Rural Life

Meet our Guests: Tanya Henderson


Tanya Henderson

Executive Director, Amargosa Conservancy

Shoshone, CA


Tanya Henderson, a funky and driven transplant to the Mojave Desert from California’s Bay Area, leads the Amargosa River Conservancy. After graduating from Whitman College in 2005, Tanya sought out ways to fulfill her passion for conservation, bringing her to the small town of Shoshone, California (population 31). Tanya and the Conservancy strive to protect the wilds, waters, and communities of the Amargosa River Basin which starts at Yucca Mountain (a proposed nuclear waste storage site) and ends in the lowest point in Death Valley. It contains the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, home to more endemic species than any other place in the United States.

In an area with so many critical habitats and endangered species, Tanya and the Conservancy are making huge environmental strides. A small organization, they work to involve the communities of the basin in important decision making, hold educational events, develop work projects that connect people to the land, and monitor endangered species populations. While with Tanya , Semester in the West participated in one of the Conservancy’s work projects, removing invasive cattails from important desert pupfish habitat and sweeping away off highway vehicle (OHV) tracks in the desert to prevent further destruction of desert soils.

Tanya has creatively found ways to engage and involve the communities near and far in protecting the unique water source that is the Amargosa and the desert oases it nurtures. Tanya’s dedication and obsession for desert ecosystems is exemplified in her work to protect the Amargosa vole and the desert pupfish species endemic to the Mojave. Tanya and the Conservancy hope to protect their small oasis while connecting it to the larger desert ecosystem through education, science, and community involvement.

By Whitney Rich

Photos by Nina Moore

Meet our Guests: Mark Haggerty


Mark Haggerty

Economist and Author, Headwaters Economics

Bozeman, MT


Beneath his warm smile, Mark Haggerty’s worry is apparent. With his B.A. in Economics and Masters in Geography from the University of Colorado, Mark has many years of experience interpreting the economy, especially in rural places. His prognosis doesn’t look good. “The defining characteristic of the economy in the West is becoming inequality.” As the Wild West becomes urbanized, with 90% of its residents living in metro counties, money is being siphoned out of rural communities and concentrated in urban centers. Instead of the “death of geography” that the tech industry promised us, residents of the West are finding survival incredibly difficult without connectivity to big urban centers and the global economy.

Despite the grim status of our economy, it’s nice to know that we have somebody like Mark working to get the train back on its tracks. He works alongside ten colleagues at Headwaters Economics in Bozeman, Montana. Headwaters researches everything from public lands, to energy, to economic development. They then give businesses, government officials, landowners, and others this information, providing them the ability to make informed decisions backed by quantitative data. In a world where decisions are increasingly made purely based on emotions, the information Mark acquires is invaluable.

By Luke Ratliff

Photos by Clara Hoffman