Feature stories

Wild horses, buffalo and the politics of belonging
Wild horses, buffalo and the politics of belonging
On the Wind River Indian Reservation, two animals slip between the cracks of what is wild and what isn’t.
The nation’s last uranium mill plans to import Estonia’s radioactive waste
The nation’s last uranium mill plans to import Estonia’s radioactive waste
Utah says the White Mesa Mill isn’t contaminating groundwater, but its neighbor, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, disagrees.
Where do public lands factor into the homelessness crisis?
Where do public lands factor into the homelessness crisis?
As the housing crisis in the West deepens, more unhoused people are making a home outside.
Browse High Country News feature stories
Kids will be kids
Kids will be kids
Photographer Rebecca Drobis looks for universal images of youth on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana.
Heart-Shaped River: Craig Childs finds his center in Canyonlands
Heart-Shaped River: Craig Childs finds his center in Canyonlands
Not all maps are made of paper. The best ones are spooled in memory.
What do you know?
Author Percival Everett defies categories and generalizations.
Front Range drilldown
Front Range drilldown
In the fight over oil and gas regulation, local control gains ground.
The right-wing heiress who changed course in the desert
The right-wing heiress who changed course in the desert
Looking back on Bazy Tankersley: publisher, rancher and conservationist
Severe drought forces a moment of truth for the Klamath
Severe drought forces a moment of truth for the Klamath
Irrigation shutoffs in the river's upper basin may finally help move a historic water deal on the Oregon-California border.
What’s in the water in Woods Cross?
What’s in the water in Woods Cross?
A Salt Lake City suburb weighs environmental risk as it grapples with drinking water contamination
The Blue Window
The Blue Window
Journeying from redrock desert to an icy wasteland: an essay
Thank you, James Watt, for all you did for Greater Yellowstone
Thank you, James Watt, for all you did for Greater Yellowstone
An eccentric secretary of Interior remembered for his unlikely conservation legacy.
Pilgrim at Shit Creek
Pilgrim at Shit Creek
A mother comes to terms with her son's childhood in the urban environment
Alaska tribes attempt to block the controversial Pebble Mine
Alaska tribes attempt to block the controversial Pebble Mine
Some of the last surviving salmon-based cultures turn to the EPA to protect their communities.
Why do you live in a flood zone?
Why do you live in a flood zone?
How to empathize with people who experience devastating loss after fires and floods
Becoming pronghorn: an essay
Becoming pronghorn: an essay
Remembering wildlife biologist James Yoakum, who loved to study pronghorn
Helium rising in the West
Helium rising in the West
The region has become an important source of the technologically vital gas.
The Rocky Mountain Front blues
The Rocky Mountain Front blues
A journalist reflects on energy development on his home turf.
The ATV culture includes loose regulations -- and kids' funerals
The ATV culture includes loose regulations -- and kids' funerals
Western kids have fun -- and die -- motoring off-road, thanks to loose ATV regulations, a libertarian spirit and fun-loving parents.
Oval Intention: an essay
Oval Intention: an essay
The original geodesic tent lives on.
Latino radio stations connect immigrant communities
Latino radio stations connect immigrant communities
Latino music stations -- even commercial ones -- increasingly resemble public service organizations.
Conservation goals in Jackson Hole collide with a need for worker housing
Conservation goals in Jackson Hole collide with a need for worker housing
In Wyoming's top resort town, the desire to protect the environment and the community's character kills big affordable housing projects.
Arctic ship logs help scientists reconstruct climatic history
Arctic ship logs help scientists reconstruct climatic history
Sailors' journals detailing the weather of voyages past could improve the accuracy of climate models' projections of the future.
Is the Violence Against Women Act a chance for tribes to reinforce their sovereignty?
Is the Violence Against Women Act a chance for tribes to reinforce their sovereignty?
A new provision lets tribes prosecute non-tribal members for violent crimes like rape for the first time.
Wildfire's silver lining
Wildfire's silver lining
Even the costliest blazes can boost local economies.
Made in the American West, consumed in China
Made in the American West, consumed in China
Chinese consumers craving status symbols increasing look to North American poachers
The power grid may determine whether we can kick our carbon habit
The power grid may determine whether we can kick our carbon habit
How the huge and fragile network of wires intertwined into our very existence may determine whether we can kick our carbon habit.
War Bird: An essay on robot hummingbirds
War Bird: An essay on robot hummingbirds
Robotic hummingbirds have got nothing on the real thing
A Utah realtor’s quest to sell a ghost town
A Utah realtor’s quest to sell a ghost town
Woodside, Utah, a dusty town with an out-of-service gas station and not much else, is for sale. Mike Metzger’s creative marketing of the oddball property led to a media frenzy, but thus far, no buyers.
The Western Grid in maps and graphs
The Western Grid in maps and graphs
A map of the West's electric grid and graphs of weather related disturbances, the balance between regional systems, and the impact of geographic smoothing on renewable energy.
Could an Alaska mining project jeopardize Earth’s largest bald eagle gathering?
Could an Alaska mining project jeopardize Earth’s largest bald eagle gathering?
Scientists studying eagles on the Chilkat River near Haines worry that nearby mineral exploration may threaten a chum salmon run the migrating raptors rely on, possibly with cross-continent consequences.
Alaska’s populist, Sarah Palin-era oil tax gets the ax
Alaska’s populist, Sarah Palin-era oil tax gets the ax
The Alaska Legislature cut the industry’s taxes to boost declining production in the North Slope. But the rollbacks don’t seem likely to have the desired effect.
Sycamore Canyon: an essay
Sycamore Canyon: an essay
An expectant couple goes rock climbing.
BLM teams with researchers to protect midget faded rattlesnake
BLM teams with researchers to protect midget faded rattlesnake
Biologists and federal officials hope to direct booming oil, gas and wind development away from the rare reptile in southwest Wyoming and northwest Colorado
How right-wing emigrants conquered North Idaho
How right-wing emigrants conquered North Idaho
Conservative transplants largely from California have taken over Kootenai County -- have they gone too far?
In the field with a Montana couple hunting wolves
In the field with a Montana couple hunting wolves
Amid bitter controversy over allowing hunters and trappers to reduce wolf populations, a Montana couple is dedicated to their hunt.
Of sense and salinity: A swim in the Great Salt Lake
Of sense and salinity: A swim in the Great Salt Lake
Open-water swimmers revive historical swimming routes in Utah's dead sea
Another water-short year in the Southwest is taking its toll
Another water-short year in the Southwest is taking its toll
Generous spring snow storms were a momentary, if welcome, distraction from the region's real weather story: drought.
The gray area: a conversation with artist Renee Couture
The gray area: a conversation with artist Renee Couture
An Oregon artist reinterprets the region's timber wars.
A new collaboration has Idaho ranchers and the BLM fighting fire together
A new collaboration has Idaho ranchers and the BLM fighting fire together
Conflicts began after the BLM banned ranchers from fighting fire on public land. But a surprising solution has emerged.
Seeking balance in Oregon's timber country
Seeking balance in Oregon's timber country
Can logging towns and old-growth forests both thrive in the Northwest?
Seeking Ben Kennedy: a quest to find a mysterious Montana philanthropist
Seeking Ben Kennedy: a quest to find a mysterious Montana philanthropist
The writer goes in search of a mysterious Montana philanthropist
The Forest Service battles placer mining with an obscure law
The Forest Service battles placer mining with an obscure law
A little-known 1955 law gives the Forest Service a way to shut down placer mining claims along some Western rivers.
Hispanic leaders spearheaded the Río Grande del Norte National Monument
Hispanic leaders spearheaded the Río Grande del Norte National Monument
In New Mexico, the open and inclusive campaign for a 240,000-acre monument sidestepped the usual controversy drummed up by such designations.
River home: an essay on life on the Arkansas River
River home: an essay on life on the Arkansas River
The author makes his home on--and in-- the Arkansas River
Aspen, Colo. environmental community split over small hydro
Aspen, Colo. environmental community split over small hydro
Reviving a small hydroelectric plant on Castle Creek was supposed to help the city's utility get closer to providing 100 percent carbon free electricity as part of an effort to fight climate change. Instead, it's kicked up a furor.
Sacrificial Land: Will renewable energy devour the Mojave Desert?
Sacrificial Land: Will renewable energy devour the Mojave Desert?
An unlikely group of activists is championing a new bill to protect the Mojave Desert. But even if it passes, large swaths of once empty land will be developed.
California's carbon market may succeed where others have failed
California's carbon market may succeed where others have failed
The Golden State's new cap-and-trade program aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions while avoiding the pitfalls of similar attempts.
Are whale watchers taking a toll on Puget Sound's orcas?
Are whale watchers taking a toll on Puget Sound's orcas?
Unraveling the mystery of the whales' steady decline.
The New California Desert Protection Act
The New California Desert Protection Act
A map of desert areas proposed for protection, some of which are also slated for energy projects.
Federal austerity hits home in the West
Federal austerity hits home in the West
Is smaller government as desirable in practice as theory?
A long-time defender talks grizzly conservation
A long-time defender talks grizzly conservation
Louisa Willcox, former senior wildlife advocate for Natural Resources Defense Council, reflects on political and environmental threats to grizzlies
Federal Helium Reserve faces uncertainty amid global shortage
Federal Helium Reserve faces uncertainty amid global shortage
An obscure BLM facility plays a critical role in a market hit hard by the fracking boom
Taking the park to the people
Taking the park to the people
Saguaro National Park staffer goes outside the park to entice Hispanics in
The white media kill Indians again and again
The white media kill Indians again and again
Non-native reporters refuse to cover anything but the unbearable
How fish consumption determines water quality
How fish consumption determines water quality
States are considering fish-heavy diets when setting water quality standards
Strolling San Francisco with a special guidebook to street trees
Strolling San Francisco with a special guidebook to street trees
“The Trees of San Francisco” walks you through a unique urban forest that has hundreds of species from around the world.
Volunteering provides a special experience in national parks
Volunteering provides a special experience in national parks
Retirees and interns donate millions of hours in national parks, and get to know the parks intimately.
Secret getaways of the National Landscape Conservation System
Secret getaways of the National Landscape Conservation System
A desert hiker finds a lot to like in little-known Bureau of Land Management gems.
A photographic journey through Montana’s vanished towns
A photographic journey through Montana’s vanished towns
When a state tries to erase towns from the official highway map, a lot is at stake.
Tribal casinos expand and go upscale
Tribal casinos expand and go upscale
To attract more customers and revenue, many Western tribal casinos are adding resort hotels, golf, spas and fancy restaurants.
National Landscape Conservation System map
Field notes from a solo paddle in Alaska’s Inside Passage
Field notes from a solo paddle in Alaska’s Inside Passage
A journalism professor kayaks alone for nearly 1,000 miles, dealing with difficult seas, icebergs, orcas and bears.
‘We Don’t Give a Damn How They Do It Outside’
‘We Don’t Give a Damn How They Do It Outside’
An Alaska native struggles to "blend in" in the Lower 48.
Lake Mead's retreat leaves Nevada ghost town high and dry
Lake Mead's retreat leaves Nevada ghost town high and dry
The residents of St. Thomas were forced to leave their homes behind when Lake Mead submerged their town. But after decades under water, drought has brought it back to the surface.
Technology eases access to ancient ruins, for better or worse
Technology eases access to ancient ruins, for better or worse
A writer uses the Internet and GPS to find secret Ancestral Puebloan dwellings and other wonders on Utah’s Cedar Mesa, home of the country’s highest concentration of archaeological sites.
Can Sally Jewell interest a new generation in public lands?
Can Sally Jewell interest a new generation in public lands?
The chief of Recreation Equipment Inc. has worked hard to support conservation and get people of all ages and colors outside. Can she do the same at the Department of Interior?
Climate change turns an already troubled ski industry on its head
Climate change turns an already troubled ski industry on its head
California's Mammoth Mountain provides a case study on the uncertainty of the ski business, and how global warming threatens to make it even more unpredictable.
Reimaginations
Reimaginations
A writer’s quest to find the people behind her great-grandfather’s New Mexico drawings.
Economy, distrust complicate allocation of tribal settlement money
Economy, distrust complicate allocation of tribal settlement money
$1 billion tribal settlement mostly goes to individuals, although tribe-wide investments would have greater benefit.
Agriculture and water use in the San Luis Valley
Agriculture and water use in the San Luis Valley
A map showing subdistrict one and water use in the area over time.
Farmers agree to tax those who deplete groundwater
Farmers agree to tax those who deplete groundwater
Amid drought and climate change in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, farmers vote for a new approach to rein in their overpumping of groundwater.
My Dakota: A photo essay and conversation
My Dakota: A photo essay and conversation
Rebecca Norris Webb’s South Dakota is both an elegy to a lost brother and a celebration of place.
The BLM fights for the Southwest’s last free-flowing river
The BLM fights for the Southwest’s last free-flowing river
A federal agency asserts its water rights to the San Pedro river in a case that might eventually lead to limits on growth in Arizona.
Sierra Club fights Keystone XL with civil disobedience
Sierra Club fights Keystone XL with civil disobedience
The act will be the first of its kind sanctioned by the group’s board of directors in its 120 year history, and may push the conversation over the controversial tar-sands oil pipeline to a new level.
Will the Badlands become the first tribal national park?
Will the Badlands become the first tribal national park?
Oglala Lakota leaders hope to transform their bombed-out Badlands and help lift the tribe out of poverty, but it won’t be easy.
Art finds a place alongside science at New Mexico research station
Art finds a place alongside science at New Mexico research station
The nation's network of Long Term Ecological Research Stations are increasingly embracing art and writing in hopes of broadening their impact and public reach.
Miguel Luna gives young Los Angelenos a beaker and a job
Miguel Luna gives young Los Angelenos a beaker and a job
Agua University trains young people in Los Angeles County to work as water samplers, employing them and also teaching about the importance of clean water.
Round River pushes kids out of their comfort zones and into the field
Round River pushes kids out of their comfort zones and into the field
Dennis Sizemore, who heads the outdoor education program, discusses its founding and philosophy with HCN.
My low-impact life
My low-impact life
In a quest to save money while going to school in pricy Bozeman, Mont., the author built himself a tiny cabin behind a junkyard. He's still there today.
Protecting culture in the ancient Sky City
Protecting culture in the ancient Sky City
Native archaeologist Theresa Pasqual shares how she works to preserve the cultural resources of Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico.
Photographing migrant foragers
Photographing migrant foragers
Eirik Johnson explains his images documenting the lives and culture of itinerant mushroom hunters.
You can't keep a cow from water (or Jon Marvel from grazing issues)
You can't keep a cow from water (or Jon Marvel from grazing issues)
The founder of Western Watersheds Project will retire, but remains vigilant against "welfare ranching."
In Montana, Dark Money Helped Democrats Hold a Key Senate Seat
In Montana, Dark Money Helped Democrats Hold a Key Senate Seat
With control of the Senate at stake, liberals hit the Montana streets in support of Jon Tester, buying ads for a libertarian candidate who likely siphoned crucial votes away from Denny Rehberg, the Republican challenger.
Fighting development in floodplains
Fighting development in floodplains
Conservationists challenge insurance program that harms salmon and other endangered species.
An underwater forest reveals the story of a historic megadrought
An underwater forest reveals the story of a historic megadrought
Scientists find a climatic archive at the bottom of an alpine lake in California's Sierra Nevada.
Flood insurance lawsuits against FEMA in Western states
Date with a climate-change denier
Date with a climate-change denier
A first (and last) date with someone who doesn't believe in global warming.
The right tributary
The right tributary
A writer gets roped into fish surveys for endangered bull trout.
State-run banks: a movement driven by unusual politics
State-run banks: a movement driven by unusual politics
Progressives combine with right-wingers to push for creating state-run banks for public benefit, like Montana's proposed Last Chance State Bank, which uses the Bank of North Dakota as a model.
Seattle-based artist paints portraits of a melting world
Seattle-based artist paints portraits of a melting world
Maria Coryell-Martin uses 'expeditionary art' to educate people about climate change.
Altered amphibians
Altered amphibians
Images of frogs deformed by a parasitic flatworm that flourishes in altered environments.
Costly new geothermal technology could edge out fossil fuels
Costly new geothermal technology could edge out fossil fuels
A new form of geothermal energy has the potential to revolutionize U.S. power production, if costs come down.
Is there a way through the West’s bitter wild horse wars?
Is there a way through the West’s bitter wild horse wars?
Activists push compromise as the controversial federal mustang management program reaches a breaking point, with more horses in captivity than roam the range.
The West's BLM Herd Areas and Herd Management Areas
The West's BLM Herd Areas and Herd Management Areas
Over time, the agency has shrunken areas it manages specifically for wild horses
Fire Wall: Escaping Four Mile Canyon
Fire Wall: Escaping Four Mile Canyon
It took the author 18 minutes to evacuate her cabin when the fire came. When she returned, she built a fire wall.
Inside the orchard: A conversation with novelist Amanda Coplin
Inside the orchard: A conversation with novelist Amanda Coplin
The Portland, Ore., based writer talks about the role of landscape in her writing and her debut novel, The Orchardist.
Already gone: a profile of Muscogee (Creek) poet Joy Harjo
Already gone: a profile of Muscogee (Creek) poet Joy Harjo
The author of She Had Some Horses and In Mad Love and War discusses her new memoir, Crazy Brave.
Three Nevada fiction writers make their debut
Three Nevada fiction writers make their debut
New authors Tupelo Hassman, Ben Rogers, and Claire Vaye Watkins discuss how Nevada inspired their fiction and the themes of their work.
Existential nomad: A profile of author Ruben Martinez
Existential nomad: A profile of author Ruben Martinez
The author asks questions about life in the desert West -- who belongs there, and what belongs to whom.
The West in my blood: A profile of Eddie Chuculate
The West in my blood: A profile of Eddie Chuculate
The Native American author writes fresh but familiar stories.
That familiar loneliness: a writer’s own relationship mirrors a Stegner novel
That familiar loneliness: a writer’s own relationship mirrors a Stegner novel
Emily Guerin finds that life imitates fiction when she reads Wallace Stegner's book Angle of Repose
In Montana, 'Dr. Trout' battles the planet's most dangerous diseases
In Montana, 'Dr. Trout' battles the planet's most dangerous diseases
Marshall Bloom, who heads up disease research at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Mont., discusses his work on deadly viruses and his passion for conservation.
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