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Essays

  • Enough nature writing already!

    A former nature writer says that there needs to be moratorium on all new "nature writers'" books.

  • Nostalgic for the Pleistocene

    The lively scholarly essays collected in "Coming Home to the Pleistocene," by the late Paul Shepard, discuss "human ecology" - the study of human nature and human needs as formed by our evolution alongside wild animals.

  • Saint Contrary: John Wesley Powell

    John Wesley Powell, who was a Civil War hero, scientist and geographer, as well as the explorer who first rafted the length of the Colorado River, could be the West's unofficial patron saint, a flawed and human saint whose ideas still challenge us today.

  • Cantankerous and contradictory: Remembering Ed Abbey

    Ten years after Ed Abbey's death, a Moab writer remembers the man as complex and cantankerous - an "honest hero," with a sense of humor and a fierce love for the canyon country he so often wrote about.

  • Yankee stay home

    An East Coast writer recalls how he first fell utterly in love with the desert landscape of Tucson, Ariz., and later decided he loved it so much he would have to protect it by not moving there.

  • The Pacific Yew: Chasing a cancer cure with a chainsaw

    During the height of the boom in harvesting Pacific yew trees for the cancer-curing taxol in their bark, a logger wrestles with ambiguous feelings about the trees he is felling for money.

  • Children teach tough lessons

    A Montana teacher worries about the dark impulses that lead her schoolkids to deface a poster of a wolf, with an ink-drawn bullet through its forehead.

  • Squandering our kids' inheritance

    A woman ponders the addiction to gambling which keeps her - and many others who can't afford it - going back to Nevada's slot machines, over and over.

  • Bitter farewell: A Montana valley succumbs to growth fever

    Montana's Bitterroot Valley in the midst of a feverish development boom that has its roots in growth that began over a century ago, when incoming whites pushed the Salish people out of the valley and began to build.

  • River guide quits and tells why

    A river guide who first worked on the Colorado River through Grand Canyon in 1971 describes how a funky, rugged, adventurous business turned into an expenisve, elitist, lavishly catered "service" that has left him disillusioned with the whole thing.

  • Terrorist tactics always undermine progress

    The ecoterrorist arson that damaged ski lifts in Vail, Colo., has harmed the environmental movement in the West by its use of anonymous violence.

  • It's a good day to be indigenous

    Speculations that 9,300-year-old human remains found near Kennewick, Wash., have "European features" lead to tongue-in-cheek ruminations over writer's new status as descendant of "indigenous" people.

  • Hate is not a rural value

    In Laramie, Wyo., a homecoming parade becomes an impromptu protest march and memorial, as residents of the small Western city try to come to terms with the brutal beating of gay student Matt Shepard.

  • A lifetime of service on the North Dakota plains

    A slideshow on Joe Sorkness's 97th birthday recalls his hard and dedicated life as a country doctor in North Dakota.

  • God to Helen: "Do I know you?'

    In a tongue-in-cheek essay, the writer talks to God and passes on the divine opinion concerning Idaho Rep. Helen Chenoweth.

  • Longtime foes practice ritual combat in an Idaho forest

    The writer goes to central Idaho to visit the heart of the longest-standing Earth First! demonstration, protesting the Cove-Mallard timber sale.

  • A polygamist of place: The tradition of the Eastern Westerner

    A writer is torn between his love and loyalty for two very different landscapes - the East Coast's Cape Cod and the mountains of Colorado.

  • Worn shoes, cattle and a spring

    A Forest Service ranger struggles to balance his responsibilities to the land, the wildlife, and the ranchers whose cattle graze on public land.

  • In wilderness, don't phone home

    Hikers who bring their cell phones into the wilderness, either for ease of rescue or instant access to the rest of the world, are missing the point of wilderness.

  • Forest Service pulls anchor ban out of thin air

    A rock climber argues that the Forest Service's recent ban on "permanent, fixed anchors" in wilderness areas is unreasonable, unnecessary and unsafe.

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