Feature stories

The regime of glaciers is headed to its end
The regime of glaciers is headed to its end
For 35 years, a team of scientists have studied the decline of glaciers. What does their loss mean?
A dangerous cocktail threatens the gem of North Idaho
A dangerous cocktail threatens the gem of North Idaho
Upstream mining has left a toxic legacy at the bottom of Coeur d’Alene Lake.
‘None of this happened the way you think it did’
‘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.
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Where water is life, many on the Pine Ridge Reservation go thirsty
Where water is life, many on the Pine Ridge Reservation go thirsty
A pipeline’s promise is fulfilled for white ranchers while tribal communities are left waiting.
The transformation of a centuries-old refuge in New Mexico
The transformation of a centuries-old refuge in New Mexico
With 300,000 visitors every year, how can Chimayó’s history be preserved?
A road trip through New Mexico’s atomic past
A road trip through New Mexico’s atomic past
As nuclear tourism booms in the Land of Enchantment, histories of violence are packaged, sold and consumed.
Indigenous educators fight for an accurate history of California
Indigenous educators fight for an accurate history of California
The Golden State is ignoring a history of violence against Native Americans.
How a tiny endangered species put a man in prison
How a tiny endangered species put a man in prison
The Devils Hole pupfish is nothing to mess with.
The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health
The disease devastating deer herds may also threaten human health
Scientists are exploring the origins of chronic wasting disease before it becomes truly catastrophic.
The woman in search of Indian Country’s missing
The woman in search of Indian Country’s missing
When authorities fail families, Lissa Yellowbird-Chase steps in.
Racist policing plagues Portland’s nightclubs
Racist policing plagues Portland’s nightclubs
A reckoning is coming for Oregon’s white supremacist past.
The making of a desert surf rock band
The making of a desert surf rock band
Meet the Nizhóní Girls on the road to stardom.
Chicano groups are embracing undocumented immigrants. It wasn’t always this way.
Chicano groups are embracing undocumented immigrants. It wasn’t always this way.
New alliances are forming in the face of racism and an unprecedented political moment.
What killed Washington’s carbon tax?
What killed Washington’s carbon tax?
The curious death of 1631 and what it says about the future of addressing climate change.
Why bulldoze one of the wildest places on Earth?
Why bulldoze one of the wildest places on Earth?
The Trump administration wants a road built through an Alaska wildlife refuge for medical needs – but commerce may be the real reason.
As the influence of newsprint erodes, Westword prevails
As the influence of newsprint erodes, Westword prevails
Despite the state of the media, Westword Editor Patty Calhoun maintains hope.
There’s no easy fix for our nuclear past
There’s no easy fix for our nuclear past
At Washington’s Hanford nuclear site, failing infrastructure and make-do plans as the West prepares for a new round of radioactivity.
Is nuclear energy the key to saving the planet?
Is nuclear energy the key to saving the planet?
A new generation of environmentalists is learning to stop worrying and love atomic power.
The Tulalip Tribes bet big on beavers
The Tulalip Tribes bet big on beavers
In western Washington, a nation looks to rodent restoration as a natural, ecological engineer.
How the Indigenous bison bar was appropriated
How the Indigenous bison bar was appropriated
Epic Provisions took credit for Native-owned Tanka’s idea and built an empire on a foundation of misleading claims.
Follow the fish
Follow the fish
Fish-stocking has drawn otters to the Beartooth Plateau of Montana. What effect do they have in their new environs?
Fear and love in Oregon’s forests
Fear and love in Oregon’s forests
How far will you go for the person you love?
When the health of your land is beyond your control
When the health of your land is beyond your control
An excerpt from Rebecca Clarren’s new novel explores the effects of fossil fuel development on a Western ranch.
Edward Abbey’s warnings were right
Edward Abbey’s warnings were right
Author Amy Irvine’s answer to the classic ‘Desert Solitaire’ on its 50th anniversary.
In southern Utah, Navajo voters rise to be heard
In southern Utah, Navajo voters rise to be heard
San Juan County’s Navajo population has lived for decades with a minority white government. This election could change that.
The rising risks of the West’s latest gas boom
The rising risks of the West’s latest gas boom
An explosion in suburban Colorado raises questions on safety and accountability.
Can a California town move back from the sea?
Can a California town move back from the sea?
Imperial Beach considers the unthinkable: a retreat from nature.
Where are the Indigenous children who never came home?
Where are the Indigenous children who never came home?
An untold number of students at Carlisle Indian School disappeared. Tribal nations raise the stakes in search of answers.
The pioneer of ruin
The pioneer of ruin
Amid a desolate mess in Cisco, Utah, a young woman resurrects a home.
Tiny bits of plastic permeate our world
Tiny bits of plastic permeate our world
From alpine headwaters to city water supplies, the West is awash in microscopic pollutants.
Agricultural interests steer Colorado’s wildlife management
Agricultural interests steer Colorado’s wildlife management
Sheep grazing in the state’s largest wilderness area could endanger a dwindling bighorn sheep herd.
Farmworkers face illness and death in the fields
Farmworkers face illness and death in the fields
‘The reality is that the machinery of growers is taken better care of than the lives of farmworkers.’
In this rapaciously dry year, a quiet question grows louder: What are we doing here?
In this rapaciously dry year, a quiet question grows louder: What are we doing here?
Drought, dread and family in the American Southwest.
When cattle go missing in wolf territory, who should pay the price?
When cattle go missing in wolf territory, who should pay the price?
A program to reimburse Oregon ranchers for livestock killed by wolves is in trouble.
GMO grass is creeping across Oregon
GMO grass is creeping across Oregon
Missteps by agribusiness giants allowed the invasion. Now they’re off the hook for cleanup.
How the Yurok Tribe is reclaiming the Klamath River
How the Yurok Tribe is reclaiming the Klamath River
For the first time, the largest tribe in California has one of its own to lead its legal battles.
The dark secrets of the Animas River
The dark secrets of the Animas River
A 2015 spill that turned the waterway orange is a reminder of mining’s disastrous legacy.
Death in the alpine
Death in the alpine
Social media is changing our relationship to risk, with deadly consequences.
How the feds helped make Cliven Bundy a celebrity
How the feds helped make Cliven Bundy a celebrity
The creation of an anti-public-lands hero.
Cashing in on Standing Rock
Cashing in on Standing Rock
How Veterans Stand squandered $1.4 million raised around the #NoDAPL protests.
The desert, divided
The desert, divided
The Borderlands thrive on connections. What would it mean to sever them?
An unfrozen North
An unfrozen North
The world’s permafrost holds vast stores of carbon. What happens when it thaws?
A tale of two housing crises, rural and urban
A tale of two housing crises, rural and urban
How one Indigenous family is navigating two very different housing problems.
A separatist state of mind
A separatist state of mind
In the era of Trump, rural discontent settles in the state of Jefferson.
What fire researchers learned from California’s blazes
What fire researchers learned from California’s blazes
In California, land managers use fire as a tool.
Ancestral Pueblo logging practices could save New Mexico pinelands
Ancestral Pueblo logging practices could save New Mexico pinelands
Researchers look to the past to better fight fire.
A tale of two parks: How the Bakken boom transformed a landscape
A tale of two parks: How the Bakken boom transformed a landscape
While a North Dakota national park is an oasis from drilling, a nearby state park is thrown open.
Threatened plants on state lands have few protections
Threatened plants on state lands have few protections
Politics, land ownership and imperiled plants collide in New Mexico.
A man and his house of relics, in search of a self
A man and his house of relics, in search of a self
What is the right way to treat artifacts that do not belong to you?
The changing politics of woods work
The changing politics of woods work
Cash-strapped agencies use private contractors to the detriment of local communities.
Indigenous knowledge helps untangle the mystery of Mesa Verde
Indigenous knowledge helps untangle the mystery of Mesa Verde
Pueblo people and archaeologists work to understand the science of human migrations.
As oceans acidify, shellfish farmers respond
As oceans acidify, shellfish farmers respond
Scientists collaborate to mitigate climate impacts in the Northwest.
After its dams came down, a river is reborn
After its dams came down, a river is reborn
A look at the Elwha unleashed.
In solar scuffle, big utilities meet their match
In solar scuffle, big utilities meet their match
Solar advocates win a surprising victory in Nevada.
Desert songbirds struggle with more frequent heat waves
Desert songbirds struggle with more frequent heat waves
The number of days Southwestern birds face deadly dehydration may be increasing.
So what if we’re doomed?
So what if we’re doomed?
Climate chaos, mass extinction, the collapse of civilization: A guide to facing the ecocide.
Could the lure of trails salvage Alaska’s economy?
Could the lure of trails salvage Alaska’s economy?
A trail along the Trans-Alaska pipeline could be the start of a booming recreation economy.
The Big Swing: Why a blue Colorado county voted for Trump
The Big Swing: Why a blue Colorado county voted for Trump
How a wave of retirees and a changed economic landscape reshaped rural politics.
The cost of the bighorn comeback
The cost of the bighorn comeback
In California’s Eastern Sierra, bringing back bighorn has meant killing more mountain lions.
‘If you don’t want us, tell us to go back’
‘If you don’t want us, tell us to go back’
The making of a California prison town.
What happens when the church comes for your kids?
What happens when the church comes for your kids?
Former FLDS members fight for their families and homes.
Inside the firestorm
Inside the firestorm
New technology allows scientists to see the forces behind the flames.
Busting the tree ring
Busting the tree ring
How a landmark investigation unraveled a Washington timber-poaching gang.
Raptors in flight
Raptors in flight
Enduring relationships begin with encounters.
When private pain becomes a community problem
When private pain becomes a community problem
How a rural clinic sparked a small-town addiction crisis.
River of healing
River of healing
How a group of veterans found solace on the River of No Return.
What Standing Rock meant for those who took part
What Standing Rock meant for those who took part
Protesters from afar didn’t just take a stand in North Dakota — they brought the movement back home.
Obama’s lasting legacies in the West
Obama’s lasting legacies in the West
Under the 44th president, the West re-examined its relationship to energy and the climate.
How the National Park Service is failing women
How the National Park Service is failing women
The agency tasked with safeguarding our greatest public lands has neglected to protect its workers.
How to love a weird and perfect wilderness
How to love a weird and perfect wilderness
A desolate Oregon landscape offers lessons on the modern wild.
Terry Tempest Williams and the refuge of change
Terry Tempest Williams and the refuge of change
One of the West’s most beloved authors revisits Great Salt Lake.
The bid for Bears Ears
The bid for Bears Ears
The tribal push for a Bears Ears monument raises thorny questions of homeland and sovereignty.
Photos from rural America’s veteran heartland
Photos from rural America’s veteran heartland
These Nevada counties outrank almost anywhere else in the country for per capita veteran populations.
Nuclear power divides California’s environmentalists
Nuclear power divides California’s environmentalists
Is the closure of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant good or bad for the climate?
Podcast: The cult of Tesla
Podcast: The cult of Tesla
What is it about Tesla and Elon Musk that has attracted such fierce devotion from so many people?
Border wall divides lands, but not culture
Border wall divides lands, but not culture
A wall bars the physical passage of people in a park near San Diego— but music scales that barrier.
How to share a dammed river
How to share a dammed river
Boaters are joining wildlife advocates, farmers and power companies to parcel out each cubic foot of Western rivers.
The West’s ‘new normal’: Another long season of volatile wildfires
The West’s ‘new normal’: Another long season of volatile wildfires
In California and across the region, drought and heat makes for big blazes.
Park Service ended a wolf study in Alaska, since so many have been killed
Park Service ended a wolf study in Alaska, since so many have been killed
The state culled wolves that had been collared, and it’s no longer feasible to continue research.
Where are the fracking fights this fall?
Where are the fracking fights this fall?
Fracktivists look to exercise local control over energy development this November.
California plans to log its drought-killed trees
California plans to log its drought-killed trees
Cutting down dead trees may not reduce wildfire risk.
Inside a seed museum meant to track plant response to climate change
Inside a seed museum meant to track plant response to climate change
Researchers have collected seeds from across the country in a quiet Colorado storage facility.
Sex, death and spaghetti: Jim Harrison’s last writings
Sex, death and spaghetti: Jim Harrison’s last writings
The curmudgeonly author’s last collection, published just weeks before his death, remains preoccupied with the joy of life.
Will a Colorado compromise end a water tug-of-war?
Will a Colorado compromise end a water tug-of-war?
A controversial deal for diverting water across the Rockies faces scrutiny.
Will a bigger energy grid make way for renewables?
Will a bigger energy grid make way for renewables?
Utilities are embracing California’s bid to expand its grid, but states aren’t so sure.
Photos: A look at the West’s weirdest sports
Photos: A look at the West’s weirdest sports
People compete in everything from pumpkin racing to outhouse sledding.
‘Keep It in the Ground’ prompts online oil and gas leasing auctions
‘Keep It in the Ground’ prompts online oil and gas leasing auctions
Protests against drilling on public lands continue.
Dispatch from coal country: Advocates and adversaries duel over leasing reform
Dispatch from coal country: Advocates and adversaries duel over leasing reform
In western Colorado, two visions for the future of fossil fuels collide at a BLM listening session.
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.
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.
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