High Country News

High Country News

May Vol. 53, No. 05
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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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2 min.
meet hcn’s new editor, jennifer sahn

WE USUALLY RESERVE THIS SPACE for a wide-angle glimpse of what you’ll find inside the magazine, but this month, I want to discuss a different beginning: the newest member of our staff. Editing High Country News is not a job for the faint of heart. We cover the West’s thorniest issues and gravitate without hesitation toward difficult conversations. And you, our readers, expect incisive, fair and meaningful work. HCN’s new editor-in-chief, Jennifer Sahn, is up to the task. Jennifer spent her formative years at Orion magazine and later helped lead Pacific Standard. In her 20-plus years in the business, she has earned a reputation as a thoughtful and demanding editor. Conservationist and author Terry Tempest Williams wrote to me recently to praise Jennifer as “smart, tough, rigorous and instinctive. … She nurtures…

4 min.

RACISM AGAINST ASIAN AMERICANS Jane Hu’s article about the cowardly attack on her enraged me (“The long Western legacy of violence against Asian Americans,” hcn.org, 3/5/21). I was a teenager growing up in Southern California during World War II, but was unaware of the anti-Japanese American feelings, probably because my parents were able to separate our fellow citizens from the foreign enemy. I went to high school with Japanese American students but was unaware of the internment camps. Beginning in 1955, I was active in judo for 40 years and then learned of how they had been treated. I was disgusted, as were most of my generation. It is beyond unfortunate that some of these feelings are being renewed by a few of our less-American citizens who blame others for their worries. Tom…

4 min.
has eugene, oregon, found a ‘superpower’ for climate action?

TYEE WILLIAMS HAS BEEN on the frontlines of climate change as a wildland firefighter. He helped battle the Pine Gulch Fire, one of three record-setting fires in Colorado last summer and fall — all scorching examples of how the climate crisis is intensifying wildfires in the Western U.S. Back home in Eugene, Oregon, Williams is on another vanguard of the climate fight: a push for the city to cut fossil fuel consumption. That work includes pressing the Eugene City Council to revamp its operating agreement with the local gas utility, Northwest Natural, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In testimony before the city council in February, Williams shared his experience, which included digging a fire line to protect natural gas infrastructure. “On one side I could see the glow of the wildfire, and…

4 min.
pine ridge or bust

LAST YEAR, DINEH BENALLY, the former president of the San Juan River Farm Board on the Navajo Nation, oversaw the transformation of 400 acres of cropland into illegal marijuana farms across the Shiprock chapter in the northeast corner of the reservation. Despite a state, federal and tribal crackdown on the operation, multiple sources told Searchlight New Mexico and High Country News that Benally is attempting to establish new cannabis ventures in other Native communities. A source confirmed this to the Navajo Times. Navajo Nation Police Chief Philip Francisco said that law enforcement did not know Benally’s whereabouts and presumed he was in hiding after the November raids. Benally has several pending cases in tribal courts, and at least one federal investigation remains underway. “We can’t find him to serve paperwork” for those cases,…

7 min.
a south valley solution?

ALBUQUERQUE’S SOUTH VALLEY was once a thriving oasis of food production watered by a network of centuries-old irrigation canals, or acequias. Today, it’s home to several historic neighborhoods along the Rio Grande, including Mountain View. After much of the area was rezoned in the 1960s, the residents, who are mainly Chicanos and recent immigrants, came under siege by the structural forces of environmental racism that dictate who lives near polluters and who doesn’t. Mountain View was soon enveloped by industry — auto recyclers, Albuquerque’s sewage plant, paint facilities and fertilizer suppliers — that left a legacy of contaminated groundwater, two Superfund sites and high levels of air pollution. Now, six decades later, Mountain View is facing yet another transformation. In 2012, the community became the first in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife…

7 min.
‘wolves are amaaaazing!’

AS HAPPENS SO FREQUENTLY these days, a Zoom room on a morning in March filled with participants. Faceless black blocks assembled, while four 8-year-olds, Rhyker, Zach, Karma, Amelia — or, as they would be called that morning, the “Wolfteam Friends” — jittered in front of a camera from their classroom in Northglenn, a Denver-area suburb. “Thank you for being here,” a boy wearing a light-blue button-down with a tie said carefully into a black microphone. Amelia took the floor, her pink bow bobbing. “Our idea is to help people learn to live with wolves!” Three groups of second-graders planned to speak that day (two of them in person) to a crowd of some 30 far-flung onlookers, mostly comprising educators, conservationists and parents. “We are going to be teaching ranchers that the cattle …”…