bedrock environmental law,” March 1, 2020.) Followup In late July, the administration finalized a “top-to-bottom overhaul” of NEPA to fast-track infrastructure, creating a faster review process and a narrower, limited public comment process. So far, 17 environmental groups have sued. “(NEPA) is a tool of democracy, a tool for the people,” said Kym Hunter, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center,…

6 Min.
a wildlife refuge under siege

DURING THE FALL OF 2019, the Department of Homeland Security began pumping large amounts of water from a southern Arizona aquifer to mix concrete for the Trump administration’s border wall. The aquifer is an essential water source for the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, so when the pumping escalated, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials watched helplessly as the water levels at several ponds — the main habitat for the endangered fish at this Sonoran Desert refuge — dropped “precipitously.” In what Bill Radke, who has managed the refuge for two decades, called “life support” actions, staff was forced to shut off water to three of the ponds to minimize broader damage. As a result, biologists had to salvage endangered fish from the emptying ponds. It was “like cutting off individual fingers…