This is an ongoing project exploring the rural landscapes and ranching communities of eastern Oregon, my home state. On the surface, not much has changed in over a half century. Population remains sparse, cattle, wheat and alfalfa drive the economy, and people want to be left alone, especially by what many locals see as the wealthy, urban liberals of western Oregon.
But change has come, for better or worse. Lumber mills have shut down, drought and over-irrigation have dropped water tables, and wages have stagnated as cost of living, especially health care, rises. Mirroring the debate in Utah and echoing sentiments of the Sagebrush Rebellion, an anti-federal-land fever has resurfaced, stoking tensions between land managers and ranchers. On the positive, wind power is injecting funds for landowners and public schools in Sherman County, recreational tourism is creeping east from Bend, and a new generation is choosing to stay and work the land.