Ten stories that got your attention in 2019

From racism to renewable energy to corruption, our reporting featured a variety of communities and perspectives from the West.

 

As 2019 comes to a close, we’re taking a moment to reflect on the stories that resonated with our readers. Across the region, 2019 provided a host of reasons to delve into stories on social and environmental justice, rural life, natural resources and the public lands. These are the stories that resonated with readers.

Luna Anna Archey/High Country News

Elena Saavedra Buckley took an in-depth look at the impact of the unregulated practice of body brokering, and what it means to grieve. Saavedra Buckley provides an intimate look at the complexities of grief and what happens when the normal process of mourning is interrupted.

‘None of this happened the way you think it did’

For years, the clients of a Colorado funeral home kept their loved ones’ cremated remains. Then the FBI called.


Courtesy of Ed DesRosier

The Blackfeet Nation wants to give national park visitors a nuanced Indigenous view of public land, so they’re working to open their own park. Samantha Weber traveled to northwestern Montana to understand how a tribal park might come about.

The Blackfeet Nation is opening its own national park

Members of the Blackfeet Nation want tourists to understand how the story of Glacier National Park is really the story of their nation.


Brett Seymour/NPS Submerged Resources Center

In an endangered species whodunnit, Paige Blankenbuehler recounts a night that went awry for one man and a Devils Hole pupfish.

How a tiny endangered species put a man in prison

The Devils Hole pupfish is nothing to mess with.


Kim Raff for High Country News

In Utah, faulty water systems exposed thousands to tainted drinking water, problems potentially exacerbated by the influence of the LDS Church over state regulators. Emma Penrod explores the consequences that can follow when religious power and state politics are entwined.

The Mormon Church supplied tainted water to its members for years

Utah regulators turned a blind eye to faulty water systems at a girls’ summer camp, trusting the LDS Church would eventually fix the problem.


Word Records

In this perspective, Rebbeca Nagle examines racial identity theft and the harm it has caused for Indigenous people and calls for a halt of false narratives.

How ‘pretendians’ undermine the rights of Indigenous people

We must guard against harmful public discourse about Native identity as much as we guard against harmful policy.


Luna Anna Archey/High Country News

Nick Bowlin didn’t have to travel far to find a good story out of Western Colorado, where one high school is confronting the loss of coal jobs with training in solar science and technical training.

In rural Colorado, the kids of coal miners learn to install solar panels

Where the mines once provided steady employment, solar energy now offers jobs for the next generation.


Jerome Pollos for High Country News

Associate Editor Emily Benson reports on a chemical danger lurking in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Lake — a potent concoction of mine-drainage toxins—and why it’s been so hard to confront.

A dangerous cocktail threatens the gem of North Idaho

Upstream mining has left a toxic legacy at the bottom of Coeur d’Alene Lake.


Leah Nash for High Country News

Leah Sottile, High Country News correspondent and host of the popular podcast Bundyville, describes efforts to force Portland, Oregon, to face its racist past — and present.

Racist policing plagues Portland’s nightclubs

A reckoning is coming for Oregon’s white supremacist past.


Don White/Alamy

Assistant Editor Anna V. Smith analyzes the “rights of personhood” for the Klamath River, established this year by the Yurok Tribe in a resolution allows for new legal strategies in court amid the growing threats of climate change.

The Klamath River now has the legal rights of a person

A Yurok Tribe resolution allows cases to be brought on behalf of the river as a person in tribal court.


Serge van Neck for High Country News

Nick Estes writes about the oft-ignored legacy of Indian boarding schools and a U.S. policy used to remove Indigenous peoples from their lands and eradicate languages and cultures.

The U.S. stole generations of Indigenous children to open the West

Indian boarding schools held Native American youth hostage in exchange for land cessions.


Andrew Cullen for High Country News

Bonus story: A look back at the year wouldn’t be complete without this essential story by Tay Wiles, who assembles an intimate portrait of Arivaca, Arizona, and the impacts militia and violence have had there over the years.

Militias, MAGA activists and one border town’s complicated resistance

How Arivaca, Arizona, became a magnet for anti-immigrant activists – and what locals did next.


We know our readers see and hear things we don’t, and we want your ideas. Let us know what stories you think we should cover from around the West. 

Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

High Country News Classifieds
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Come work alongside everyday Montanans to project our clean air, water, and build thriving communities! Competitive salary, health insurance, pension, generous vacation time and sabbatical....
  • CAMPAIGN MANAGER
    Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting, defending and restoring Oregon's high desert, seeks a Campaign Manager to works as...
  • HECHO DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, COLUMBIA CASCADES
    The Regional Representative serves as PCTA's primary staff on the ground along the trail working closely with staff, volunteers, and nonprofit and agency partners. This...
  • FINANCE AND OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    The Montana Land Reliance (MLR) seeks a full-time Finance and Operations Director to manage the internal functions of MLR and its nonprofit affiliates. Key areas...
  • DIRECTOR OF CONSERVATION
    The Nature Conservancy is recruiting for a Director of Conservation. Provides strategic leadership and support for all of the Conservancy's conservation work in Arizona. The...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • BIG BASIN SENIOR PROJECT PLANNER - CLIMATE ADAPTATION & RESILIENCE
    Parks California Big Basin Senior Project Planner - Climate Adaptation & Resilience ORGANIZATION BACKGROUND Parks California is a new organization working to ensure that our...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • SCIENCE PROJECT MANAGER
    About Long Live the Kings (LLTK) Our mission is to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. Since 1986,...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES GENERALIST
    Honor the Earth is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on identity. Indigenous people, people of color, Two-Spirit or LGBTQA+ people,...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Colorado Trout Unlimited seeks an individual with successful development experience, strong interpersonal skills, and a deep commitment to coldwater conservation to serve as the organization's...
  • NEW BOOK BY AWARD-WINNING WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, BRUCE SMITH
    In a perilous place at the roof of the world, an orphaned mountain goat is rescued from certain death by a mysterious raven.This middle-grade novel,...
  • 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...
  • PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Now hiring a full-time, remote Program Director for the Society for Wilderness Stewardship! Come help us promote excellence in the professional practice of wilderness stewardship,...
  • WYOMING COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS COORDINATOR
    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is seeking Coordinator to implement public education and advocacy campaigns in the Cowboy State to unite and amplify hunter, angler,...
  • MOUNTAIN LOTS FOR SALE
    Multiple lots in gated community only 5 miles from Great Sand Dunes National Park. Seasonal flowing streams. Year round road maintenance.
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...