Ever since I was a child, growing up in the soul-crushing, metastasizing suburbs of America, I have had a deep connection to the shrinking natural world and an interest in exploring how humans can live more harmoniously within it. I earned a Master’s Degree in Natural Resource Policy from the University of Michigan and worked for several years as a media specialist with the Sierra Club before deciding I wanted to be a journalist. In the early 1990s, I became an editor/writer at High Country News, a non-profit journalism enterprise based in rural Colorado that covers the million-square-mile American West in all of its beautiful, ugly, contentious glory. From 2002-2021, I was the publisher and executive director, overseeing a staff of 28 that produced in-depth, contextual journalism for print and digital readers that promotes frank civic dialogue on the many environmental, cultural and political challenges facing our region. I was also busy helping raise two children. Since retiring in Paonia at the end of 2021, I have turned my creative energies toward writing and performing music, photography, hiking and rock collecting on the public lands, swimming and deepening friendships.
David McCumber, executive editor of The Arizona Daily Star, is an award-winning journalist and author. This is his third tour with the Star. In 1984, he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize with two other Star staffers for a report about deficiencies at the Tucson defense plant then operated by the Hughes Aircraft Company. He also helped to direct the Star’s Pulitzer-winning investigation of the University of Arizona football program in 1980.
In subsequent years, he worked at the San Francisco Examiner as Sunday editor, city editor and assistant managing editor; at the Santa Barbara News-Press, as editor; at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, as newsroom leader for the last eight years of the P-I’s print life; as editor of a group of Hearst daily newspapers in Connecticut; and as Hearst’s Washington, D.C. bureau chief.
He went to work for Lee Enterprises in 2015 as editor of the Montana Standard in Butte, Montana, and later directed Lee’s news operations in five newspapers across the state. He then served as Lee’s Director of Local News for the west, overseeing news operations at 27 newspapers in 13 states, before returning to Tucson in 2023 as the Star’s news leader.
McCumber was the founding editor and publisher of Big Sky Journal magazine in Montana, which still thrives today 31 years after its founding. He was also editor of Montana Magazine as a part of his duties with Lee.
McCumber has authored three books “X-Rated: A story of Sex, Money and Death” (Simon & Schuster); “Playing off the Rail: A Pool Hustler’s Journey” (Random House) and “The Cowboy Way: Seasons of a Montana Ranch” (Avon Books). With Andrew Schneider, he co-authored a fourth, “An Air That Kills: How the Asbestos Poisoning of Libby, Montana Uncovered a National Scandal” (Putnam).
McCumber lives in Tucson with his wife, Sarah Greene.
Florence Williams is a journalist, author, and podcaster. A former staff writer and current board member of High Country News, her most recent book, The Nature Fix, was an Audible bestseller and was named a top summer read by J.P Morgan. She is a contributing editor at Outside Magazine and a freelance writer for the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, The New York Review of Books, Slate, Mother Jones and numerous other publications. She is also the writer and host of two Gracie-Award-winning Audible Original series, Breasts Unbound and The Three-Day Effect, as well as Outside Magazine’s Double-X Factor podcast. A fellow at the Center for Humans and Nature and a visiting scholar at George Washington University, her work focuses on the environment, health and science. Twitter: @flowill
Elizabeth Hightower Allen
Elizabeth recently wrapped up 20-plus years as features editor at Outside Magazine, where she wrote the magazine’s Code Green and Natural Intelligence environmental columns and assigned many stories on Western water issues, public lands, and nature and human health. She’s now a contributing editor for the magazine as well as a freelance book and magazine editor. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband, daughter, dogs, and cat. twitter/instagram: @ehightowerallen
Steve Mandell was a steelworker (U.S. Steel, South Works, Chicago) and a long-time alternative media freak (The Chicago Seed, Radio Free Chicago, and High Country News). He also has advertising and marketing experience on both the agency and corporate sides, including a dozen years as a consumer research manager and director for Fortune 500 companies. He divides time between Montrose, Colorado and Chicago, Illinois.