Feature stories

Climate criminals
Climate criminals
In 2068, as the world’s last climate change deniers are brought to justice, those tasked with going after them face a final challenge: retirement.
Who pays for infrastructure in Borderland colonias?
Who pays for infrastructure in Borderland colonias?
In places like Vado, New Mexico, good roads are hard to find.
When Arizona catches fire, prisoners step up
When Arizona catches fire, prisoners step up
In one of the West’s harshest penal systems, incarcerated wildfire fighters learn to see themselves anew.
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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.
Abbey's Road: Retired BLM chief gives one last look across the range
Abbey's Road: Retired BLM chief gives one last look across the range
Bob Abbey, recently retired from the Bureau of Land Management, discusses democracy, energy development, and agency culture.
Storm on Lava Creek: A season in Yellowstone
Storm on Lava Creek: A season in Yellowstone
The power of a thunderstorm thrills a newcomer to Yellowstone National Park.
Fire scientists fight over what Western forests should look like
Fire scientists fight over what Western forests should look like
Controversial new studies question the conventional wisdom on Western ponderosa forests and the severity of their historic wildfires.
Can pallid sturgeon hang on in the overworked Missouri River?
Can pallid sturgeon hang on in the overworked Missouri River?
In the dam-locked Upper Missouri, scientists search for signs that the ancient species hasn't reached the end of its line.
One Sagebrush Rebellion flickers out — or does it?
One Sagebrush Rebellion flickers out — or does it?
Wayne Hage's 20-year court battle over ranching on public lands comes to a close, but his son continues to tussle with the feds.
The politics of public health
The politics of public health
Environmental regulations are a favorite target in the runup to this year's election.
Great Basin scientists unleash new weapons to fight invasive cheatgrass
Great Basin scientists unleash new weapons to fight invasive cheatgrass
A trio of dedicated scientists are testing out cutting-edge ways to finally turn the tide against the Great Basin's cheatgrass invasion, as the weed continues to cause devastating fires.
Gathering strength from the Continental Divide
Gathering strength from the Continental Divide
A summer in the Rocky Mountains helps a child learn to stand up against the bullies in her life.
Watching land swaps in Idaho and the West
Watching land swaps in Idaho and the West
Federal land exchanges have come under increased scrutiny over the past decade, both from citizen activists and the Government Accountability Office.
Cracking the ozone code in Utah's gas fields
Cracking the ozone code in Utah's gas fields
Can gas drilling and clean air co-exist?
In rural California, a Liberian family finds an agricultural refuge
In rural California, a Liberian family finds an agricultural refuge
Guinda, California is home to an unusual multi-ethnic community with a rich African-American farming tradition.
The Bay Area Chevron explosion shows gaps in refinery safety
The Bay Area Chevron explosion shows gaps in refinery safety
Oil refineries pose serious health hazards for nearby residents as well as workers, as the recent explosion in Richmond and other incidents, like one in Sinclair, Wyo., have made clear.
Who is Denny Rehberg, really?
Who is Denny Rehberg, really?
Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg has exploited his family's long Montana history to get where he is today, but his current campaign for Democrat Jon Tester's Senate seat is raising questions about his record and that history.
A sampling of Western land swaps
A sampling of Western land swaps
Ovrview of land swaps around the West.
Rehberg family subdivisions
Rehberg family subdivisions
A history of Montana land speculation by the Rehberg family
A once-proud conservation group has lost its way
A once-proud conservation group has lost its way
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is waging war against wolves -- and alienating its supporters.
Saving threatened Utah prairie dogs -- on private property
Saving threatened Utah prairie dogs -- on private property
Can a new approach to conservation help landowners and endangered species coexist?
Troubled Taos, torn apart by a battle over historic Hispano land grants
Troubled Taos, torn apart by a battle over historic Hispano land grants
A New Mexican town known for its art scene is home to a fractured community, where distrust of Anglo newcomers plays out in a fight over whether ancient deeds give Hispano old-timers a right to land.
Love and tomatoes -- a natural combination
Love and tomatoes -- a natural combination
Diamonds aren't always a girl's best friend; sometimes a fresh, ripe, local tomato is.
Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on the U.S. as an Arctic nation
Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on the U.S. as an Arctic nation
Treadwell, an expert in the politics of the opening Arctic, discusses offshore drilling, the Arctic as a global economic powerhouse, and climate change adaptation.
Map of proposed Bay Delta tunnels
Map of proposed Bay Delta tunnels
Two new tunnels would take fresh Sacramento River water beneath the Delta instead of allowing its full flow to enter the more brackish Delta.
Tunneling under California's Bay Delta water wars
Tunneling under California's Bay Delta water wars
Environmentalists and fishermen have panned past versions of Gov. Jerry Brown's new proposal for water export tunnels, but it might actually help endangered fish.
"Friending" nature
"Friending" nature
Using social media and citizen science to track the tiger beetle in New Mexico and Arizona
In search of camas, a Native American food staple
In search of camas, a Native American food staple
Botanist Madrona Murphy traces long-lost edible wild plant gardens cultivated by the Pacific Northwest's Coast Salish.
The Salt Pond Puzzle: Restoring South San Francisco Bay
The Salt Pond Puzzle: Restoring South San Francisco Bay
The unintended consequences of the most ambitious wetland recovery project on the West Coast -- and the tough choices biologists may face as they try to balance the competing demands of rare species.
Public lands agencies are charging for nothing
Public lands agencies are charging for nothing
A court decision knocked down “amenity” fees at national forests, but the USFS still tries to charge
What the High Park wildfire can teach us about protecting homes
What the High Park wildfire can teach us about protecting homes
After the Colorado wildfires, experts try to figure out why some "fire-proofed" neighborhoods with defensible space burned, while similar neighborhoods didn't.
The Bakken oil play spurs a booming business -- in water
The Bakken oil play spurs a booming business -- in water
Hydraulic fracturing's extraordinary appetite for water is creating friction between North Dakota's farmers and drillers.
On the front line of mental illness and violence
On the front line of mental illness and violence
The National Rifle Association acts as a terrorist organization in its efforts to limit gun control
Will Utah's tar sands make it the Alberta of the high desert?
Will Utah's tar sands make it the Alberta of the high desert?
Calgary-based U.S. Oil Sands says it's ready to take its exploratory effort in eastern Utah’s Tavaputs Plateau commercial.
Can the outdoor gear industry wield its power for conservation?
Can the outdoor gear industry wield its power for conservation?
Pioneering mountaineer Peter Metcalf built Black Diamond into a successful climbing-gear business when nobody thought it could be done. But his dream of turning the outdoor industry into a force for nature remains tantalizingly elusive.
Oregon ignores logging road runoff, to the peril of native fish
Oregon ignores logging road runoff, to the peril of native fish
Oregon has long refused to regulate sediment runoff from logging roads as pollution under the Clean Water Act. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide what the state should do.
Coal-export schemes ignite unusual opposition, from Wyoming to India
Coal-export schemes ignite unusual opposition, from Wyoming to India
Ambitious schemes to build railroads and ports to ship Powder River Basin coal abroad will bring pollution and traffic to communities along the transport path, who are rising up in protest.
Conservation Alliance Grants, 2011-2012
Conservation Alliance Grants, 2011-2012
A map showing the grants given by the Outdoor Industry Association's sister organization, the Conservation Alliance.
Save a chimney, save a swift
Save a chimney, save a swift
As their natural roosts disappeared, Vaux's swifts turned to old, brick chimneys for refuge during long migrations. Those safe havens are disappearing, too. Luckily, the swifts -- and the chimneys -- have found a champion in Larry Schwitters
The ski industry, climate hawk?
The ski industry, climate hawk?
Aspen Skiing Company Sustainability VP Auden Schendler, and professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones on why ski corporations and pro athletes should step up to the climate crisis -- and how they can do it.
Following Dad down the road
Following Dad down the road
The author reminisces on an itinerant childhood and her family's travels up, down and across the country -- and how she now clings firmly to one place called home.
Beyond the politics of no: Luther Propst and collaborative conservation
Beyond the politics of no: Luther Propst and collaborative conservation
The Sonoran Institute's departing founder reflects on 20 years of conservation work and how he developed his approach to protecting land while working with a wide range of stakeholders.
The West, in pictures
The West, in pictures
High Country News showcases a selection of photos submitted to SAGE Magazine, a student-run environmental magazine at the Yale Forestry School. The images include beautiful wildlife photography and poignant illustrations of humans' relationship to the natural world.
On the prowl with Oregon's pygmy owls
On the prowl with Oregon's pygmy owls
Biologist John Deshler knows more about pygmy owls than just about anyone. Writer Nick Neely spent a fascinating day with Deshler tracking, capturing and measuring the owls in Portland's Forest Park.
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