The five biggest stories of 2016

From Sagebrush Rebels, to spills and surprise wins.


As 2016 comes to a close, we present the biggest stories we covered this year. 

1. A Sagebrush Rebellion reignited with the occupation at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Coverage of the standoff was part of an ongoing High Country News investigation into the connections between anti-federal malcontents, the rise of the Sagebrush Sheriffs and the long-simmering land transfer movement.

2. The “orange sludge” spill into the Animas River attracted national attention after gold mining tailings spilled in southwestern Colorado, forcing Silverton to face its pollution problem.

3. Donald Trump’s surprise win for president prompted our publisher, Paul Larmer, to ask what a Trump administration might mean for the West. Can he bring back the coal mining jobs being lost to markets that favor natural gas and renewables? Will he accelerate oil and gas drilling on the public lands to pay for badly needed infrastructure projects? Will he rescind historic climate change compacts and national monuments forged by the Obama administration? Will he build a bigger wall on the Mexican border and drastically change our immigration policies? Will protest movements blossom as never before?

4. Protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline reach a boiling point at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. In one of our most-read stories this year, Paul VanDevelder writes, “It is in those places, in those towns and cities and river valleys where we run out of wilderness, that we come face to face with each other at places like Wounded Knee and Standing Rock.”

5. A High Country News investigation uncovered a decades-long problem of sexual harassment and gender discrimination within the National Park Service and among women firefighters in the Forest Service. 

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