Our 7 favorite features of the year

Did you miss one of the stories that explored the lesser-known West?

 

This year, High Country News’ writers and editors were busy keeping up with nonstop news developments in our region. But as the year comes to a close, we’re taking a moment to pause and reflect on some of the stories that stuck with us long after they published, providing perspective on our complicated and ever-changing region. Here we share this year’s best deep dives into lesser-visited corners and communities of the West. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did:

Busting the tree ring
Contributor Ben Goldfarb tells the tale of a Washington man at the center of a timber-poaching gang. Harold Kupers wanted to help investigators — but he probably didn’t think it would backfire and lead to an investigation that would land him in jail.

Ron Malamphy inspects blocks of wood believed to be poached at the Slaughterhouse, and found in the garage of Ryan Justice’s grandmother’s house.
U.S. Forest Service photo courtesy Phil Huff

River of healing
Writer Florence Williams tags along on an Idaho outing along a “River of No Return.” The experience proved deeply transformative for many women veterans, damaged by their service in the military, who found solace in nature.

Graham Smith

Prison Town
Correspondent Sarah Tory takes a look at the ties that bind struggling rural towns in the West to the immigration incarceration economy. She tells the story of Abdul Khan, whose name has been changed to protect his identity. Khan fled violence in Ghana before his fate became intertwined with one such place: Adelanto, California, a struggling town on the edge of the Mojave Desert that has hitched itself to America’s booming incarceration economy. Go even deeper with the numbers and policies behind the immigration-incarceration economy.

Abdul Khan, who fled New York out of fear of deportation after Donald Trump was sworn in, currently resides in Montreal. His name has been changed in this story to protect his identity.
Nicolas Gouin

How a rural clinic sparked a small-town addiction crisis
Assistant Editor Paige Blankenbuehler’s investigation from tiny Craig, Colorado, uncovered a private practice that spurred a complicated drug crisis. That crisis continues to outpace the available resources for addicts, the health care community and law enforcement.

A woman and her husband discuss housing options while they stand on the street with their family’s belongings after leaving the place they were staying because of a physical altercation. Meanwhile, the local authorities had come to arrest the owners of the house, where as many as 10 people had been staying.
Brooke Warren/High Country News

The teenage whaler’s tale
Before his story made the Anchorage paper, before the first death threat arrived from across the world, before his elders began to worry and his mother cried over the things she read on Facebook, Chris Apassingok, age 16, caught a whale.

Chris Apassingok, 16, holds the darting gun he used to harpoon a whale this spring outside his family’s home in Gambell, Alaska.
Ash Adams

What happens when the church comes for your kids?
This feature explores a small corner of the region: A fundamentalist empire in the town of Short Creek on the Arizona-Utah border that’s feeling pressure from the encroaching modern-day West. There, parents kicked out of the community try to retrieve their children from the confines of the church.

A girl — who sticks out her tongue when she spots a photographer — rides with others wearing traditional FLDS prairie dresses in Hildale, Utah.
George Frey

So what if we’re doomed?
HCN Editor-in-Chief Brian Calvert delves into the choices we must make as we begin to face the consequences of the Anthropocene, reckoning with the grinding anxiety of climate change and the grief of losing our most precious species. How we cope with these fears will define us, he argues.

SUBLIME: The L.A. River 1, 2015.
Elena Dorfman
Want more deep dives? Check out our features from this year here.

Note: This piece has been corrected.

High Country News Classifieds
  • ASSOCIATE PROGRAM MANAGER
    Associate Program Manager ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our State Parks thrive. From redwood groves and desert springs...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • FREE RANGE BISON AVAILABLE
    Hard grass raised bison available in east Montana. You harvest or possible deliver quartered carcass to your butcher or cut/wrapped pickup. Contact Crazy Woman Bison...
  • CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST (NORTH CENTRAL WA)
    Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, and the chance to work with many different kinds of people and accomplish big conservation outcomes? Do you...
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The conservation non-profit Invasive Species Action Network seeks an executive director. We are focused on preventing the human-caused spread of invasive species by promoting voluntary...