Feature stories

Indigenous knowledge helps untangle the mystery of Mesa Verde
Indigenous knowledge helps untangle the mystery of Mesa Verde
Pueblo people and archaeologists work to understand the science of human migrations.
As oceans acidify, shellfish farmers respond
As oceans acidify, shellfish farmers respond
Scientists collaborate to mitigate climate impacts in the Northwest.
After its dams came down, a river is reborn
After its dams came down, a river is reborn
A look at the Elwha unleashed.
Browse High Country News feature stories
Already gone: a profile of Native American poet Joy Harjo
Already gone: a profile of Native American poet Joy Harjo
The author of She Had Some Horses and In Mad Love and War discusses her new memoir, Crazy Brave.
Three Nevada fiction writers make their debut
Three Nevada fiction writers make their debut
New authors Tupelo Hassman, Ben Rogers, and Claire Vaye Watkins discuss how Nevada inspired their fiction and the themes of their work.
Existential nomad: A profile of author Ruben Martinez
Existential nomad: A profile of author Ruben Martinez
The author asks questions about life in the desert West -- who belongs there, and what belongs to whom.
The West in my blood: A profile of Eddie Chuculate
The West in my blood: A profile of Eddie Chuculate
The Native American author writes fresh but familiar stories.
That familiar loneliness: a writer's own relationship mirrors a Stegner novel
That familiar loneliness: a writer's own relationship mirrors a Stegner novel
Emily Guerin finds that life imitates fiction when she reads Wallace Stegner's book Angle of Repose
In Montana, 'Dr. Trout' battles the planet's most dangerous diseases
In Montana, 'Dr. Trout' battles the planet's most dangerous diseases
Marshall Bloom, who heads up disease research at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont., discusses his work on deadly viruses and his passion for conservation.
Abbey's Road: Retired BLM chief gives one last look across the range
Abbey's Road: Retired BLM chief gives one last look across the range
Bob Abbey, recently retired from the Bureau of Land Management, discusses democracy, energy development, and agency culture.
Storm on Lava Creek: A season in Yellowstone
Storm on Lava Creek: A season in Yellowstone
The power of a thunderstorm thrills a newcomer to Yellowstone National Park.
Fire scientists fight over what Western forests should look like
Fire scientists fight over what Western forests should look like
Controversial new studies question the conventional wisdom on Western ponderosa forests and the severity of their historic wildfires.
Can pallid sturgeon hang on in the overworked Missouri River?
Can pallid sturgeon hang on in the overworked Missouri River?
In the dam-locked Upper Missouri, scientists search for signs that the ancient species hasn't reached the end of its line.
One Sagebrush Rebellion flickers out — or does it?
One Sagebrush Rebellion flickers out — or does it?
Wayne Hage's 20-year court battle over ranching on public lands comes to a close, but his son continues to tussle with the feds.
The politics of public health
The politics of public health
Environmental regulations are a favorite target in the runup to this year's election.
Great Basin scientists unleash new weapons to fight invasive cheatgrass
Great Basin scientists unleash new weapons to fight invasive cheatgrass
A trio of dedicated scientists are testing out cutting-edge ways to finally turn the tide against the Great Basin's cheatgrass invasion, as the weed continues to cause devastating fires.
Gathering strength from the Continental Divide
Gathering strength from the Continental Divide
A summer in the Rocky Mountains helps a child learn to stand up against the bullies in her life.
Watching land swaps in Idaho and the West
Watching land swaps in Idaho and the West
Federal land exchanges have come under increased scrutiny over the past decade, both from citizen activists and the Government Accountability Office.
Cracking the ozone code in Utah's gas fields
Cracking the ozone code in Utah's gas fields
Can gas drilling and clean air co-exist?
In rural California, a Liberian family finds an agricultural refuge
In rural California, a Liberian family finds an agricultural refuge
Guinda, California is home to an unusual multi-ethnic community with a rich African-American farming tradition.
The Bay Area Chevron explosion shows gaps in refinery safety
The Bay Area Chevron explosion shows gaps in refinery safety
Oil refineries pose serious health hazards for nearby residents as well as workers, as the recent explosion in Richmond and other incidents, like one in Sinclair, Wyo., have made clear.
Who is Denny Rehberg, really?
Who is Denny Rehberg, really?
Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg has exploited his family's long Montana history to get where he is today, but his current campaign for Democrat Jon Tester's Senate seat is raising questions about his record and that history.
A sampling of Western land swaps
A sampling of Western land swaps
Ovrview of land swaps around the West.
Rehberg family subdivisions
Rehberg family subdivisions
A history of Montana land speculation by the Rehberg family
A once-proud conservation group has lost its way
A once-proud conservation group has lost its way
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is waging war against wolves -- and alienating its supporters.
Saving threatened Utah prairie dogs -- on private property
Saving threatened Utah prairie dogs -- on private property
Can a new approach to conservation help landowners and endangered species coexist?
Troubled Taos, torn apart by a battle over historic Hispano land grants
Troubled Taos, torn apart by a battle over historic Hispano land grants
A New Mexican town known for its art scene is home to a fractured community, where distrust of Anglo newcomers plays out in a fight over whether ancient deeds give Hispano old-timers a right to land.
Love and tomatoes -- a natural combination
Love and tomatoes -- a natural combination
Diamonds aren't always a girl's best friend; sometimes a fresh, ripe, local tomato is.
Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on the U.S. as an Arctic nation
Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on the U.S. as an Arctic nation
Treadwell, an expert in the politics of the opening Arctic, discusses offshore drilling, the Arctic as a global economic powerhouse, and climate change adaptation.
Map of proposed Bay Delta tunnels
Map of proposed Bay Delta tunnels
Two new tunnels would take fresh Sacramento River water beneath the Delta instead of allowing its full flow to enter the more brackish Delta.
Tunneling under California's Bay Delta water wars
Tunneling under California's Bay Delta water wars
Environmentalists and fishermen have panned past versions of Gov. Jerry Brown's new proposal for water export tunnels, but it might actually help endangered fish.
"Friending" nature
"Friending" nature
Using social media and citizen science to track the tiger beetle in New Mexico and Arizona
In search of camas, a Native American food staple
In search of camas, a Native American food staple
Botanist Madrona Murphy traces long-lost edible wild plant gardens cultivated by the Pacific Northwest's Coast Salish.
The Salt Pond Puzzle: Restoring South San Francisco Bay
The Salt Pond Puzzle: Restoring South San Francisco Bay
The unintended consequences of the most ambitious wetland recovery project on the West Coast -- and the tough choices biologists may face as they try to balance the competing demands of rare species.
Public lands agencies are charging for nothing
Public lands agencies are charging for nothing
A court decision knocked down “amenity” fees at national forests, but the USFS still tries to charge
What the High Park wildfire can teach us about protecting homes
What the High Park wildfire can teach us about protecting homes
After the Colorado wildfires, experts try to figure out why some "fire-proofed" neighborhoods with defensible space burned, while similar neighborhoods didn't.
The Bakken oil play spurs a booming business -- in water
The Bakken oil play spurs a booming business -- in water
Hydraulic fracturing's extraordinary appetite for water is creating friction between North Dakota's farmers and drillers.
On the front line of mental illness and violence
On the front line of mental illness and violence
The National Rifle Association acts as a terrorist organization in its efforts to limit gun control
Will Utah's tar sands make it the Alberta of the high desert?
Will Utah's tar sands make it the Alberta of the high desert?
Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands says it's ready to take its exploratory effort in eastern Utah’s Tavaputs Plateau commercial.
Can the outdoor gear industry wield its power for conservation?
Can the outdoor gear industry wield its power for conservation?
Pioneering mountaineer Peter Metcalf built Black Diamond into a successful climbing-gear business when nobody thought it could be done. But his dream of turning the outdoor industry into a force for nature remains tantalizingly elusive.
Oregon ignores logging road runoff, to the peril of native fish
Oregon ignores logging road runoff, to the peril of native fish
Oregon has long refused to regulate sediment runoff from logging roads as pollution under the Clean Water Act. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide what the state should do.
Coal-export schemes ignite unusual opposition, from Wyoming to India
Coal-export schemes ignite unusual opposition, from Wyoming to India
Ambitious schemes to build railroads and ports to ship Powder River Basin coal abroad will bring pollution and traffic to communities along the transport path, who are rising up in protest.
Conservation Alliance Grants, 2011-2012
Conservation Alliance Grants, 2011-2012
A map showing the grants given by the Outdoor Industry Association's sister organization, the Conservation Alliance.
Save a chimney, save a swift
Save a chimney, save a swift
As their natural roosts disappeared, Vaux's swifts turned to old, brick chimneys for refuge during long migrations. Those safe havens are disappearing, too. Luckily, the swifts -- and the chimneys -- have found a champion in Larry Schwitters
The ski industry, climate hawk?
The ski industry, climate hawk?
Aspen Skiing Company Sustainability VP Auden Schendler, and professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones on why ski corporations and pro athletes should step up to the climate crisis -- and how they can do it.
Following Dad down the road
Following Dad down the road
The author reminisces on an itinerant childhood and her family's travels up, down and across the country -- and how she now clings firmly to one place called home.
Beyond the politics of no: Luther Propst and collaborative conservation
Beyond the politics of no: Luther Propst and collaborative conservation
The Sonoran Institute's departing founder reflects on 20 years of conservation work and how he developed his approach to protecting land while working with a wide range of stakeholders.
The West, in pictures
The West, in pictures
High Country News showcases a selection of photos submitted to SAGE Magazine, a student-run environmental magazine at the Yale Forestry School. The images include beautiful wildlife photography and poignant illustrations of humans' relationship to the natural world.
On the prowl with Oregon's pygmy owls
On the prowl with Oregon's pygmy owls
Biologist John Deshler knows more about pygmy owls than just about anyone. Writer Nick Neely spent a fascinating day with Deshler tracking, capturing and measuring the owls in Portland's Forest Park.
Tracking Ice Age people in Oregon
Tracking Ice Age people in Oregon
Craig Childs goes time-traveling in the buttes and basins of south-central Oregon, and ponders signs of early human occupation.
Afield with a vegan gas man
Afield with a vegan gas man
HCN talks with Eric Sanford of SG Interests about the politics of energy development, split estate, and more.
Three days in the Four Corners
Three days in the Four Corners
A loop around the Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet, leads into a land of both historical and geological friction.
Three days in eastern Montana
Three days in eastern Montana
A saunter through the grasslands of eastern Montana brings interesting encounters with cowboys, bull-riders, small-towners and BLM rangers, not to mention wildlife and endless skies.
The Quileute Reservation copes with tourists brought by "Twilight"
The Quileute Reservation copes with tourists brought by "Twilight"
At La Push, Wash., the small but vital Quileute Indian Nation copes with tourists brought by the popular Twilight books and movies.
Three days in western Nevada
Three days in western Nevada
A lot of places call themselves "gateway cities," but Reno, Nev., is truly the gateway to a lot of strange and amazingly gorgeous places.
Three days in southwest New Mexico
Three days in southwest New Mexico
Santa Fe may be too ritzy for its britches, but the funky, far-flung towns of southern New Mexico still have that special "spice" that makes the state unique.
Land art of the West: An interactive map
Land art of the West: An interactive map
A guide to some of the West's most prominent pieces of land art or earthworks and some of the altered landscapes that interested or inspired land artists.
Exploring the West's land sculptures -- made by artists and industry
Exploring the West's land sculptures -- made by artists and industry
A land-art-inspired ramble takes the writer from Michael Heizer's Double Negative, to Robert Smithson's underwater Spiral Jetty, with detours to places including the Bingham Canyon copper mine.
Ray Ring's Nevada route
Ray Ring's Nevada route
The travel route the author took when touring around Reno, Nevada.
Neil LaRubbio's Montana route
Neil LaRubbio's Montana route
The travel route the author took in Montana
Cally Carswell's New Mexico route
Cally Carswell's New Mexico route
The travel route the author took when visiting New Mexico
Bison deserve a home on the range
Bison deserve a home on the range
What better place to let bison run free than Montana's Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, especially since that animal so greatly inspired the artist?
Hidden in plain sight: A review of The American Wall
Hidden in plain sight: A review of The American Wall
In the two massive volumes of The American Wall, French photographer Maurice Sherif works with anthropologists, activists and writers to explore the border fence that separates the U.S. from Mexico.
FLDS continues abusive polygamist practices in Utah and Arizona
FLDS continues abusive polygamist practices in Utah and Arizona
The states' failure to crack down on Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints means abuses still happen, despite the conviction of extreme polygamist Warren Jeffs.
Surveying the oft-snubbed (and very cool) spider with citizen scientists
Surveying the oft-snubbed (and very cool) spider with citizen scientists
Volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Colorado Spider Survey help scientists gather important data by roaming nooks and crannies across the state, finding and cataloguing Colorado's myriad spiders.
Gregory Jaczko's resignation weakens federal nuclear regulation
Gregory Jaczko's resignation weakens federal nuclear regulation
The San Onofre nuclear power plant has problems that are perhaps endemic to the industry, and chairman Gregory Jaczko's May 2012 resignation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission means there's one less strong regulator keeping a sharp eye on industry.
FLDS strongholds
FLDS strongholds
Where the FLDS community is based
On the hunt for abalone poachers in Northern California
On the hunt for abalone poachers in Northern California
Don Powers, of the California Department of Fish and Game, spends his days relentlessly pursuing abalone poachers who can't seem to resist the chance to bring in some illegal shellfish cash.
Dancing with wolverines
Dancing with wolverines
A wolverine snuffling at your throat commands your attention, even if you're in a relatively safe enclosure at a clandestine refuge for the animals.
Do subdivisions designed for conservation actually help wildlife?
Do subdivisions designed for conservation actually help wildlife?
Conservation development is supposed to reduce the habitat fragmentation caused by exurban sprawl -- but it only works if it's done right.
The fading Arizona town of Gila Bend bets big on solar
The fading Arizona town of Gila Bend bets big on solar
At last -- a place to put utility scale plants that won't ruin the desert. But will politics and the economy get in the way?
Conservation agreements try to head off endangered species listings
Conservation agreements try to head off endangered species listings
Candidate conservation agreements try to keep rare species, like Colorado's Gunnison sage grouse, off the endangered species list, or at least healthy enough to lessen the restrictions that come with listing.
Coping with two-headed fish and other effects of selenium
Coping with two-headed fish and other effects of selenium
Researchers try to determine if unhealthy amounts of selenium are entering Western soil and water due to energy development.
Planned and operating solar projects in Gila Bend, Arizona
A map showing location and project status for solar buildups
Secretly funded Montana sportsmen dive into political fray
Secretly funded Montana sportsmen dive into political fray
The group Montana Hunters and Anglers Action is wielding its cash to help pro-conservation candidates win elections.
Selenium concentrations
Selenium concentrations
Muddy Creek selenium levels
Kayaking memories on the White Salmon River
Kayaking memories on the White Salmon River
Will all of a kayaker's memories of Washington's White Salmon River change once the river changes, now that Condit Dam is gone?
Recycling diesel emissions for farm fertilizer?
Recycling diesel emissions for farm fertilizer?
Canadian farmer Gary Lewis, fed up with the failures of synthetic fertilizer, has invented a system called Bio-Agtive Emissions Technology, a tractor add-on that recycles diesel emissions into fertilizer.
L.A. activists try to stop woodlands from becoming sediment dumps
L.A. activists try to stop woodlands from becoming sediment dumps
When Camron Stone realized that an oak forest was about to be bulldozed by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, he started fighting back.
Retirees join environmentalists in fighting Arizona copper mine
Retirees join environmentalists in fighting Arizona copper mine
The conservative, golf-playing retirees of Queen Valley, Ariz., are determined to stop a giant copper mine.
Western legislatures grab for control of public lands
Western legislatures grab for control of public lands
Some Western states are rekindling the Sagebrush Rebellion and demanding ownership of federal lands -- but it's not just about local control.
Los Angeles' watershed is more sediment than dumping grounds
Bark beetle kill leads to more severe fires, right? Well, maybe
Bark beetle kill leads to more severe fires, right? Well, maybe
The connection between bark beetle outbreaks and Western forest fires is more complicated than it might appear.
The Pawnee Buttes oversee a changing landscape
The Pawnee Buttes oversee a changing landscape
Eastern Colorado’s Pawnee Buttes have witnessed so many historical changes that they’re likely to survive the current energy-development boom.
Balancing fish and farms on a Washington estuary
Balancing fish and farms on a Washington estuary
A restoration effort at Fisher Slough in Washington's Skagit River Delta has encouraged cooperation between farmers and environmentalists - and might even help endangered chinook salmon.
A Mexican rancher struggles to shift from cattle to conservation
A Mexican rancher struggles to shift from cattle to conservation
In Northwest Mexico, rancher Carlos Robles Elías works hard to make his Rancho El Aribabi into an oasis of biodiversity, despite the challenges of a sagging economy and rampant drug cartel violence.
Imaginary journeys on a rowing machine
Imaginary journeys on a rowing machine
When a writer buys a rowing machine, her 3-year-old daughter's enthusiasm turns exercise into an adventure as they imagine rowing to reach the island of Yap in Micronesia.
A literary organization tackles California gang violence
A literary organization tackles California gang violence
The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Calif., is honoring the Nobel Prize-winning author by helping at-risk youth in the community he wrote about.
Arizona's clean-election law is pruned, but not uprooted
Arizona's clean-election law is pruned, but not uprooted
Clean-elections laws have a way of withering away, especially since the Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling, but Arizona is still struggling to keep political campaigns fair.
A final hats off to rancher Doc Hatfield
A final hats off to rancher Doc Hatfield
With the help of his wife, Connie, and a bunch of determined fellow ranchers, the late Doc Hatfield helped change the face of public-lands ranching in the West.
When Peter Gleick fell, California's water world lost big
When Peter Gleick fell, California's water world lost big
After he impersonated a Heartland Institute board member, gadfly scientist and Pacific Institute head Peter Gleick has been persona non grata. But California water bosses may miss his fierce intellect.
The Other Bakken Boom: America’s biggest oil rush brings tribal conflict
The Other Bakken Boom: America’s biggest oil rush brings tribal conflict
North Dakota's Three Affiliated Tribes have long wanted a stake in the state's occasional oil booms, but the size, scope and speed of the Bakken development caught them completely unprepared.
Librotraficantes smuggle controversial books to Arizona
Librotraficantes smuggle controversial books to Arizona
After Tucson, Ariz., scrapped its acclaimed but controversial Mexican American Studies program, novelist Tony Diaz decided to fight back.
Braving landfills, dodging avalanches, all for the sake of geoscience
Braving landfills, dodging avalanches, all for the sake of geoscience
The intrepid scientific grunts behind the Plate Boundary Observatory roam the West keeping tabs on weird-looking far-flung GPS stations.
Land ownership on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation
Redefining "renewable" to get a clean energy bill through Congress
Redefining "renewable" to get a clean energy bill through Congress
As his retirement looms, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., pushes a "clean energy" bill, one that broadens the energy mix beyond traditional "renewable" sources.
Face it: All forests are "sluts"
Face it: All forests are "sluts"
If an allegedly untouched piece of woodland is "virgin forest," what does that make a forest that’s been logged or burnt or otherwise used by humans over the years?
The itch that riles Frontera author Denise Chavez
The itch that riles Frontera author Denise Chavez
The author and Border Book Festival maven recounts her childhood, her upcoming book, a "mystery love story" and what it's like to run an independent bookstore in the navel of the world.
Could doing chores save the world?
Could doing chores save the world?
While living at a remote commune in the wilds of New Mexico, author Emily Schosid learned what real sustainability means. And it’s not at all what you’d expect.
Following the Old Spanish Trail across the Southwest
Following the Old Spanish Trail across the Southwest
Archaeologist Jack Pfertsh looks for marks on the landscape and artifact fragments to retrace the historic route near Delta, Colo.
Margaret Hiza Redsteer uses Navajo memories to track climate change
Margaret Hiza Redsteer uses Navajo memories to track climate change
A scientist taps the recollections of tribal elders as part of her work to piece together the story of landscape change on the Navajo Nation.
Traveling Arizona Highways, in your dreams and on the ground
Traveling Arizona Highways, in your dreams and on the ground
In 1960, an Illinois mailman falls in love with the desert through the pages of Arizona Highways and hands on his dream -- and a piece of Mohave County --to his son and grandson.
Loggers give unique Oregon ponderosa pine a lifeline
Loggers give unique Oregon ponderosa pine a lifeline
In the Willamette Valley, a rare tree makes a comeback. But is it really a victory for restoration?