Feature stories

What fire researchers learned from Northern California blazes
What fire researchers learned from Northern California blazes
In California, land managers use fire as a tool.
Ancestral Pueblo logging practices could save New Mexico pinelands
Ancestral Pueblo logging practices could save New Mexico pinelands
Researchers look to the past to better fight fire.
A tale of two parks: How the Bakken boom transformed a landscape
A tale of two parks: How the Bakken boom transformed a landscape
While a North Dakota national park is an oasis from drilling, a nearby state park is thrown open.
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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?
A Colorado newspaperman fights for his valley's water
A Colorado newspaperman fights for his valley's water
Bob Rawlings, publisher of the Pueblo Chieftain, has battled for decades to bring water to southeastern Colorado and, once it's there, to keep it no matter what.
Street artist Jetsonorama tries a new kind of healing in Navajoland
Street artist Jetsonorama tries a new kind of healing in Navajoland
A black physician wheatpastes gigantic photographs outdoors to celebrate the tribe and human experience.
A scrappy community ski hill hangs on in Colorado
A scrappy community ski hill hangs on in Colorado
In Lake City, Colo., the state's oldest ski lift is still hauling skiers up modest slopes at even more modest prices.
Sodbusting farmers plow up the Northern Plains prairie
Sodbusting farmers plow up the Northern Plains prairie
The biofuels "corn bubble" and other financial incentives encourage farmers to plow up native grassland in the sensitive Northern Plains prairie potholes ecosystem; government policies don't help.
A moral issue confronts industrial farmers
A moral issue confronts industrial farmers
Farmers in Nebraska are feeling the pressure from groups that demand better treatment for animals on factory farms.
The BLM struggles to get ahead of oil and gas development in the West
The BLM struggles to get ahead of oil and gas development in the West
Master leasing plans, or MLPs, are a new tool designed to help the Bureau of Land Management better coordinate energy leasing and development in areas that may need special treatment or protection.
Unfinished zombie housing developments haunt the rural West
Unfinished zombie housing developments haunt the rural West
Lack of planning rules and the housing bubble led to dead subdivisions plaguing the West, especially in Teton County, Idaho, where locals are trying to deal with the impacts of the real estate bust, yet still arguing if planning even works.
Watching the weather in California
Watching the weather in California
A Californian becomes a volunteer weather-spotter, in part to heal the memories of the storm that destroyed her house when she was a teenager.
Of cowboys and Indians: Ravi Malhotra helps rural businesses
Of cowboys and Indians: Ravi Malhotra helps rural businesses
An Indian-born progressive applies social entrepreneur techniques gleaned from the developing world to struggling communities in Colorado through his nonprofit, iCAST.
Teton County subdivisions
Teton County subdivisions
A map showing distressed and abandoned subdivisions in Idaho's Teton County.
Wilderness acres created, by congressional session
Wilderness acres created, by congressional session
A timeline of bills authorizing new wilderness, from 1964 to 2012
Wilderness bills languish in legislative limbo
Wilderness bills languish in legislative limbo
Even Republican sponsors can't seem to break their party's determined stonewalling on wilderness bills in the House of Representatives.
A fresh focus on frack attacks
A fresh focus on frack attacks
In all the fuss about fracking, the many other problems caused by rampant oil and gas development are being overlooked.
Environmental warrior Martin Litton is still fighting at 95
Environmental warrior Martin Litton is still fighting at 95
Martin Litton, who has spent his entire life fighting to preserve Western landscapes, is still battling to save California’s giant sequoias.
How Arizona’s culture helped shape the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords
How Arizona’s culture helped shape the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords
If you want to understand why Jared Lee Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and 18 others at a Tucson Safeway in 2011, look to Arizona’s soulless culture and vitriolic politics.
I don't love my dog
I don't love my dog
It's hard to love your dog when she keeps rolling in dead animals and bringing half-eaten deer parts into your formerly tranquil home.
Communities help pay for ecosystem services provided by forests
Communities help pay for ecosystem services provided by forests
Watershed partnerships between communities and the federal government help make ratepayers more responsible for the health of their water supply.
Obama praises natural gas, but is there enough to satisfy U.S. demand?
Obama praises natural gas, but is there enough to satisfy U.S. demand?
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama tried to please everyone, but even his renewable energy proposals rely on finding more natural gas than may exist.
Following the Oregon Trail, digitally and on foot
Following the Oregon Trail, digitally and on foot
Following a childhood fascination with the computer game Oregon Trail, a young archaeologist meets the real thing during a rugged, exhausting Wyoming summer.
Montana court defends law defying Citizens United
Montana court defends law defying Citizens United
As elections of state judges become increasingly contentious, the Montana Supreme Court defends the state's Corrupt Practices Act against the Citizens United decision.
A young wolf wanders the West
A young wolf wanders the West
OR-7, a young Oregon wolf, has logged some 1,000 miles in his journey through the West, becoming the first wild wolf seen in California since 1924.
John Mionczynski: naturalist, accordionist, and Bigfoot expert
John Mionczynski: naturalist, accordionist, and Bigfoot expert
In rural Wyoming, naturalist John Mionczynski plays piano, restores motorcycles, studies wildlife and tracks down evidence for the mysterious creature known as Sasquatch.
Fearful of Agenda 21, an alleged U.N. plot, activists derail land-use planning
Fearful of Agenda 21, an alleged U.N. plot, activists derail land-use planning
A two-year planning process in La Plata County, Colorado gets hijacked by activists suspicious of United Nations influence. And in the West and nationwide, they're not alone.
Residents of Montana's High Plains are angry - but not at the real threats
Residents of Montana's High Plains are angry - but not at the real threats
Though climate change and the economy are the issues threatening their livelihoods, many of the High Plains people are angry at almost everything else.
A mom-and-pop oil company prospects for gas in central Wyoming
A mom-and-pop oil company prospects for gas in central Wyoming
Wold Oil Properties is a wildcatter - a small company that explores for oil and gas in areas where the fuels aren't known to exist in valuable quantities.
Billboard corporations use money and influence to override your vote
Billboard corporations use money and influence to override your vote
In Salt Lake City and other Western communities, billboard companies battle local democracy by fighting attempts to regulate the giant signs.
 Richard West Sellars’ distinguished National Park Service career
Richard West Sellars’ distinguished National Park Service career
After 35 years in the agency, historian Sellars' impact still resonates.
The logging town of Darrington, Wash., fights to save a fire lookout
The logging town of Darrington, Wash., fights to save a fire lookout
A lawsuit raises questions about how far environmentalists should go to keep wilderness 'untrammeled.'
Detente in the rancher v. environmentalist grazing wars?
Detente in the rancher v. environmentalist grazing wars?
Buying out grazing permits from willing ranchers could help solve conflicts over grazing on public lands.
Picking ranchers' brains, from Colorado to Mongolia
Picking ranchers' brains, from Colorado to Mongolia
Colorado State University professor Maria Fernandez-Gimenez researches traditional ecological knowledge to better understand how ranchers learn and adapt management practices, form their attitudes and opinions on environmental change, and interact with their neighbors and resource scientists.
No matter how long you live in your small town, you'll never be a native
No matter how long you live in your small town, you'll never be a native
In the West's rural lands, you might think you're invisible, but the old-timers -- and their dogs -- know you are there.
On Keystone XL route, states allow different risks, reap different benefits
On Keystone XL route, states allow different risks, reap different benefits
An InsideClimate News comparison shows that, of the six states the proposed pipeline moves through, only Montana has authority to re-route the pipeline, and Kansas has given TransCanada a 10-year tax exemption.
A Q&A with former Colorado National Monument head Joan Anzelmo
A Q&A with former Colorado National Monument head Joan Anzelmo
The retired Park Service superintendent stands by her controversial decision not to allow a major bike race in the monument, and continues to be passionate about preserving landscapes.
Raymond Ansotegui and the art of artificially inseminating cattle
Raymond Ansotegui and the art of artificially inseminating cattle
The "overeducated cowboy" Raymond Ansotegui roams the West in the "Shaggin' Wagon," artificially inseminating cattle with the help of friends and family.
The perilous journey of Wyoming's migrating pronghorn
The perilous journey of Wyoming's migrating pronghorn
Along the 120-mile-long "Path of the Pronghorn," migrating animals cross rivers, dodge traffic, battle blizzards and navigate the infrastructure of Wyoming energy development.
Protecting wildlife corridors remains more theory than practice
Protecting wildlife corridors remains more theory than practice
There's a growing understanding of the scientific importance of wildlife migration corridors, but protecting them is a huge political challenge.
Boulder, Colo., votes for energy independence -- from its utility
Boulder, Colo., votes for energy independence -- from its utility
After a hard-fought political campaign the town of Boulder passed a ballot initiative allowing it to create its own municipal utility in order to help reach its ambitious environmental goals.
Path of the pronghorn
Jon Huntsman Jr. -- a pragmatic Westerner for the White House
Jon Huntsman Jr. -- a pragmatic Westerner for the White House
Despite poor poll showings, the worldly Jon Huntsman Jr. is the most qualified candidate in the Republican primary, especially when it comes to environmental issues.
What is that dead deer thinking about, and why is he hanging there?
What is that dead deer thinking about, and why is he hanging there?
A close encounter with a deer head on the wall of an inn leads to musings on death, immortality, ancient Egypt, Lenin and Trigger the Wonder Horse.
Water-quality standards unfairly burden rural communities
Water-quality standards unfairly burden rural communities
The plight of a small water and sewer association in rural Mora, N.M -- caught in a tangle of federal and state clean water rules it can’t afford to meet -- echoes experienced by other rural communities around the West.
A tree-climber's tale of harvesting cones to save whitebark pines
A tree-climber's tale of harvesting cones to save whitebark pines
As whitebark pines in the Northern Rockies succumb to pine beetles and blister rust, hardworking climbers defy gravity to collect pine cones from canopies to supply efforts to breed more resilient and resistant trees.
Tribes try selective fishing to boost catch without harming wild salmon
Tribes try selective fishing to boost catch without harming wild salmon
Washington's Colville Tribes experiment with selective fishing techniques and bring home more salmon than before.
Land trusts thrive despite, and because of, the Great Recession
Land trusts thrive despite, and because of, the Great Recession
The recession has afforded a unique opportunity for land trusts to protect more of the West’s private open land through direct acquisitions and, increasingly, conservation easements.
The man beneath the hat: Ken Salazar’s search for middle ground
The man beneath the hat: Ken Salazar’s search for middle ground
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a twelfth-generation Latino-American, works politely and quietly but stubbornly to protect the West’s environment in polarized times.
How private efforts and economic troubles have combined to support conservation
Feds Link Water Contamination to Fracking for the First Time
Feds Link Water Contamination to Fracking for the First Time
The Environmental Protection Agency finds a connection between fracking and water pollution
Hersh Saunders' transformation from prosthodontist to kosher slaughterer
Hersh Saunders' transformation from prosthodontist to kosher slaughterer
Frustrated by the difficulty of finding kosher meat from humanely raised animals, Rabbi Hersh Saunders began raising livestock and learned to butcher in the ritual way as a shochet.
A citizen activist forces New Mexico's dairies to clean up their act
A citizen activist forces New Mexico's dairies to clean up their act
When a giant dairy proposed building near Jerry Nivens' beloved New Mexico home, the chain-smoking Texas hermit became an activist who organized other locals to fight the industry.
Can an old mine become a work of art?
Can an old mine become a work of art?
The old Ute-Ule mine site outside Lake City, Colo., is under scrutiny by the Hardrock Revision Team, which wants to clean up the mine and yet preserve it as a living and historic work of art.
The Southwest's population and housing booms bite the dust
The Southwest's population and housing booms bite the dust
As the West's population and real estate boom stumble to a halt, the once fast-growing Southwest is filled with foreclosed homes and undeveloped lots.
A Texas town welcomes dairies; a New Mexico activist fights them
A Texas town welcomes dairies; a New Mexico activist fights them
Jana Hughes, of Hobbs, N.M., does not find dairies to be good neighbors. Janet Claborn, of Muleshoe, Texas, has recruited 14 dairies to her town and sees them as an economic development blessing.
Farm incubators help would-be farmers succeed on their own
Farm incubators help would-be farmers succeed on their own
Viva Farms is a "farm incubator" in Washington's Skagit Valley that helps aspiring cash-poor farmers like Nelida Martinez start and successfully operate their own businesses.
Hunting deer on a mountain bike
Hunting deer on a mountain bike
Two friends go on a fossil-fuel-free deer hunt using mountain bikes.
The forgotten North Cascades grizzly bear
The forgotten North Cascades grizzly bear
As grizzly bear populations in the Rockies rebound, the great bruins face extirpation in the North Cascades. Can they hang on until the feds fund recovery?
Behind the scenes in the lives of captive wolves
Behind the scenes in the lives of captive wolves
Captive wolves and wolf-dog hybrids are kept all over the West for various purposes, often in poorly regulated facilities.
Daniel Marlos shares his knowledge and love of the insect world
Daniel Marlos shares his knowledge and love of the insect world
In Los Angeles, self-trained entomologist Daniel Marlos helps others learn about the crawly things he loves through his website: What's That Bug?
Feds attempt to speed complicated process of building power lines
Feds attempt to speed complicated process of building power lines
The Obama administration's electrical transmission permitting agencies are cooperating to speed grid updates and fast track clean energy projects, as demand for power grows.
Clean air regulations protect park views by targeting coal plants
Clean air regulations protect park views by targeting coal plants
The Environmental Protection Agency is attempting to reduce haze from air pollution near national parks and wilderness; some coal-fired power plants are cleaning up their act and others will shut down.
U.S. grizzly recovery areas
Wrestling with a destiny of dryness
Wrestling with a destiny of dryness
A Utah writer struggles with his family’s predilection to always end up living in very arid places.
When the bear comes too close to home
When the bear comes too close to home
It's easy to love wild animals like bears until they actually start eating your chickens and coming a little too close to your family for comfort.
Utah's ancient Lake Bonneville holds clues to the West's changing climate
Utah's ancient Lake Bonneville holds clues to the West's changing climate
In Utah, scientists are exploring the site of a long-vanished inland sea called Lake Bonneville to understand the West's past - and future - climate.
BLM experiments with camouflage to hide renewable power structures
BLM experiments with camouflage to hide renewable power structures
The Bureau of Land Management is working with landscape architects and camouflage experts to better disguise renewable energy infrastructure on public lands.
Lawyer Laird Lucas on how and why he fights for the West
Lawyer Laird Lucas on how and why he fights for the West
The environmental lawyer battles big industries and government agencies in the courtroom on behalf of the nonprofit Advocates for the West.
Lake Bonneville
Lake Bonneville
Western voters love ballot initiatives -- and sometimes make a mess
Western voters love ballot initiatives -- and sometimes make a mess
A Western tradition of citizen legislation may cause more problems than it solves.
Cruising the ocean, counting seabirds
Cruising the ocean, counting seabirds
What an unconventional journey on a cruise ship can reveal about seabirds' enigmatic lives.
Washington's Hanford Reservation and nuclear plant may lie on faults
Washington's Hanford Reservation and nuclear plant may lie on faults
Brian Sherrod, a government paleoseismologist, believes cities and infrastructure in eastern Washington may be far more earthquake-prone than previously realized.
Obama message control blocks journalists covering the environment
Obama message control blocks journalists covering the environment
The Obama administration makes it harder for its environmental message to be heard when it sets up roadblocks to information and blocks media access.
Life as a fire lookout
Life as a fire lookout
It's a long way from Lower Manhattan to a remote fire lookout's perch in New Mexico.
Lack of medical care on the firelines endangers firefighters
Lack of medical care on the firelines endangers firefighters
Firefighter Rob Palmer crusades for better emergency medical care in memory of his brother, Andy.
How the West's forests are managed
How the West's forests are managed
Charts show how Western forests are managed for wildfires, and how much it costs in dollars and lives.
Good policy and good intentions won't stop big wildfires
Good policy and good intentions won't stop big wildfires
Federal agencies have made strides in reducing fire danger in the West's forests, but many factors hinder their efforts
How can "woofers" stay on the farm?
How can "woofers" stay on the farm?
Young people are eager to serve as unpaid interns on organic farms, but translating their dreams into a real, self-supporting lifestyle is proving harder.
Brad Udall on Australian water reform
Brad Udall on Australian water reform
Lessons from Australia for the Colorado River Basin
Lessons for the Colorado River from drought-stricken Australia
Lessons for the Colorado River from drought-stricken Australia
Brad Udall on Australian water reform and why it matters to the West.
The mirage of pristine wilderness
The mirage of pristine wilderness
The old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest may not be that old after all - but that doesn't mean they're not big and beautiful.
A part of something old: writer Kim Stafford's storied places
A part of something old: writer Kim Stafford's storied places
Oregon writer Kim Stafford looks for "scattered Edens" in contemporary Western life.
Cody Cortez: A faux-file of the West's most mysterious writer
Cody Cortez: A faux-file of the West's most mysterious writer
Buddhist cowboy poet Cody Cortez is so elusive it's almost as if he doesn't really exist.
Seeds of atonement: an interview with writer Shann Ray
Seeds of atonement: an interview with writer Shann Ray
Shann Ray's short stories focus on the theme of redemption in the lives of ordinary Western families.
Remediating a Superfund sacrifice zone on Montana's Clark Fork river
Remediating a Superfund sacrifice zone on Montana's Clark Fork river
The town of Opportunity, Mont., is weighed down by pollution from old copper mining and a modern-day river restoration project.
Don't tell her she can't: a profile of author Mary Clearman Blew
Don't tell her she can't: a profile of author Mary Clearman Blew
Mary Clearman Blew struck out on her own, leaving rural Montana and a life as a housewife to become a professor and writer.
Farmland conservation program may be plowed under
Farmland conservation program may be plowed under
The Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to idle highly erodible cropland, is facing budget cuts and other challenges.
Rebuilding a river as Washington's Elwha dams come down
Rebuilding a river as Washington's Elwha dams come down
How much can we learn from restoring the Elwha River, after the two dams that block it are finally removed?
How I survive scorching Phoenix summers
How I survive scorching Phoenix summers
The midsummer heat of Phoenix is unbearable to an adult human being - unless you take a lesson from the desert wildlife, and adapt.
Junk rule pits rural ideals against suburban standards
Junk rule pits rural ideals against suburban standards
In New Mexico's San Juan County, a new ordinance contrasts upper class aesthetics against a rural lifestyle.
Helping Hummingbirds with Citizen Science
Helping Hummingbirds with Citizen Science
The dedicated volunteers of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network gather field data to help conserve the birds they love.
Tribes use land conservancies to reclaim ancestral grounds
Tribes use land conservancies to reclaim ancestral grounds
The Kumeyaay Indians of Southern California are among the tribes using new strategies to reclaim rights to their lands.
California tribe competes with the state to restore its homeland
California tribe competes with the state to restore its homeland
The Mountain Maidu Indians and the state Department of Fish and Game are both seeking control of California's Humbug Valley.
Citizen scientists gather data on wildlife
PG&E conservation lands
EPA aims to clean up polluted air in Western gas fields
EPA aims to clean up polluted air in Western gas fields
The federal government sets its sights on clearing the air above gas operations