Feature stories

Judge strikes down BLM fracking rule
Judge strikes down BLM fracking rule
Enviros hope for a successful appeal, but the path could be long and windy.
Right-wing militant charged for planting a bomb at BLM building
Right-wing militant charged for planting a bomb at BLM building
A federal felony complaint reveals that the feds are continuing to investigate extremism on public lands.
Federal-lands ranching: A half-century of decline
Federal-lands ranching: A half-century of decline
How grazing fell from its Western pedestal — and fueled Sagebrush Rebellion.
Browse High Country News feature stories
Trump’s contradictory promise: Bring back coal and boost natural gas
Trump’s contradictory promise: Bring back coal and boost natural gas
Experts say low natural gas prices are the biggest cause of coal’s downturn.
After years of drought and overuse, the San Luis Valley aquifer refills
After years of drought and overuse, the San Luis Valley aquifer refills
How an over-taxed basin is getting its water use under control.
Local woodcutters pitch in on forest health
Local woodcutters pitch in on forest health
How mobilizing a small army of locals could nurture grassroots support for large-scale thinning efforts.
Mapping the large-scale loss of natural areas in the West
Mapping the large-scale loss of natural areas in the West
Urban sprawl, energy development, agriculture and forestry have an ever-larger footprint on the West.
Can the feds save birds by allowing more to be killed?
Can the feds save birds by allowing more to be killed?
Fish and Wildlife Service hopes proposal will entice energy developers to obtain permits for eagle deaths.
West Coast cities sue Monsanto to pay for chemical cleanup
West Coast cities sue Monsanto to pay for chemical cleanup
Cities take a new tack to fight pollutants: targeting companies who make them.
Protests against drilling on public lands are escalating
Protests against drilling on public lands are escalating
In Colorado, another showdown at a government auction for oil and gas leases.
Video: Coal industry downturn rocks a Colorado mountain town
Video: Coal industry downturn rocks a Colorado mountain town
Former miners watch an iconic silo crumble, and discuss what it means for their community.
Investigations show extensive harassment history in Park Service
Investigations show extensive harassment history in Park Service
The agency made a plan to protect female employees in 2000, but it appears no meaningful action was taken.
In Utah, the fight for a Bears Ears monument heats up
In Utah, the fight for a Bears Ears monument heats up
In a place where history, culture and geography intermingle, ‘local’ can be hard to define.
National Park Service centennial shares limelight with scandals
National Park Service centennial shares limelight with scandals
Chief Jon Jarvis faces ethical challenges and questions about the agency’s approach to sexual harassment.
Coal downturn hits railroads hard
Coal downturn hits railroads hard
Federal transportation board rejected a proposed Montana railroad due to coal bankruptcies.
Can we learn from Europe’s approach to laid-off coal miners?
Can we learn from Europe’s approach to laid-off coal miners?
A more secure safety net for workers in transition means higher taxes, a tradeoff many Americans oppose.
Solar gardens grow slowly out West
Solar gardens grow slowly out West
Legislative barriers to more widespread community solar remain, although some states are taking action.
In rare bipartisan decision, Senate approves Yakima water projects
In rare bipartisan decision, Senate approves Yakima water projects
Conservation, wilderness and water provisions long in the works were added to the massive energy bill.
Pain pill addiction has helped precipitate a rise in heroin abuse West-wide
Pain pill addiction has helped precipitate a rise in heroin abuse West-wide
Near Sacramento, California, nearly a dozen people died from opioids in recent weeks.
No, national parks are not America’s ‘best idea’
No, national parks are not America’s ‘best idea’
There’s potential to alienate people who value ideas more pertinent to them than the parks.
New report: West Coast waters face double threat
New report: West Coast waters face double threat
Ocean acidification, driven by global fossil fuel emissions, is being exacerbated by local pollution.
Soundtable: The West and the White House
Soundtable: The West and the White House
Experts discuss this year’s presidential race and what Western issues are coming to the fore.
White-nose syndrome comes to the West
White-nose syndrome comes to the West
Researchers race to find solutions for deadly bat disease.
Grand Canyon abolishes river district in response to sexual harassment allegations
Grand Canyon abolishes river district in response to sexual harassment allegations
The abrupt decision leaves the future of NPS river management up in the air.
Fracking linked to groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming
Fracking linked to groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming
Contaminants that likely came from fracking were found in an aquifer that supplies drinking water.
How Nevada became the first Western caucus (and why it matters)
How Nevada became the first Western caucus (and why it matters)
The early caucus drew attention to Western issues. In November, the state will play an even bigger role.
Meet the caribou hunter of Arctic Village, Alaska
Meet the caribou hunter of Arctic Village, Alaska
Photos of this winter’s hunt and a community’s subsistence way of life.
Podcast: Why won’t white West Coast progressives talk about racism?
Podcast: Why won’t white West Coast progressives talk about racism?
Conversations about race need to happen regularly, not just every once in a while.
The Bundy bust-up
The Bundy bust-up
Charges rain down on militant leaders of Bundy family standoffs in Nevada and Oregon.
Tracing America’s borderlands history along the Anza Trail
Tracing America’s borderlands history along the Anza Trail
Immigrants still follow Juan Bautista de Anza’s historic route.
A rare ecological event: ‘super bloom’ in Death Valley
A rare ecological event: ‘super bloom’ in Death Valley
The arid California park is covered in wildflowers for the first time in a decade.
Interactive timeline: Livestock grazing in the West
Interactive timeline: Livestock grazing in the West
Whether grazing on public land is a ‘right’ or a ‘privilege’ is one of the region’s most contentious issues. Here’s why.
Bishop’s ‘Grand Bargain’ in Utah is no deal, say enviros
Bishop’s ‘Grand Bargain’ in Utah is no deal, say enviros
The much-anticipated land-use plan has ramped up the tensions it promised to defuse.
The time of painful impossibilities
The time of painful impossibilities
A reading by U.S. poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera.
Did Colorado leave residents of the Raton Basin with bad water?
Did Colorado leave residents of the Raton Basin with bad water?
Regulators don’t link industry to contamination — but testing shows the pollution came after drilling.
Above normal snowpack in some of last winter's driest regions
Above normal snowpack in some of last winter's driest regions
Precipitation in recent months chips away at California drought, but the water deficit will be hard to overcome.
Grand Canyon park’s 15-year failure on sexual harassment
Grand Canyon park’s 15-year failure on sexual harassment
Interior Department investigation shows a history of harassment, hostility and retaliation.
Malheur occupation could set conservation efforts back years
Malheur occupation could set conservation efforts back years
Invasive carp may recolonize areas they were once eradicated from, depending on how long the occupation lasts.
Photos: A protest over imprisoned ranchers becomes an occupation of a wildlife refuge
Photos: A protest over imprisoned ranchers becomes an occupation of a wildlife refuge
In eastern Oregon, the latest iteration of the Sagebrush Rebellion.
Shifts toward clean energy threaten Montana coal town
Shifts toward clean energy threaten Montana coal town
Washington and Oregon utilities consider pulling out of Colstrip’s power station.
Dispatch from Blockadia
Dispatch from Blockadia
Where enviros are uniting with social justice and tribal rights activists in the Northwest to stop new fossil fuel development.
Feds announce moratorium on new coal leases
Feds announce moratorium on new coal leases
Interior Department will examine the federal coal program in light of climate change.
Economic downturns fuel Sagebrush Rebellion events
Economic downturns fuel Sagebrush Rebellion events
Natural resource-dependent rural economies help explain why disputes happen where they do.
How some Western cities are leading on climate action
How some Western cities are leading on climate action
Despite faltering national policy, some communities are forging ahead.
Huge U.S. coal company declares bankruptcy
Huge U.S. coal company declares bankruptcy
Bad investments, cheap natural gas and air pollution regulations led to Arch's decline.
Climate change triggers triage in Northwest forests
Climate change triggers triage in Northwest forests
Siuslaw National Forest managers must decide whether to save meadows or let trees encroach.
The BLM has armed up since 1978, but it’s still outgunned
The BLM has armed up since 1978, but it’s still outgunned
In confrontations with armed groups like the Bundy supporters, local law enforcement matters most.
Can plant-based feeds make aquaculture sustainable?
Can plant-based feeds make aquaculture sustainable?
Some scientists are replacing sardines and anchovies with soybeans and corn as food for farmed fish.
Where private land meets public interest
Where private land meets public interest
A group of landowners on the Colorado-New Mexico border aim to conserve a contested landscape.
New clues to the past in Nevada's desert fossils
New clues to the past in Nevada's desert fossils
Scientific inquiry is a process of constant revision. And revision is where the most intriguing discoveries happen.
Colorado citizens can now report health problems from oil & gas
Colorado citizens can now report health problems from oil & gas
The nation's first 'health response' program launched this fall.
At the BLM, a mixed record for renewables on public lands
At the BLM, a mixed record for renewables on public lands
Will the Paris talks help break bureaucratic deadlocks?
Pot growers put huge energy demand on the grid
Pot growers put huge energy demand on the grid
Utilities should view legalization as an opportunity, not a threat.
Coal mining rejected for climate risks is back on the table
Coal mining rejected for climate risks is back on the table
The Colorado mine expansion could cost society billions of dollars in climate impacts.
Colorado, other Western states support Syrian refugee program
Colorado, other Western states support Syrian refugee program
Governors choose sides on Obama's Syrian resettlement program.
Ducks Unlimited fires writer over stream access fracas
Ducks Unlimited fires writer over stream access fracas
An axed journalist accuses a billionaire of playing fowl with sportsmen's rights.
Rubio rises in the West
Rubio rises in the West
Western endorsements have the Florida senator and GOP presidential hopeful surging.
Ranch Diaries: What life’s like as a female rancher
Ranch Diaries: What life’s like as a female rancher
Some ranchers still say women ruin horses and a rancher and his wife can be paid at two-for-the-price-of-one.
Oregon delists wolves, but protections remain
Oregon delists wolves, but protections remain
As in Washington, reactions to the predator reflect deep east-west divides in the state.
Federal fossil fuels programs contradict Obama’s climate goals
Federal fossil fuels programs contradict Obama’s climate goals
Despite the Keystone rejection, keep-it-in-the-ground activism is still a sideshow to the larger climate movement.
The Freedom Caucus and the West
The Freedom Caucus and the West
The new Tea Party-friendly movement is small but already has had a big impact on Western issues.
How do you sex a beaver? Squeeze and sniff
How do you sex a beaver? Squeeze and sniff
Unlocking the secrets of rodent scent glands could help restore Western watersheds.
Bankruptcy expected for Arch Coal, a reflection of industry woes
Bankruptcy expected for Arch Coal, a reflection of industry woes
Climate policies make a rebound for coal unlikely.
Can small communities tackle global food security?
Can small communities tackle global food security?
Climate change has profound impacts on growing seasons and crop yields, but local solutions have promise.
BLM mulls energy development in sage grouse habitat
BLM mulls energy development in sage grouse habitat
Feds may restrict hardrock mining and put oil and gas leases on auction block.
A pumpjack is not a coal mine
A pumpjack is not a coal mine
Eight things you need to know about coalbed methane mining.
To save Washington's Yakima Basin fish, just add water
To save Washington's Yakima Basin fish, just add water
A drought plan in one of the West’s most forward-thinking watersheds reconciles salmon and agriculture.
Cue the greater sage grouse lawsuits
Cue the greater sage grouse lawsuits
With the bird’s non-listing under the Endangered Species Act, expect more of the legal crawl that got us here in the first place.
Katie Lee brings a long-lost artifact back to the Hopi
Katie Lee brings a long-lost artifact back to the Hopi
Iconic Western author journeys with a tribe's spiritual talisman.
Invasive crayfish in Oregon devastate native newts
Invasive crayfish in Oregon devastate native newts
At Crater Lake, the National Park Service is seeking solutions — but it could be too late.
Wild Science: Will climate change force bees to miss flower season?
Wild Science: Will climate change force bees to miss flower season?
Scientists in Colorado investigate ominous climate risks for pollinators.
Wild Science: Migratory birds on the Great Salt Lake
Wild Science: Migratory birds on the Great Salt Lake
Scientists explore how phalaropes respond to less water and increased salinity.
The Silicon Valley of marijuana
The Silicon Valley of marijuana
Local officials want Pueblo County, Colorado, to be the best place to grow, but not everyone’s high on the idea.
Shell exacerbates housing shortage in Alaska port town
Shell exacerbates housing shortage in Alaska port town
Nation’s largest fishing port was already short on housing. With Shell in town, locals say things are getting worse.
Wild Science: Tracking mountain lions with dogs in Colorado
Wild Science: Tracking mountain lions with dogs in Colorado
Are these cats becoming more habituated to humans, or are they just as aloof as ever?
Can human judgment handle avalanches?
Can human judgment handle avalanches?
We’re better than ever at understanding the dangers of avalanches. So why can’t we avoid them?
Obama designates three more national monuments
Obama designates three more national monuments
Vast stretches of Nevada and Northern California are now protected, bringing Obama's count to 19.
Old mines still plague Montana's Clark Fork
Old mines still plague Montana's Clark Fork
Why one of the nation's largest Superfund river sites can't address pollution from abandoned mines.
Hot times usher in early Northwest wildfire season
Hot times usher in early Northwest wildfire season
While Oregon and Washington broil, the Southwest and Southern Rockies enjoy a welcome reprieve of moisture
Wild Science: Counting Gunnison sage grouse
Wild Science: Counting Gunnison sage grouse
In this video, go straight to the breeding grounds of a threatened species.
The U.S.’s only rare-earth mine files for bankruptcy
The U.S.’s only rare-earth mine files for bankruptcy
How plain old economics could end Molycorp’s Mountain Pass Mine in the Mojave Desert.
Photographs of open-air cremation in Colorado
Photographs of open-air cremation in Colorado
As eco-minded baby boomers age, they’re seeking alternatives to modern funerals.
Natural gas leaks are dangerous and exacerbate climate change
Natural gas leaks are dangerous and exacerbate climate change
Plus, enough gas has escaped infrastructure since 2010 to heat 170,000 homes for a year.
Should states be responsible for protecting the atmosphere?
Should states be responsible for protecting the atmosphere?
A youth-led climate action campaign in Oregon gets its days in court.
Courts force feds to consider climate impacts of mining coal
Courts force feds to consider climate impacts of mining coal
A Colorado mine sees the latest in a string of rulings that may threaten the industry.
New border security bill would roll back public lands protections
New border security bill would roll back public lands protections
Sen. John McCain's proposal would give Border Patrol more immediate access to sensitive borderlands.
Tucson’s rain-catching revolution
Tucson’s rain-catching revolution
In the Sonoran Desert, rainwater harvesting is finally going mainstream.
Feds opt not to list Mono Basin sage grouse
Feds opt not to list Mono Basin sage grouse
Conservation efforts persuaded officials that the Nevada-California population will fare well.
On a methane mystery tour in the Four Corners region
On a methane mystery tour in the Four Corners region
Scientists, planes and instruments descend on San Juan Basin to find roots of the massive greenhouse gas hotspot.
An outsider’s guide to insider Portland
An outsider’s guide to insider Portland
Dispatch from a dryland alien in the rainy Northwest.
On the road with America’s sightseers
On the road with America’s sightseers
A photographer looks at three decades of tourism.
Will the Northwest Forest Plan come undone?
Will the Northwest Forest Plan come undone?
The Forest Service and BLM embark on revising the iconic plan and may allow more logging.
A battle for America’s trust
A battle for America’s trust
The war between the fossil fuel industry and Big Green may boil down to who can tell the best story.
Fowl play: California’s drought fingered in bird deaths
Fowl play: California’s drought fingered in bird deaths
Native pigeons and waterfowl fall victim to avian disease.
Who should manage Grand Teton’s private inholdings?
Who should manage Grand Teton’s private inholdings?
A dead wolf and jurisdictional confusion in an iconic national park.
Wyoming’s coal industry faces uncertain future
Wyoming’s coal industry faces uncertain future
New study examines threats to state’s coal-dependent economy.
Federal public land transfers get a Congressional boost
Federal public land transfers get a Congressional boost
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and a majority of her colleagues signal support for the pro-transfer movement.
Unwanted California tires end up in rivers and beaches
Unwanted California tires end up in rivers and beaches
But efforts to use the trash as building materials in Mexico offer new hope.
Dispatch from a gas patch shopping trip
Dispatch from a gas patch shopping trip
Reporters Notebook from New Mexico's San Juan Basin.
BLM seeks Congressional OK for new fees, private donations
BLM seeks Congressional OK for new fees, private donations
Agency woes range from too many wild horses to not enough drilling inspectors.
The art – and science – of forecasting wildfires
The art – and science – of forecasting wildfires
This model could eliminate guesswork and predict fire according to geography.
Don't expect oil prices to rebound anytime soon
Don't expect oil prices to rebound anytime soon
Global forces conspire to keep energy prices low, for better and worse.
Rants from the Hill: Scout's honor
Rants from the Hill: Scout's honor
How I earned the excommunication merit badge.