Issues

When your neighborhood goes BOOM
When your neighborhood goes BOOM
The West is experiencing growing pains, as its cities continue to expand. This issue's feature takes you inside the night of an oil and gas explosion in suburban Colorado, where drilling and production facilities are springing up next to new neighborhoods and schools. Inside the issue, we also investigate efforts to bring more people and water to southern Utah, where the estimated costs for the Lake Powell Pipeline don't seem to add up. Also in this issue are stories about the president's attack on public lands and how that may help Democrats in November's elections; how to battle climate dread; and an artist's response to the 20-year anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder in Wyoming – and more.
Nature Retreat
Nature Retreat
This issue is bound by the idea that the ecological crises are inseparable from the problem of human domination. Our feature story describes a coastal town in Southern California that is asking whether it can, or should, retreat inland from rising seas. Also in this issue: The Navajo Nation's renewed police force, prisoner strikes, conspiracy theories in Arizona and a tribute to the life and work of Ed Marston, one of High Country News' longtime visionaries.
The Pioneer of Ruin
The Pioneer of Ruin
The idea of home plays a major role in this issue. Our feature examines the struggles and triumphs of one woman building a life in a hardscrabble corner of the Utah desert, while another story profiles a community whose members have taken it upon themselves to fight the fires threatening their homes. This issue also digs into one family’s unlikely turn toward hemp to save their ranch, and an opera giving voice to people who lived downwind of the 1945 Trinity atomic bomb test.
The Big Threat to Bighorns
The Big Threat to Bighorns
In the cover story for this issue, Assistant Editor Paige Blankenbuehler investigates the agricultural influences behind Colorado’s state wildlife commission that are impacting a bighorn herd in a vast wilderness. Wildlife stories abound in this issue, as grizzly bears are hunted in Wyoming and Idaho, and beavers help a desert bloom in Nevada.
Where the West is Moving - and Why
Where the West is Moving - and Why
This Big Ideas Special Issue is dedicated to migration and the myriad ways it continues to reshape the American West — through the movement of people, plants, animals, and ideas, and their constant flux. These days, the biggest driver of change is the challenge of a chaotic climate and the movement of people, and from communities ignored by the American West's founding myth of Manifest Destiny.
What Are We Doing Here?
What Are We Doing Here?
As wildfires and drought return year after year to the West, some communities bear the brunt more than others. In this issue's feature, Contributing Editor Cally Carswell reflects on whether she should stay in a place experiencing climate change as rapidly as Santa Fe, New Mexico, and what it means to make a home there. Assistant Editor Emily Benson looks at another facet of climate change in the Southwest, how it no longer faces a drought but a steady aridification, and how word changes may help change water-use behavior. This issue also explores how rural communities in Montana are dealing with mental health crises, and more.
Pay for Prey
Pay for Prey
Our society has deep sympathy for and allegiance to the image of the Western cowboy. That sentiment plays out in the news story of two Oregon ranchers serving time for arson of public lands receiving a presidential pardon, as well as this issue's feature, which looks into a troubled Oregon program that reimburses ranchers for livestock killed by the state's burgeoning wolf population. Meanwhile in North Dakota, Indigenous women are missing and being murdered at high rates, with little attention being given to the crises.
Little Weed, Big Problem
Little Weed, Big Problem
A rural town in eastern Oregon is dealing with the fallout after a genetically modified grass escapes the confines of experimental fields. The herbicide-resistant turf clogs irrigation canals and ditches — and illustrates the mile-wide regulatory loopholes that are failing to contain the spread of genetically engineered crops. Also in this issue, the Trump administration threatens the delicate balance between tranquility and solar energy development in the California desert, the Grand Canyon may face a new era of uranium mining and a photo essay explores the displaced native creatures of the Los Angeles River.
Reclaiming the Klamath
Reclaiming the Klamath
In this issue, a growing cadre of young Indigenous lawyers is rising to meet legal challenges, old and new. The Yurok Tribe, in Northern California, now has one of its own citizens leading its most important legal battles over the Klamath River and the salmon it carries. Also, a look at water battles across the West and an excerpt from author Craig Childs' new book.
The River of Lost Souls
The River of Lost Souls
In this issue, two stories peer into the West's turbulent, exploitative, hubris-fueled past. Excerpted from his new book "The River of Lost Souls," Contributing Editor Jonathan Thompson reminds us of the toxic legacy of mining in southwest Colorado and how our collective limited memory continues to impact communities there today. In his series, "Civil Conversations," Wayne Hare explores a tiny corner of Portland, where discriminatory practices against African-Americans persisted until the far-too recent past.
Death in the Alpine
Death in the Alpine
Outdoor recreation and travel through the American West are a big part of life for many out here, and our annual Outdoor and Travel special issue takes a hard look at outdoor recreation’s influence — and its costs.
Celebrity Scofflaw
Celebrity Scofflaw
This issue’s cover story, by Associate Editor Tay Wiles, untangles the many threads behind the Bundys’ rebellion, from their faith to more radical Western strains of anti-government ideology. The story also describes how the Department of Justice and Bureau of Land Management bungled their own legal case against the family. Also in this issue, the Fish and Wildlife Service revisits rare species protections, the Interior Department deals with a larger-than-expected budget and a daughter writes an ode to her father and his acequia.
Cashing in on Standing Rock
Cashing in on Standing Rock
In this issue, we track the money that poured into groups involved with protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota and trace how one group spent the donations they received. Also in this issue, a look at the development of electric car infrastructure in the Interior West, and a reflection on the dramatic change the Pawnee Buttes in Colorado experienced once natural gas was found.
Desert, Divided
Desert, Divided
This issue looks at borders – physical, ecological and otherwise. The feature investigates how a wall would affect the Borderlands region in the U.S. and Mexico, while a correspondent examines how borders around protected public lands in Alaska may be opened to oil and gas exploration. And, finally, an essay ponders the intertidal zone on the Oregon coast, and the thin biological line that divides humans from a tide pool’s ‘primordial soup.’
Drilling Chaco
Drilling Chaco
Conflict in the West constantly remakes itself. This issue looks at new iterations of those fights: A water battle over rural wells in Washington, Cliven Bundy’s victory rally for Freedom and Property, and the struggle of Navajo Nation residents to prevent more oil and gas exploration in historically important lands.
Unfrozen North
Unfrozen North
In this issue, the feature explores how melting permafrost in the Arctic will contribute to a changing climate, and how quickly. While that story examines the effect that human-caused climate change is already having, other stories look at one root cause: the proliferation of oil and gas drilling, which, under the Trump administration, is increasingly transferring public lands into industrial leaseholders' hands.
Caught Between Crises
Caught Between Crises
In this issue, the feature examines one Indigenous family's experience with structural inequities that affect the availability of housing in both rural and urban areas. Inequity is also examined in the Letter from California, on how federal tax policy will exacerbate growing class disparities. And finally, a story of a binational community shows what could be, once we look beyond borders, whether of class or nations.
A Separatist State of Mind
A Separatist State of Mind
Expressions of rural discontent are a main theme in this issue. Our feature story examines a zealous political movement born from resentment of California’s liberal ‘resistance’ to Trump. Meanwhile, the Bundy family walks free of charges from their involvement with a standoff with federal agents. These stories find common ground in their telling of cultural disempowerment.
Bear Essentials
Bear Essentials
In this issue's feature story, writer Christopher Solomon visits a rare sort of place: a bear sanctuary where humans are subordinate — assuming a role we must have played long ago. Casting aside the notion that humans are somehow above and beyond nature, this issue touches on how still-wild places can be a healing force and how we might rethink our relationship with the natural world.
Scorched Earth
Scorched Earth
In this issue we examine the West's relationship with fire after a difficult wildfire season. In the wildlands of California, we look at how fire is being used as its own management tool; we also look at the mounting impacts wildfire has on watersheds in the region and on public health in Montana. We break down why Congress hasn’t provided a fire-funding fix, and in an essay, a firefighter contemplates his own mortality.
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