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.
Browse High Country News feature stories
Tracking Ice Age people in Oregon
Tracking Ice Age people in Oregon
Craig Childs goes time-traveling in the buttes and basins of south-central Oregon, and ponders signs of early human occupation.
Afield with a vegan gas man
Afield with a vegan gas man
HCN talks with Eric Sanford of SG Interests about the politics of energy development, split estate, and more.
Three days in the Four Corners
Three days in the Four Corners
A loop around the Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet, leads into a land of both historical and geological friction.
Three days in eastern Montana
Three days in eastern Montana
A saunter through the grasslands of eastern Montana brings interesting encounters with cowboys, bull-riders, small-towners and BLM rangers, not to mention wildlife and endless skies.
The Quileute Reservation copes with tourists brought by "Twilight"
The Quileute Reservation copes with tourists brought by "Twilight"
At La Push, Wash., the small but vital Quileute Indian Nation copes with tourists brought by the popular Twilight books and movies.
Three days in western Nevada
Three days in western Nevada
A lot of places call themselves "gateway cities," but Reno, Nev., is truly the gateway to a lot of strange and amazingly gorgeous places.
Three days in southwest New Mexico
Three days in southwest New Mexico
Santa Fe may be too ritzy for its britches, but the funky, far-flung towns of southern New Mexico still have that special "spice" that makes the state unique.
Land art of the West: An interactive map
Land art of the West: An interactive map
A guide to some of the West's most prominent pieces of land art or earthworks and some of the altered landscapes that interested or inspired land artists.
Exploring the West's land sculptures -- made by artists and industry
Exploring the West's land sculptures -- made by artists and industry
A land-art-inspired ramble takes the writer from Michael Heizer's Double Negative, to Robert Smithson's underwater Spiral Jetty, with detours to places including the Bingham Canyon copper mine.
Ray Ring's Nevada route
Ray Ring's Nevada route
The travel route the author took when touring around Reno, Nevada.
Neil LaRubbio's Montana route
Neil LaRubbio's Montana route
The travel route the author took in Montana
Cally Carswell's New Mexico route
Cally Carswell's New Mexico route
The travel route the author took when visiting New Mexico
Bison deserve a home on the range
Bison deserve a home on the range
What better place to let bison run free than Montana's Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, especially since that animal so greatly inspired the artist?
Hidden in plain sight: A review of The American Wall
Hidden in plain sight: A review of The American Wall
In the two massive volumes of The American Wall, French photographer Maurice Sherif works with anthropologists, activists and writers to explore the border fence that separates the U.S. from Mexico.
FLDS continues abusive polygamist practices in Utah and Arizona
FLDS continues abusive polygamist practices in Utah and Arizona
The states' failure to crack down on Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints means abuses still happen, despite the conviction of extreme polygamist Warren Jeffs.
Surveying the oft-snubbed (and very cool) spider with citizen scientists
Surveying the oft-snubbed (and very cool) spider with citizen scientists
Volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Colorado Spider Survey help scientists gather important data by roaming nooks and crannies across the state, finding and cataloguing Colorado's myriad spiders.
Gregory Jaczko's resignation weakens federal nuclear regulation
Gregory Jaczko's resignation weakens federal nuclear regulation
The San Onofre nuclear power plant has problems that are perhaps endemic to the industry, and chairman Gregory Jaczko's May 2012 resignation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission means there's one less strong regulator keeping a sharp eye on industry.
FLDS strongholds
FLDS strongholds
Where the FLDS community is based
On the hunt for abalone poachers in Northern California
On the hunt for abalone poachers in Northern California
Don Powers, of the California Department of Fish and Game, spends his days relentlessly pursuing abalone poachers who can't seem to resist the chance to bring in some illegal shellfish cash.
Dancing with wolverines
Dancing with wolverines
A wolverine snuffling at your throat commands your attention, even if you're in a relatively safe enclosure at a clandestine refuge for the animals.
Do subdivisions designed for conservation actually help wildlife?
Do subdivisions designed for conservation actually help wildlife?
Conservation development is supposed to reduce the habitat fragmentation caused by exurban sprawl -- but it only works if it's done right.
The fading Arizona town of Gila Bend bets big on solar
The fading Arizona town of Gila Bend bets big on solar
At last -- a place to put utility scale plants that won't ruin the desert. But will politics and the economy get in the way?
Conservation agreements try to head off endangered species listings
Conservation agreements try to head off endangered species listings
Candidate conservation agreements try to keep rare species, like Colorado's Gunnison sage grouse, off the endangered species list, or at least healthy enough to lessen the restrictions that come with listing.
Coping with two-headed fish and other effects of selenium
Coping with two-headed fish and other effects of selenium
Researchers try to determine if unhealthy amounts of selenium are entering Western soil and water due to energy development.
Planned and operating solar projects in Gila Bend, Arizona
A map showing location and project status for solar buildups
Secretly funded Montana sportsmen dive into political fray
Secretly funded Montana sportsmen dive into political fray
The group Montana Hunters and Anglers Action is wielding its cash to help pro-conservation candidates win elections.
Selenium concentrations
Selenium concentrations
Muddy Creek selenium levels
Kayaking memories on the White Salmon River
Kayaking memories on the White Salmon River
Will all of a kayaker's memories of Washington's White Salmon River change once the river changes, now that Condit Dam is gone?
Recycling diesel emissions for farm fertilizer?
Recycling diesel emissions for farm fertilizer?
Canadian farmer Gary Lewis, fed up with the failures of synthetic fertilizer, has invented a system called Bio-Agtive Emissions Technology, a tractor add-on that recycles diesel emissions into fertilizer.
L.A. activists try to stop woodlands from becoming sediment dumps
L.A. activists try to stop woodlands from becoming sediment dumps
When Camron Stone realized that an oak forest was about to be bulldozed by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, he started fighting back.
Retirees join environmentalists in fighting Arizona copper mine
Retirees join environmentalists in fighting Arizona copper mine
The conservative, golf-playing retirees of Queen Valley, Ariz., are determined to stop a giant copper mine.
Western legislatures grab for control of public lands
Western legislatures grab for control of public lands
Some Western states are rekindling the Sagebrush Rebellion and demanding ownership of federal lands -- but it's not just about local control.
Los Angeles' watershed is more sediment than dumping grounds
Bark beetle kill leads to more severe fires, right? Well, maybe
Bark beetle kill leads to more severe fires, right? Well, maybe
The connection between bark beetle outbreaks and Western forest fires is more complicated than it might appear.
The Pawnee Buttes oversee a changing landscape
The Pawnee Buttes oversee a changing landscape
Eastern Colorado’s Pawnee Buttes have witnessed so many historical changes that they’re likely to survive the current energy-development boom.
Balancing fish and farms on a Washington estuary
Balancing fish and farms on a Washington estuary
A restoration effort at Fisher Slough in Washington's Skagit River Delta has encouraged cooperation between farmers and environmentalists - and might even help endangered chinook salmon.
A Mexican rancher struggles to shift from cattle to conservation
A Mexican rancher struggles to shift from cattle to conservation
In Northwest Mexico, rancher Carlos Robles Elías works hard to make his Rancho El Aribabi into an oasis of biodiversity, despite the challenges of a sagging economy and rampant drug cartel violence.
Imaginary journeys on a rowing machine
Imaginary journeys on a rowing machine
When a writer buys a rowing machine, her 3-year-old daughter's enthusiasm turns exercise into an adventure as they imagine rowing to reach the island of Yap in Micronesia.
A literary organization tackles California gang violence
A literary organization tackles California gang violence
The National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Calif., is honoring the Nobel Prize-winning author by helping at-risk youth in the community he wrote about.
Arizona's clean-election law is pruned, but not uprooted
Arizona's clean-election law is pruned, but not uprooted
Clean-elections laws have a way of withering away, especially since the Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United ruling, but Arizona is still struggling to keep political campaigns fair.
A final hats off to rancher Doc Hatfield
A final hats off to rancher Doc Hatfield
With the help of his wife, Connie, and a bunch of determined fellow ranchers, the late Doc Hatfield helped change the face of public-lands ranching in the West.
When Peter Gleick fell, California's water world lost big
When Peter Gleick fell, California's water world lost big
After he impersonated a Heartland Institute board member, gadfly scientist and Pacific Institute head Peter Gleick has been persona non grata. But California water bosses may miss his fierce intellect.
The Other Bakken Boom: America’s biggest oil rush brings tribal conflict
The Other Bakken Boom: America’s biggest oil rush brings tribal conflict
North Dakota's Three Affiliated Tribes have long wanted a stake in the state's occasional oil booms, but the size, scope and speed of the Bakken development caught them completely unprepared.
Librotraficantes smuggle controversial books to Arizona
Librotraficantes smuggle controversial books to Arizona
After Tucson, Ariz., scrapped its acclaimed but controversial Mexican American Studies program, novelist Tony Diaz decided to fight back.
Braving landfills, dodging avalanches, all for the sake of geoscience
Braving landfills, dodging avalanches, all for the sake of geoscience
The intrepid scientific grunts behind the Plate Boundary Observatory roam the West keeping tabs on weird-looking far-flung GPS stations.
Land ownership on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation
Redefining "renewable" to get a clean energy bill through Congress
Redefining "renewable" to get a clean energy bill through Congress
As his retirement looms, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., pushes a "clean energy" bill, one that broadens the energy mix beyond traditional "renewable" sources.
Face it: All forests are "sluts"
Face it: All forests are "sluts"
If an allegedly untouched piece of woodland is "virgin forest," what does that make a forest that’s been logged or burnt or otherwise used by humans over the years?
The itch that riles Frontera author Denise Chavez
The itch that riles Frontera author Denise Chavez
The author and Border Book Festival maven recounts her childhood, her upcoming book, a "mystery love story" and what it's like to run an independent bookstore in the navel of the world.
Could doing chores save the world?
Could doing chores save the world?
While living at a remote commune in the wilds of New Mexico, author Emily Schosid learned what real sustainability means. And it’s not at all what you’d expect.
Following the Old Spanish Trail across the Southwest
Following the Old Spanish Trail across the Southwest
Archaeologist Jack Pfertsh looks for marks on the landscape and artifact fragments to retrace the historic route near Delta, Colo.
Margaret Hiza Redsteer uses Navajo memories to track climate change
Margaret Hiza Redsteer uses Navajo memories to track climate change
A scientist taps the recollections of tribal elders as part of her work to piece together the story of landscape change on the Navajo Nation.
Traveling Arizona Highways, in your dreams and on the ground
Traveling Arizona Highways, in your dreams and on the ground
In 1960, an Illinois mailman falls in love with the desert through the pages of Arizona Highways and hands on his dream -- and a piece of Mohave County --to his son and grandson.
Loggers give unique Oregon ponderosa pine a lifeline
Loggers give unique Oregon ponderosa pine a lifeline
In the Willamette Valley, a rare tree makes a comeback. But is it really a victory for restoration?
A Colorado newspaperman fights for his valley's water
A Colorado newspaperman fights for his valley's water
Bob Rawlings, publisher of the Pueblo Chieftain, has battled for decades to bring water to southeastern Colorado and, once it's there, to keep it no matter what.
Street artist Jetsonorama tries a new kind of healing in Navajoland
Street artist Jetsonorama tries a new kind of healing in Navajoland
A black physician wheatpastes gigantic photographs outdoors to celebrate the tribe and human experience.
A scrappy community ski hill hangs on in Colorado
A scrappy community ski hill hangs on in Colorado
In Lake City, Colo., the state's oldest ski lift is still hauling skiers up modest slopes at even more modest prices.
Sodbusting farmers plow up the Northern Plains prairie
Sodbusting farmers plow up the Northern Plains prairie
The biofuels "corn bubble" and other financial incentives encourage farmers to plow up native grassland in the sensitive Northern Plains prairie potholes ecosystem; government policies don't help.
A moral issue confronts industrial farmers
A moral issue confronts industrial farmers
Farmers in Nebraska are feeling the pressure from groups that demand better treatment for animals on factory farms.
The BLM struggles to get ahead of oil and gas development in the West
The BLM struggles to get ahead of oil and gas development in the West
Master leasing plans, or MLPs, are a new tool designed to help the Bureau of Land Management better coordinate energy leasing and development in areas that may need special treatment or protection.
Unfinished zombie housing developments haunt the rural West
Unfinished zombie housing developments haunt the rural West
Lack of planning rules and the housing bubble led to dead subdivisions plaguing the West, especially in Teton County, Idaho, where locals are trying to deal with the impacts of the real estate bust, yet still arguing if planning even works.
Watching the weather in California
Watching the weather in California
A Californian becomes a volunteer weather-spotter, in part to heal the memories of the storm that destroyed her house when she was a teenager.
Of cowboys and Indians: Ravi Malhotra helps rural businesses
Of cowboys and Indians: Ravi Malhotra helps rural businesses
An Indian-born progressive applies social entrepreneur techniques gleaned from the developing world to struggling communities in Colorado through his nonprofit, iCAST.
Teton County subdivisions
Teton County subdivisions
A map showing distressed and abandoned subdivisions in Idaho's Teton County.
Wilderness acres created, by congressional session
Wilderness acres created, by congressional session
A timeline of bills authorizing new wilderness, from 1964 to 2012
Wilderness bills languish in legislative limbo
Wilderness bills languish in legislative limbo
Even Republican sponsors can't seem to break their party's determined stonewalling on wilderness bills in the House of Representatives.
A fresh focus on frack attacks
A fresh focus on frack attacks
In all the fuss about fracking, the many other problems caused by rampant oil and gas development are being overlooked.
Environmental warrior Martin Litton is still fighting at 95
Environmental warrior Martin Litton is still fighting at 95
Martin Litton, who has spent his entire life fighting to preserve Western landscapes, is still battling to save California’s giant sequoias.
How Arizona’s culture helped shape the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords
How Arizona’s culture helped shape the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords
If you want to understand why Jared Lee Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and 18 others at a Tucson Safeway in 2011, look to Arizona’s soulless culture and vitriolic politics.
I don't love my dog
I don't love my dog
It's hard to love your dog when she keeps rolling in dead animals and bringing half-eaten deer parts into your formerly tranquil home.
Communities help pay for ecosystem services provided by forests
Communities help pay for ecosystem services provided by forests
Watershed partnerships between communities and the federal government help make ratepayers more responsible for the health of their water supply.
Obama praises natural gas, but is there enough to satisfy U.S. demand?
Obama praises natural gas, but is there enough to satisfy U.S. demand?
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama tried to please everyone, but even his renewable energy proposals rely on finding more natural gas than may exist.
Following the Oregon Trail, digitally and on foot
Following the Oregon Trail, digitally and on foot
Following a childhood fascination with the computer game Oregon Trail, a young archaeologist meets the real thing during a rugged, exhausting Wyoming summer.
Montana court defends law defying Citizens United
Montana court defends law defying Citizens United
As elections of state judges become increasingly contentious, the Montana Supreme Court defends the state's Corrupt Practices Act against the Citizens United decision.
A young wolf wanders the West
A young wolf wanders the West
OR-7, a young Oregon wolf, has logged some 1,000 miles in his journey through the West, becoming the first wild wolf seen in California since 1924.
John Mionczynski: naturalist, accordionist, and Bigfoot expert
John Mionczynski: naturalist, accordionist, and Bigfoot expert
In rural Wyoming, naturalist John Mionczynski plays piano, restores motorcycles, studies wildlife and tracks down evidence for the mysterious creature known as Sasquatch.
Fearful of Agenda 21, an alleged U.N. plot, activists derail land-use planning
Fearful of Agenda 21, an alleged U.N. plot, activists derail land-use planning
A two-year planning process in La Plata County, Colorado gets hijacked by activists suspicious of United Nations influence. And in the West and nationwide, they're not alone.
Residents of Montana's High Plains are angry - but not at the real threats
Residents of Montana's High Plains are angry - but not at the real threats
Though climate change and the economy are the issues threatening their livelihoods, many of the High Plains people are angry at almost everything else.
A mom-and-pop oil company prospects for gas in central Wyoming
A mom-and-pop oil company prospects for gas in central Wyoming
Wold Oil Properties is a wildcatter - a small company that explores for oil and gas in areas where the fuels aren't known to exist in valuable quantities.
Billboard corporations use money and influence to override your vote
Billboard corporations use money and influence to override your vote
In Salt Lake City and other Western communities, billboard companies battle local democracy by fighting attempts to regulate the giant signs.
 Richard West Sellars’ distinguished National Park Service career
Richard West Sellars’ distinguished National Park Service career
After 35 years in the agency, historian Sellars' impact still resonates.
The logging town of Darrington, Wash., fights to save a fire lookout
The logging town of Darrington, Wash., fights to save a fire lookout
A lawsuit raises questions about how far environmentalists should go to keep wilderness 'untrammeled.'
Detente in the rancher v. environmentalist grazing wars?
Detente in the rancher v. environmentalist grazing wars?
Buying out grazing permits from willing ranchers could help solve conflicts over grazing on public lands.
Picking ranchers' brains, from Colorado to Mongolia
Picking ranchers' brains, from Colorado to Mongolia
Colorado State University professor Maria Fernandez-Gimenez researches traditional ecological knowledge to better understand how ranchers learn and adapt management practices, form their attitudes and opinions on environmental change, and interact with their neighbors and resource scientists.
No matter how long you live in your small town, you'll never be a native
No matter how long you live in your small town, you'll never be a native
In the West's rural lands, you might think you're invisible, but the old-timers -- and their dogs -- know you are there.
On Keystone XL route, states allow different risks, reap different benefits
On Keystone XL route, states allow different risks, reap different benefits
An InsideClimate News comparison shows that, of the six states the proposed pipeline moves through, only Montana has authority to re-route the pipeline, and Kansas has given TransCanada a 10-year tax exemption.
A Q&A with former Colorado National Monument head Joan Anzelmo
A Q&A with former Colorado National Monument head Joan Anzelmo
The retired Park Service superintendent stands by her controversial decision not to allow a major bike race in the monument, and continues to be passionate about preserving landscapes.
Raymond Ansotegui and the art of artificially inseminating cattle
Raymond Ansotegui and the art of artificially inseminating cattle
The "overeducated cowboy" Raymond Ansotegui roams the West in the "Shaggin' Wagon," artificially inseminating cattle with the help of friends and family.
The perilous journey of Wyoming’s migrating pronghorn
The perilous journey of Wyoming’s migrating pronghorn
Along the 120-mile-long "Path of the Pronghorn," migrating animals cross rivers, dodge traffic, battle blizzards and navigate the infrastructure of Wyoming energy development.
Protecting wildlife corridors remains more theory than practice
Protecting wildlife corridors remains more theory than practice
There's a growing understanding of the scientific importance of wildlife migration corridors, but protecting them is a huge political challenge.
Boulder, Colo., votes for energy independence -- from its utility
Boulder, Colo., votes for energy independence -- from its utility
After a hard-fought political campaign the town of Boulder passed a ballot initiative allowing it to create its own municipal utility in order to help reach its ambitious environmental goals.
Path of the pronghorn
Jon Huntsman Jr. -- a pragmatic Westerner for the White House
Jon Huntsman Jr. -- a pragmatic Westerner for the White House
Despite poor poll showings, the worldly Jon Huntsman Jr. is the most qualified candidate in the Republican primary, especially when it comes to environmental issues.
What is that dead deer thinking about, and why is he hanging there?
What is that dead deer thinking about, and why is he hanging there?
A close encounter with a deer head on the wall of an inn leads to musings on death, immortality, ancient Egypt, Lenin and Trigger the Wonder Horse.
Water-quality standards unfairly burden rural communities
Water-quality standards unfairly burden rural communities
The plight of a small water and sewer association in rural Mora, N.M -- caught in a tangle of federal and state clean water rules it can’t afford to meet -- echoes experienced by other rural communities around the West.
A tree-climber's tale of harvesting cones to save whitebark pines
A tree-climber's tale of harvesting cones to save whitebark pines
As whitebark pines in the Northern Rockies succumb to pine beetles and blister rust, hardworking climbers defy gravity to collect pine cones from canopies to supply efforts to breed more resilient and resistant trees.
Tribes try selective fishing to boost catch without harming wild salmon
Tribes try selective fishing to boost catch without harming wild salmon
Washington's Colville Tribes experiment with selective fishing techniques and bring home more salmon than before.
Land trusts thrive despite, and because of, the Great Recession
Land trusts thrive despite, and because of, the Great Recession
The recession has afforded a unique opportunity for land trusts to protect more of the West’s private open land through direct acquisitions and, increasingly, conservation easements.
The man beneath the hat: Ken Salazar’s search for middle ground
The man beneath the hat: Ken Salazar’s search for middle ground
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a twelfth-generation Latino-American, works politely and quietly but stubbornly to protect the West’s environment in polarized times.
How private efforts and economic troubles have combined to support conservation
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