Feature stories

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.
Can Bacone College reclaim its roots as a center for Native art?
Can Bacone College reclaim its roots as a center for Native art?
The private college redefined Indigenous art but faces financial and infrastructure challenges today.
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Hersh Saunders' transformation from prosthodontist to kosher slaughterer
Hersh Saunders' transformation from prosthodontist to kosher slaughterer
Frustrated by the difficulty of finding kosher meat from humanely raised animals, Rabbi Hersh Saunders began raising livestock and learned to butcher in the ritual way as a shochet.
A citizen activist forces New Mexico's dairies to clean up their act
A citizen activist forces New Mexico's dairies to clean up their act
When a giant dairy proposed building near Jerry Nivens' beloved New Mexico home, the chain-smoking Texas hermit became an activist who organized other locals to fight the industry.
Can an old mine become a work of art?
Can an old mine become a work of art?
The old Ute-Ule mine site outside Lake City, Colo., is under scrutiny by the Hardrock Revision Team, which wants to clean up the mine and yet preserve it as a living and historic work of art.
The Southwest's population and housing booms bite the dust
The Southwest's population and housing booms bite the dust
As the West's population and real estate boom stumble to a halt, the once fast-growing Southwest is filled with foreclosed homes and undeveloped lots.
A Texas town welcomes dairies; a New Mexico activist fights them
A Texas town welcomes dairies; a New Mexico activist fights them
Jana Hughes, of Hobbs, N.M., does not find dairies to be good neighbors. Janet Claborn, of Muleshoe, Texas, has recruited 14 dairies to her town and sees them as an economic development blessing.
Farm incubators help would-be farmers succeed on their own
Farm incubators help would-be farmers succeed on their own
Viva Farms is a "farm incubator" in Washington's Skagit Valley that helps aspiring cash-poor farmers like Nelida Martinez start and successfully operate their own businesses.
Hunting deer on a mountain bike
Hunting deer on a mountain bike
Two friends go on a fossil-fuel-free deer hunt using mountain bikes.
The forgotten North Cascades grizzly bear
The forgotten North Cascades grizzly bear
As grizzly bear populations in the Rockies rebound, the great bruins face extirpation in the North Cascades. Can they hang on until the feds fund recovery?
Behind the scenes in the lives of captive wolves
Behind the scenes in the lives of captive wolves
Captive wolves and wolf-dog hybrids are kept all over the West for various purposes, often in poorly regulated facilities.
Daniel Marlos shares his knowledge and love of the insect world
Daniel Marlos shares his knowledge and love of the insect world
In Los Angeles, self-trained entomologist Daniel Marlos helps others learn about the crawly things he loves through his website: What's That Bug?
Feds attempt to speed complicated process of building power lines
Feds attempt to speed complicated process of building power lines
The Obama administration's electrical transmission permitting agencies are cooperating to speed grid updates and fast track clean energy projects, as demand for power grows.
Clean air regulations protect park views by targeting coal plants
Clean air regulations protect park views by targeting coal plants
The Environmental Protection Agency is attempting to reduce haze from air pollution near national parks and wilderness; some coal-fired power plants are cleaning up their act and others will shut down.
U.S. grizzly recovery areas
Wrestling with a destiny of dryness
Wrestling with a destiny of dryness
A Utah writer struggles with his family’s predilection to always end up living in very arid places.
When the bear comes too close to home
When the bear comes too close to home
It's easy to love wild animals like bears until they actually start eating your chickens and coming a little too close to your family for comfort.
Utah’s ancient Lake Bonneville holds clues to the West’s changing climate
Utah’s ancient Lake Bonneville holds clues to the West’s changing climate
In Utah, scientists are exploring the site of a long-vanished inland sea called Lake Bonneville to understand the West's past - and future - climate.
BLM experiments with camouflage to hide renewable power structures
BLM experiments with camouflage to hide renewable power structures
The Bureau of Land Management is working with landscape architects and camouflage experts to better disguise renewable energy infrastructure on public lands.
Lawyer Laird Lucas on how and why he fights for the West
Lawyer Laird Lucas on how and why he fights for the West
The environmental lawyer battles big industries and government agencies in the courtroom on behalf of the nonprofit Advocates for the West.
Lake Bonneville
Lake Bonneville
Western voters love ballot initiatives -- and sometimes make a mess
Western voters love ballot initiatives -- and sometimes make a mess
A Western tradition of citizen legislation may cause more problems than it solves.
Cruising the ocean, counting seabirds
Cruising the ocean, counting seabirds
What an unconventional journey on a cruise ship can reveal about seabirds' enigmatic lives.
Washington's Hanford Reservation and nuclear plant may lie on faults
Washington's Hanford Reservation and nuclear plant may lie on faults
Brian Sherrod, a government paleoseismologist, believes cities and infrastructure in eastern Washington may be far more earthquake-prone than previously realized.
Obama message control blocks journalists covering the environment
Obama message control blocks journalists covering the environment
The Obama administration makes it harder for its environmental message to be heard when it sets up roadblocks to information and blocks media access.
Life as a fire lookout
Life as a fire lookout
It's a long way from Lower Manhattan to a remote fire lookout's perch in New Mexico.
Lack of medical care on the firelines endangers firefighters
Lack of medical care on the firelines endangers firefighters
Firefighter Rob Palmer crusades for better emergency medical care in memory of his brother, Andy.
How the West's forests are managed
How the West's forests are managed
Charts show how Western forests are managed for wildfires, and how much it costs in dollars and lives.
Good policy and good intentions won't stop big wildfires
Good policy and good intentions won't stop big wildfires
Federal agencies have made strides in reducing fire danger in the West's forests, but many factors hinder their efforts
How can "woofers" stay on the farm?
How can "woofers" stay on the farm?
Young people are eager to serve as unpaid interns on organic farms, but translating their dreams into a real, self-supporting lifestyle is proving harder.
Brad Udall on Australian water reform
Brad Udall on Australian water reform
Lessons from Australia for the Colorado River Basin
Lessons for the Colorado River from drought-stricken Australia
Lessons for the Colorado River from drought-stricken Australia
Brad Udall on Australian water reform and why it matters to the West.
The mirage of pristine wilderness
The mirage of pristine wilderness
The old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest may not be that old after all - but that doesn't mean they're not big and beautiful.
A part of something old: writer Kim Stafford's storied places
A part of something old: writer Kim Stafford's storied places
Oregon writer Kim Stafford looks for "scattered Edens" in contemporary Western life.
Cody Cortez: A faux-file of the West's most mysterious writer
Cody Cortez: A faux-file of the West's most mysterious writer
Buddhist cowboy poet Cody Cortez is so elusive it's almost as if he doesn't really exist.
Seeds of atonement: an interview with writer Shann Ray
Seeds of atonement: an interview with writer Shann Ray
Shann Ray's short stories focus on the theme of redemption in the lives of ordinary Western families.
Remediating a Superfund sacrifice zone on Montana's Clark Fork river
Remediating a Superfund sacrifice zone on Montana's Clark Fork river
The town of Opportunity, Mont., is weighed down by pollution from old copper mining and a modern-day river restoration project.
Don't tell her she can't: a profile of author Mary Clearman Blew
Don't tell her she can't: a profile of author Mary Clearman Blew
Mary Clearman Blew struck out on her own, leaving rural Montana and a life as a housewife to become a professor and writer.
Farmland conservation program may be plowed under
Farmland conservation program may be plowed under
The Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to idle highly erodible cropland, is facing budget cuts and other challenges.
Rebuilding a river as Washington's Elwha dams come down
Rebuilding a river as Washington's Elwha dams come down
How much can we learn from restoring the Elwha River, after the two dams that block it are finally removed?
How I survive scorching Phoenix summers
How I survive scorching Phoenix summers
The midsummer heat of Phoenix is unbearable to an adult human being - unless you take a lesson from the desert wildlife, and adapt.
Junk rule pits rural ideals against suburban standards
Junk rule pits rural ideals against suburban standards
In New Mexico's San Juan County, a new ordinance contrasts upper class aesthetics against a rural lifestyle.
Helping Hummingbirds with Citizen Science
Helping Hummingbirds with Citizen Science
The dedicated volunteers of the Hummingbird Monitoring Network gather field data to help conserve the birds they love.
Tribes use land conservancies to reclaim ancestral grounds
Tribes use land conservancies to reclaim ancestral grounds
The Kumeyaay Indians of Southern California are among the tribes using new strategies to reclaim rights to their lands.
California tribe competes with the state to restore its homeland
California tribe competes with the state to restore its homeland
The Mountain Maidu Indians and the state Department of Fish and Game are both seeking control of California's Humbug Valley.
Citizen scientists gather data on wildlife
PG&E conservation lands
EPA aims to clean up polluted air in Western gas fields
EPA aims to clean up polluted air in Western gas fields
The federal government sets its sights on clearing the air above gas operations
A day among junk connoisseurs
A day among junk connoisseurs
San Juan County, N.M., is a haven for junk cars -- and for the guys who fix them up.
The casual violence of driving
The casual violence of driving
We seldom notice the animals killed by today's fast-moving cars, unless we're traveling slowly, on a bicycle.
Toads on high: tracking and photographing boreal toads
Toads on high: tracking and photographing boreal toads
Biologists trek high into the Colorado Rockies in search of the rare amphibian.
Navajo Monster Slayers: a tribe struggles to fight corruption
Navajo Monster Slayers: a tribe struggles to fight corruption
The West's largest tribe works to reform its government -- while keeping its traditions strong.
River rafting -- no car required
River rafting -- no car required
How to enjoy a summer raft trip, fossil-fuel-free.
Invasion of the feral pigs
Invasion of the feral pigs
Feral pigs are invading New Mexico and other Western states, but biologists are working hard to stop them.
New Mexico Feral Swine Distribution
Idaho: The CAFO state?
Idaho: The CAFO state?
Idaho rolls out the welcome mat for chicken farms and other huge livestock operations.
 Adventuring on Colorado's big peaks
Adventuring on Colorado's big peaks
A woman finds solace and delight in climbing Colorado's highest and most challenging mountains.
Barrow, Alaska: an unlikely boomtown
Barrow, Alaska: an unlikely boomtown
A Korean cabdriver finds an unlikely home in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the U.S.
Ganjanomics: bringing Humboldt’s shadow economy into the light
Ganjanomics: bringing Humboldt’s shadow economy into the light
Marijuana growers and government officials in California's notorious "Emerald Triangle" work towards legitimizing the local cash crop.
Re-watering Nevada’s dying Walker Lake
Re-watering Nevada’s dying Walker Lake
Walker Lake in northwestern Nevada has been dying for years, but locals and government officials are determined to restore it.
Yellowstone leak highlights a different kind of oil spill
Yellowstone leak highlights a different kind of oil spill
A recent oil spill in Montana's Yellowstone River reminds Westerners that not all such environmental disasters happen in the Gulf of Mexico.
Wedding in the shadowed valley
Wedding in the shadowed valley
What do you do when you're hit by doubts on the very morning of your wedding?
Montana's stream access law stays strong
Montana's stream access law stays strong
The Montana Legislature abandons an attempt to tighten the state's permissive stream-access laws.
A former energy company lawyer now fights for the other side
A former energy company lawyer now fights for the other side
Attorney Lance Astrella represents landowners coping with oil and gas development on their doorsteps.
Milestone in Cobell Indian trust case
Milestone in Cobell Indian trust case
Elouise Cobell's long-running lawsuit over Indian trust accounts appears to be finally reaching a settlement.
Stream access laws on private lands in the West
The fight over a much-needed pesticide: methyl iodide
The fight over a much-needed pesticide: methyl iodide
California places tough restrictions on the pesticide methyl iodide, but opponents believe that's not enough to protect workers and the environment.
Jonathan Thompson on the West's Chinese 'stimulus package'
Jonathan Thompson on the West's Chinese 'stimulus package'
Jonathan Thompson talks with Cally Carswell about how foreign demand is influencing the West's latest extractive boom.
Global Players in the West's Extraction Economy
Global Players in the West's Extraction Economy
An interactive map of global influence in Western energy plays
The Global West: how foreign investment fuels resource extraction in Western states
The Global West: how foreign investment fuels resource extraction in Western states
China's insatiable energy appetite is fueling a natural resource boom in the West.
In search of diversity in our national parks
In search of diversity in our national parks
One man's quest to understand why people of color are underrepresented in outdoor recreation and the conservation movement.
Famous or obscure, our rivers are priceless
Famous or obscure, our rivers are priceless
The oil spill on the Yellowstone River is just one of too many disasters caused by our addiction to petroleum.
Rocky Mountain wolf recovery leader was not your average bureaucrat
Rocky Mountain wolf recovery leader was not your average bureaucrat
An interview with Ed Bangs, who recently retired from heading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's gray wolf recovery program
Leadville, an old Colorado mining town, may resume mining
Leadville, an old Colorado mining town, may resume mining
As prices soar, Freeport McMoRan ponders reviving the town's Climax molybdenum mine
A right to be protected: Gary Marbut's case for gun rights
A right to be protected: Gary Marbut's case for gun rights
A profile of Montana gun-rights activist Gary Marbut.
For steelhead, dirty water might be better than clean
For steelhead, dirty water might be better than clean
A wastewater treatment plant provides nutrients that help endangered steelhead thrive in an Idaho stream.
Shifting gears to a brave new world of Lycra
Shifting gears to a brave new world of Lycra
Is it possible to buy a new mountain bike without buying tons of other stuff?
A fee-dodging retiree forces a national forest to rethink access charges
A fee-dodging retiree forces a national forest to rethink access charges
A retired geophysicist named Jim Smith successfully challenges Arizona's Coconino National Forest on access fees.
The growth of newspapers across the U.S.: 1690-2011
The growth of newspapers across the U.S.: 1690-2011
An interactive visualization showing how newspapers across the U.S. have grown in the past three centuries.
Rural papers doing better than their city counterparts
Rural papers doing better than their city counterparts
In an age where the decline newspapers seems imminent, small town papers still fill a niche.
Why the Southwest is burning
Why the Southwest is burning
This season’s wildfires are caused by three things: Climate change-induced drought, bureaucratic blindness and old-fashioned human folly.
The 'Utah solution' to immigration
The 'Utah solution' to immigration
Utah religious, business and political leaders suggest an immigration compromise, but the state's lawmakers are terrified of being caught voting for "amnesty."
Abrahm Lustgarten on fracking
Abrahm Lustgarten on fracking
An interview with ProPublica energy and environment reporter Abrahm Lustgarten.
Hydrofracked: One man’s quest for answers about natural gas drilling
Hydrofracked: One man’s quest for answers about natural gas drilling
A Wyoming farmer battles industry and bureaucracy trying to find out whether hydraulic fracturing -- used in natural gas drilling -- polluted his drinking water.
Encountering a California condor takes one writer back in time
Encountering a California condor takes one writer back in time
An interaction with a rare vulture sparks reflections on dinosaurs and extinction.
States work conservation into trust lands management
States work conservation into trust lands management
Urban sprawl helps spur new efforts at compromise in managing state trust lands.
Western papers drop D.C. reporters
Western papers drop D.C. reporters
As more newspapers withdraw reporters from Washington, D.C., Westerners wonder who's keeping an eye on the capital.
Spring-cleaning the acequia: A photo essay
Spring-cleaning the acequia: A photo essay
The annual spring cleaning of its irrigation ditch brings tiny El Cerrito, N.M., together to work and celebrate.
Fire fight: Forest Service explores chemical retardant hazards
Fire fight: Forest Service explores chemical retardant hazards
The Forest Service finally assesses the impacts of fire retardant chemicals, but never answers the question of how useful they really are.
How developers and businessmen cash in on Grand Canyon overflights
How developers and businessmen cash in on Grand Canyon overflights
An air-tour businessman and Italian developers become deeply enmeshed in the politics of tiny Tusayan, Ariz., part of a plan to profit from the nearby Grand Canyon.
State trust lands at a glance
State trust lands at a glance
The West's state trust lands form a complex patchwork, and each state manages them differently.
BLM shields renewable projects from mining speculation
BLM shields renewable projects from mining speculation
New rule clears the way for solar and wind projects on public land.
A nuclear watchdog pushes feds on safety
A nuclear watchdog pushes feds on safety
California Republican state Sen. Sam Blakeslee questions the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about the safety of the state’s nuclear plants.
How the gray wolf lost its endangered status — and how enviros helped
How the gray wolf lost its endangered status — and how enviros helped
A strategic miscalculation by environmental groups helped spur the delisting of gray wolves in Montana and Idaho.
The One-Eyed Squirrel of Ooh-Aah Point
The One-Eyed Squirrel of Ooh-Aah Point
Ol' One-Eye of Ooh-Aah Point leads a wildlife-loving trail-crew worker to act a bit out of character…
Greening a city ... and pushing other colors out
Greening a city ... and pushing other colors out
The proposed redevelopment of San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood worries its longtime black residents, who fear gentrification will drive them out.
An interview with Carter Niemeyer, author of "Wolfer: A Memoir"
An interview with Carter Niemeyer, author of "Wolfer: A Memoir"
Emilene Ostlind talks with Niemeyer about his years tracking, capturing, relocating and removing wolves in the Northern Rockies, and his perspective on wolf management.
U.S. Northern Rockies wolf graph
Velocity, Ferocity and the Gem City
A Gem City Atlas: Novel maps of Laramie, Wyoming
A Gem City Atlas: Novel maps of Laramie, Wyoming
The city explores its past and present with an innovative project called Laramie: A Gem City Atlas.
Walking in the body of being
Walking in the body of being
Not everybody understands why pinacate beetles are such good company, but philosopher Baruch Spinoza is likely one of them.
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