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Know the West

The stories that resonated with readers in 2021

From climate change to the West’s housing crisis, see the most-read stories from the past year.


The writers and editors at High Country News work tirelessly to understand and convey the complex realities of life in the Western United States. Our journalism strives to be place-based, so that it resembles the West’s own geography: vast and varied. In 2021, our stories ranged from the Borderlands to Alaska, covering everything from the West’s intensifying housing crisis to a new era of lithium mining, contemplating 23,000-year-old Indigenous footprints and a future mountain West without snow – and so much more.

Below are some of the stories that rose above the fray and resonated with readers over the past year.


After months of border wall construction, a look at the damage done

As President Biden takes the helm, conservation groups take stock of the border wall’s environmental impacts.


When COVID hit, a Colorado county kicked out second-home owners. They hit back.

How a group of nonresident homeowners tried to influence a rural Colorado election.


Meet the gun-toting ‘Tenacious Unicorns’ in rural Colorado

How a transgender-owned alpaca ranch in Colorado foretells the future of the rural queer West.


A mega-dairy is transforming Arizona’s aquifer and farming lifestyles

Minnesota’s Riverview Dairy has deep pockets and long straws.


How a trail in rural Oregon became a target of far-right extremism

To understand the state’s urban-rural divide, start by looking at Yamhill County’s proposed walking trail.


The new Indigenous TV series coming your way

‘Reservation Dogs’ is the latest product of an exciting new era of Native self-representation.


The White Sands discovery only confirms what Indigenous people have said all along

Once again, the media has excluded Indigenous peoples from our own story.


The battle for the Black Hills

Nick Tilsen was arrested for protesting President Trump at Mount Rushmore. Now, his legal troubles are part of a legacy.


Nevada lithium mine kicks off a new era of Western extraction

The hastily approved project went forward without comment from the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe.


Winter without snow is coming

Parts of the Mountain West could be nearly snowless for years at a time in just a few decades.

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