The needs of the ungulate and cattle supported by California’s Point Reyes National Seashore have different needs and created a years-long conflict.

A Tule elk bull stands in a field of wild radish flowers near Drake’s Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore. | Sarah Killingsworth

Mary Big Bull-Lewis is taking a creative approach to returning ownership of the land and its stories to Native people.

Co-founder of R Digital Design and Wenatchi Wear, Mary Big Bull-Lewis outside of her warehouse in Wenatchee on March 2, 2021. She started her companies with her husband, Rob Lewis, and aims to educate people about Wenatchi history through their designs and apparel.
Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut

This story was originally published by Crosscut and is republished here with permission.

Just outside her shop in Wenatchee, Mary Big Bull-Lewis can see the
Cascade foothills on the western edge of her hometown. Along
the crest, only a little bigger than the size of a thumbnail from
this distance, she can see Two Bears.

Once you spot it, it’s impossible to miss: The craggy rock
formations resemble the heads of two bears facing each other with
mouths open, crying out toward the sky.

The iconic shape has inspired the fascination of many, and it’s central to a P’squosa story…


Some rural California communities have waited nearly a decade for state regulators to repair their tainted drinking-water systems.

Ramona Hernandez in her garden in El Adobe, California. Martin do Nascimento for the California Health Report

When Ramona Hernandez turns on her kitchen faucet in El Adobe, an unincorporated town just a few miles southeast of Bakersfield, the water that splashes out looks clean and inviting. But she doesn’t dare drink it.

“You worry about your health,” she said in Spanish as she sat in her tranquil front yard one morning early this spring, her elderly mother-in-law working in the garden behind her.

“I’m scared,” Hernandez said, “of getting sick from the water.” Drinking the tap water in this tiny community of dusty ranches and unpaved roads could expose Hernandez to arsenic. So, for years, she…


Algae blooms in Clear Lake are a public health risk and increase water treatment costs.

Cyanobacteria blooms on Clear Lake in June 2020 resembled whorls of green and white paint.
Courtesy of Micah Swann

On a good day, usually in late winter and early spring, the magnificent waters of Clear Lake seem to live up to their name. Under the shadow of the volcano Mount Konocti, the oldest lake in North America and second largest in California sparkles in an array of blues while fishing boats ply the shallow nearshore, their anglers hoping to hook a trophy bass.

From his office two miles inland, Frank Costner knows that the lake’s waters also shelter a treacherous occupant — potentially toxic blooms of cyanobacteria. …


An ecologist and a photographer teamed to document and build a living archive of the Borderlands’ biodiversity — before it’s too late.

Border wall construction is visible from Cumero Mountain, Atascosa Mountains, Arizona.

For a few weeks in April and May, the elegant trogon (Trogon elegans) breeds in the rugged Atascosa Highlands that straddle the Arizona-Mexico border, flashes of its brilliant crimson belly occasionally visible among the sycamore trees. The birds are migrants, exiled from a historic range that extends through Mexico as far south as Costa Rica. Driven by climate change, habitat loss and wildfire, they flee north in search of a cooler land.

Trogons are one of the many rare birds found in the four small mountain ranges that make up the highlands at the junction of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan…


Latino-led opposition brought down the Maricopa County sheriff.

Community members who oppose Joe Arpaio protest outside of the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix on Oct. 11, 2016, the day federal prosecutors announced they would pursue criminal contempt of court charges against Arpaio for violating federal court orders in an ongoing racial profiling lawsuit. | Jude Joffe-Block

Over the course of a decade, from 2006 to 2016, a Latino-led movement in Arizona’s Maricopa County fought Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his local immigration crackdowns. American citizens of Latino descent, who felt targeted by Arpaio’s immigrant roundups, joined a movement to gather evidence against the sheriff in a landmark racial profiling lawsuit. Federal courts later found that the sheriff’s tactics were unconstitutional. The Latino-led resistance contributed to Arpaio’s electoral loss after 24 years in office. It also helped transform Arizona into a battleground state in the 2020 election.

This excerpt from the new book, Driving While Brown: Sheriff Joe…


Population growth has slowed overall, but the West continues at a fast pace, adding three congressional seats.

Traffic on Colorado’s Front Range in January. Colorado, Montana and Oregon added enough residents since the last census to each gain an additional congressional seat. | AP Photo / David Zalubowski

On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau released state population counts from the 2020 census. This new data will determine apportionment and congressional representation. Here is a look at what those preliminary numbers mean for the West.

While census numbers show that the nation’s population growth has slowed to its lowest rate since the Great Depression, states in the West have continued their long-term increase in population. Eight of the top 15 fastest-growing states are in the West, with Utah, Idaho and Nevada in the top five. (See map below for specific numbers.) Utah’s growth was the highest in the country…


Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

ALASKA “I’ve heard of salmon jumping into boats, but never anything like this,” reports the Sitka Gazette. Tom Satre, who runs a charter service out of Juneau, was taking a group cruising on his 62-foot fishing boat when four juvenile black-tailed deer swam toward him and circled the boat in the icy waters. “We could tell right away the young bucks were distressed,” he said. Satre opened his back gate, “and we helped the typically skittish and absolutely wild animals on board. …. I’ve never seen anything like it!” Once on the boat, the exhausted deer collapsed, shivering. Satre dropped…


The Arrow Lakes Band is one of many Indigenous communities bisected and disrupted by a border about which they were never consulted.

Desautel scouts for elk in traditional Sinixt lands near Seven Summits in Canada. | Anna V. Smith / High Country News

The United States and Canada closed their shared border to “nonessential travel” to curb the spread of COVID-19 on March 21, 2020. Spring turned to summer and then fall, and the closure was extended; it was the first time in a long time that Rick Desautel, a member of the Arrow Lakes Band and a descendant of Sinixt First Nation, did not drive north across the border from his home on the Colville Reservation in Washington to hunt in his tribe’s ancestral lands.

Desautel’s right — and by extension, the right of any tribal member of the Arrow Lakes Band…


Incarcerated people respond to pandemics, wildfires, avian flu outbreaks, mudslides and more.

Incarcerated people sew protective masks at Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility in Santee, California. | Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images

Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic swept through nursing homes, exhausted medical supplies and sent the country into lockdown, prison officials gave incarcerated people their marching orders: Manufacture hand sanitizer, sew face masks, transport dead bodies, dig graves.

The workers toiled in crowded factories, overflowing morgues and inside their own prisons, where they often lacked access to essentials like soap and adequate medical care. In the process, they became one of the most vulnerable — and yet essential — parts of the nation’s emergency response.

Seven Western states — Montana, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, California and Arizona — specify incarcerated…

High Country News

Working to inform and inspire people — through in-depth journalism — to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities.

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