Feature stories

Teaching aliens to talk
Teaching aliens to talk
How global warming made me change my life.
How my Californian father adapted to Utah
How my Californian father adapted to Utah
He found solace in growing fruit trees, but never quite made the Beehive state his home.
Forgetting we live in the desert
Forgetting we live in the desert
Rafael de Grenade on tough landscapes, writing as inquiry and climate change.
Browse High Country News feature stories
A conversation with Chuck Bowden from 2002
A conversation with Chuck Bowden from 2002
The late writer discusses the 'cannibalism of society' and other ills.
On the hunt for fireflies in Utah
On the hunt for fireflies in Utah
Scientists find the flashing bugs after a 30-year search.
Shaken and stirred in California's recent earthquake
Shaken and stirred in California's recent earthquake
How seismic events can make drought impacts worse.
Did Obama's Interior hobble the Endangered Species Act?
Did Obama's Interior hobble the Endangered Species Act?
A new policy sets the law back a half-century, conservationists say.
Rural cops get militarized
Rural cops get militarized
Pentagon gives guns, armored vehicles and battlefield gear to rural Western counties.
Fear the falcon
Fear the falcon
A man and his raptors take on Washington's dump scavengers.
The prickly pear as California crop
The prickly pear as California crop
Can an overlooked succulent help salvage toxic soils?
Alaska's Uncertain Food Future
Alaska's Uncertain Food Future
Climate change in the Far North puts traditional food sources at risk.
What the West will feel like in 2100
What the West will feel like in 2100
Scenarios for how our cities will change with the climate.
The roads scholar
The roads scholar
An ecologist helps wildlife safely cross highways.
The death of backpacking?
The death of backpacking?
Younger people don’t seem interested in this outdoors tradition.
Reflecting on groundwater from the Owens Valley Watershed
Reflecting on groundwater from the Owens Valley Watershed
Growing up in the high desert, I learned water doesn't just fall from the sky.
When a parent dies, do we let the house fall?
When a parent dies, do we let the house fall?
Every generation must decide what to do with the lives that preceded theirs.
The Big Nasty
The Big Nasty
On garbage and tolerance in the wilderness.
Out in the backcountry
Out in the backcountry
A profile of a gay ranger in the National Park Service.
Learning Forestry 101 in the Cascades
Learning Forestry 101 in the Cascades
A novice logger helps thin the forest in Washington.
A long-submerged town becomes visible
A long-submerged town becomes visible
Water recedes under drought conditions and reveals a lost California community.
Video of epic mule deer migration
Video of epic mule deer migration
Mulies on the move in western Wyoming.
A Japanese fly-fishing art comes to life
A Japanese fly-fishing art comes to life
Centuries-old tenkara is becoming a hit on streams in the American West.
Backpacking with monster skeeters
Backpacking with monster skeeters
An Alaska encounter with the fiercest of the 176 mosquito species that roam the U.S.
Will the Colorado River reach the Gulf of California once more?
Will the Colorado River reach the Gulf of California once more?
Photographs of last month's historic water pulses.
Happy housewarming, Charlie Brown
Happy housewarming, Charlie Brown
A couple restores a Seattle home and honors the Austrian Jewish couple who once lived there.
Birthday of the burning boot
Birthday of the burning boot
Making peace with growing older, on a hike near Patagonia, Arizona.
Hippos spark management debate
Hippos spark management debate
Nation's most fearsome invasive species wreaks havoc on Western waterways.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin deltas of 1772 and today
The Sacramento-San Joaquin deltas of 1772 and today
Remembering explorers past of this California water source.
Wilderness therapy redefines itself
Wilderness therapy redefines itself
But the irresponsible caregivers and tragedies of the past prove hard to shake.
Two Angelenos debate the city's sustainability efforts
Two Angelenos debate the city's sustainability efforts
KCRW Radio conversation based on HCN essay "Brave New L.A."
How Vancouver, B.C. became North America's smart-growth leader
How Vancouver, B.C. became North America's smart-growth leader
It wasn't visionary city officials; it was a movement to save the city's ethnic Chinese neighborhoods in the '60s.
A (very small) room with a view
A (very small) room with a view
Microhousing catches on in Seattle and other Western cities.
Brave new L.A.
Brave new L.A.
Los Angeles is an unlikely model of urban sustainability for the West and the world.
Are Yellowstone grizzlies ready for delisting?
Are Yellowstone grizzlies ready for delisting?
A recent study of the bears’ diets has spurred a move toward ending endangered protections.
Butcher of Heartache on the Bering Sea
Butcher of Heartache on the Bering Sea
A former newspaper copyeditor finds his way onboard a fishing boat.
Tribes struggle to house their 'invisibly homeless' veterans
Tribes struggle to house their 'invisibly homeless' veterans
Red tape makes it difficult for veterans in Indian Country to access a key federal assistance program.
The fignificent fig man
The fignificent fig man
Lloyd Kreitzer’s journey as New Mexico’s premier fig grower.
Can more oil extraction cut CO2 emissions from power plants?
Can more oil extraction cut CO2 emissions from power plants?
Some environmentalists are getting behind enhanced oil recovery.
Failed secession movements litter the West
Failed secession movements litter the West
Will they ever succeed?
Kids will be kids
Kids will be kids
Photographer Rebecca Drobis looks for universal images of youth on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana.
Heart-Shaped River: Craig Childs finds his center in Canyonlands
Heart-Shaped River: Craig Childs finds his center in Canyonlands
Not all maps are made of paper. The best ones are spooled in memory.
What do you know?
What do you know?
Author Percival Everett defies categories and generalizations.
Josh Zaffos on the Front Range fracking wars
Josh Zaffos on the Front Range fracking wars
The debate over the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing is heating up this fall, as several cities along Colorado’s Front Range prepare to vote on fracking bans or moratoriums.
Front Range drilldown
Front Range drilldown
In the fight over oil and gas regulation, local control gains ground.
The right-wing heiress who changed course in the desert
The right-wing heiress who changed course in the desert
Looking back on Bazy Tankersley: publisher, rancher and conservationist
Severe drought forces a moment of truth for the Klamath
Severe drought forces a moment of truth for the Klamath
Irrigation shutoffs in the river's upper basin may finally help move a historic water deal on the Oregon-California border.
What’s in the water in Woods Cross?
What’s in the water in Woods Cross?
A Salt Lake City suburb weighs environmental risk as it grapples with drinking water contamination
The Blue Window
The Blue Window
Journeying from redrock desert to an icy wasteland: an essay
Thank you, James Watt, for all you did for Greater Yellowstone
Thank you, James Watt, for all you did for Greater Yellowstone
An eccentric secretary of Interior remembered for his unlikely conservation legacy.
Pilgrim at Shit Creek
Pilgrim at Shit Creek
A mother comes to terms with her son's childhood in the urban environment
Alaska tribes attempt to block the controversial Pebble Mine
Alaska tribes attempt to block the controversial Pebble Mine
Some of the last surviving salmon-based cultures turn to the EPA to protect their communities.
Why do you live in a flood zone?
Why do you live in a flood zone?
How to empathize with people who experience devastating loss after fires and floods
Becoming pronghorn: an essay
Becoming pronghorn: an essay
Remembering wildlife biologist James Yoakum, who loved to study pronghorn
Helium rising in the West
Helium rising in the West
The region has become an important source of the technologically vital gas.
Hal Herring on the Rocky Mountain Front
Hal Herring on the Rocky Mountain Front
Hal Herring talks with KDNK's Nelson Harvey about looming energy development in his wild and sprawling backyard
The Rocky Mountain Front blues
The Rocky Mountain Front blues
A journalist reflects on energy development on his home turf.
The ATV culture includes loose regulations -- and kids' funerals
The ATV culture includes loose regulations -- and kids' funerals
Western kids have fun -- and die -- motoring off-road, thanks to loose ATV regulations, a libertarian spirit and fun-loving parents.
Oval Intention: an essay
Oval Intention: an essay
The original geodesic tent lives on.
Latino radio stations connect immigrant communities
Latino radio stations connect immigrant communities
Latino music stations -- even commercial ones -- increasingly resemble public service organizations.
Conservation goals in Jackson Hole collide with a need for worker housing
Conservation goals in Jackson Hole collide with a need for worker housing
In Wyoming's top resort town, the desire to protect the environment and the community's character kills big affordable housing projects.
Arctic ship logs help scientists reconstruct climatic history
Arctic ship logs help scientists reconstruct climatic history
Sailors' journals detailing the weather of voyages past could improve the accuracy of climate models' projections of the future.
Is the Violence Against Women Act a chance for tribes to reinforce their sovereignty?
Is the Violence Against Women Act a chance for tribes to reinforce their sovereignty?
A new provision lets tribes prosecute non-tribal members for violent crimes like rape for the first time.
Wildfire's silver lining
Wildfire's silver lining
Even the costliest blazes can boost local economies.
Ray Ring on Jackson's housing crisis
Ray Ring on Jackson's housing crisis
KDNK's Nelson Harvey talks with HCN Senior Editor Ray Ring about his recent cover story on the clash between conservation goals and the need for affordable housing in Jackson, Wyoming.
Made in the American West, consumed in China
Made in the American West, consumed in China
Chinese consumers craving status symbols increasing look to North American poachers
The power grid may determine whether we can kick our carbon habit
The power grid may determine whether we can kick our carbon habit
How the huge and fragile network of wires intertwined into our very existence may determine whether we can kick our carbon habit.
War Bird: An essay on robot hummingbirds
War Bird: An essay on robot hummingbirds
Robotic hummingbirds have got nothing on the real thing
A Utah realtor’s quest to sell a ghost town
A Utah realtor’s quest to sell a ghost town
Woodside, Utah, a dusty town with an out-of-service gas station and not much else, is for sale. Mike Metzger’s creative marketing of the oddball property led to a media frenzy, but thus far, no buyers.
Jonathan Thompson on the grid
Jonathan Thompson on the grid
KDNK's Nelson Harvey talks with Jonathan Thompson about our stressed and complicated transmission system.
The Western Grid in maps and graphs
The Western Grid in maps and graphs
A map of the West's electric grid and graphs of weather related disturbances, the balance between regional systems, and the impact of geographic smoothing on renewable energy.
Could an Alaska mining project jeopardize Earth’s largest bald eagle gathering?
Could an Alaska mining project jeopardize Earth’s largest bald eagle gathering?
Scientists studying eagles on the Chilkat River near Haines worry that nearby mineral exploration may threaten a chum salmon run the migrating raptors rely on, possibly with cross-continent consequences.
Alaska’s populist, Sarah Palin-era oil tax gets the ax
Alaska’s populist, Sarah Palin-era oil tax gets the ax
The Alaska Legislature cut the industry’s taxes to boost declining production in the North Slope. But the rollbacks don’t seem likely to have the desired effect.
Sycamore Canyon: an essay
Sycamore Canyon: an essay
An expectant couple goes rock climbing.
BLM teams with researchers to protect midget faded rattlesnake
BLM teams with researchers to protect midget faded rattlesnake
Biologists and federal officials hope to direct booming oil, gas and wind development away from the rare reptile in southwest Wyoming and northwest Colorado
How right-wing emigrants conquered North Idaho
How right-wing emigrants conquered North Idaho
Conservative transplants largely from California have taken over Kootenai County -- have they gone too far?
In the field with a Montana couple hunting wolves
In the field with a Montana couple hunting wolves
Amid bitter controversy over allowing hunters and trappers to reduce wolf populations, a Montana couple is dedicated to their hunt.
Of sense and salinity: A swim in the Great Salt Lake
Of sense and salinity: A swim in the Great Salt Lake
Open-water swimmers revive historical swimming routes in Utah's dead sea
Another water-short year in the Southwest is taking its toll
Another water-short year in the Southwest is taking its toll
Generous spring snow storms were a momentary, if welcome, distraction from the region's real weather story: drought.
The gray area: a conversation with artist Renee Couture
The gray area: a conversation with artist Renee Couture
An Oregon artist reinterprets the region's timber wars.
A new collaboration has Idaho ranchers and the BLM fighting fire together
A new collaboration has Idaho ranchers and the BLM fighting fire together
Conflicts began after the BLM banned ranchers from fighting fire on public land. But a surprising solution has emerged.
Seeking balance in Oregon's timber country
Seeking balance in Oregon's timber country
Can logging towns and old-growth forests both thrive in the Northwest?
Seeking Ben Kennedy: a quest to find a mysterious Montana philanthropist
Seeking Ben Kennedy: a quest to find a mysterious Montana philanthropist
The writer goes in search of a mysterious Montana philanthropist
The Forest Service battles placer mining with an obscure law
The Forest Service battles placer mining with an obscure law
A little-known 1955 law gives the Forest Service a way to shut down placer mining claims along some Western rivers.
Emily Guerin on ranchers' and BLM's collaborative approach to fighting wildfire
Emily Guerin on ranchers' and BLM's collaborative approach to fighting wildfire
Emily Guerin talks with KDNK's Nelson Harvey about why this unusual collaboration is working in Idaho.
Lawmakers scramble to fix the funding problem in Oregon's timber counties
Lawmakers scramble to fix the funding problem in Oregon's timber counties
A few of the proposals to stop the bleeding in rural timber-dependent counties.
Hispanic leaders spearheaded the Río Grande del Norte National Monument
Hispanic leaders spearheaded the Río Grande del Norte National Monument
In New Mexico, the open and inclusive campaign for a 240,000-acre monument sidestepped the usual controversy drummed up by such designations.
River home: an essay on life on the Arkansas River
River home: an essay on life on the Arkansas River
The author makes his home on--and in-- the Arkansas River
Aspen, Colo. environmental community split over small hydro
Aspen, Colo. environmental community split over small hydro
Reviving a small hydroelectric plant on Castle Creek was supposed to help the city's utility get closer to providing 100 percent carbon free electricity as part of an effort to fight climate change. Instead, it's kicked up a furor.
Sacrificial Land: Will renewable energy devour the Mojave Desert?
Sacrificial Land: Will renewable energy devour the Mojave Desert?
An unlikely group of activists is championing a new bill to protect the Mojave Desert. But even if it passes, large swaths of once empty land will be developed.
California's carbon market may succeed where others have failed
California's carbon market may succeed where others have failed
The Golden State's new cap-and-trade program aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions while avoiding the pitfalls of similar attempts.
Are whale watchers taking a toll on Puget Sound's orcas?
Are whale watchers taking a toll on Puget Sound's orcas?
Unraveling the mystery of the whales' steady decline.
Deconstructing environmentalists' opposition to renewable energy
Deconstructing environmentalists' opposition to renewable energy
Sarah Gilman and KDNK's Nelson Harvey talk about why environmentalists in certain communities are divided about the appropriate way to address climate change.
The New California Desert Protection Act
The New California Desert Protection Act
A map of desert areas proposed for protection, some of which are also slated for energy projects.
Federal austerity hits home in the West
Federal austerity hits home in the West
Is smaller government as desirable in practice as theory?
On thirty years of grizzly bear conservation in the Northern Rockies
On thirty years of grizzly bear conservation in the Northern Rockies
Louisa Willcox, former senior wildlife advocate for Natural Resources Defense Council, reflects on political and environmental threats to grizzlies
Federal Helium Reserve faces uncertainty amid global shortage
Federal Helium Reserve faces uncertainty amid global shortage
An obscure BLM facility plays a critical role in a market hit hard by the fracking boom
Taking the park to the people
Taking the park to the people
Saguaro National Park staffer goes outside the park to entice Hispanics in
The white media kill Indians again and again
The white media kill Indians again and again
Non-native reporters refuse to cover anything but the unbearable
How fish consumption determines water quality
How fish consumption determines water quality
States are considering fish-heavy diets when setting water quality standards
Strolling San Francisco with a special guidebook to street trees
Strolling San Francisco with a special guidebook to street trees
“The Trees of San Francisco” walks you through a unique urban forest that has hundreds of species from around the world.
Volunteering provides a special experience in national parks
Volunteering provides a special experience in national parks
Retirees and interns donate millions of hours in national parks, and get to know the parks intimately.
Secret getaways of the National Landscape Conservation System
Secret getaways of the National Landscape Conservation System
A desert hiker finds a lot to like in little-known Bureau of Land Management gems.
A photographic journey through Montana’s vanished towns
A photographic journey through Montana’s vanished towns
When a state tries to erase towns from the official highway map, a lot is at stake.