Feature stories

Gold country: A precious metal, a mining mega-corp and a captive workforce
Gold country: A precious metal, a mining mega-corp and a captive workforce
In 2019, two gold-mining giants joined forces, with huge consequences for the Northern Nevada community and economy.
Betting the ranch
Betting the ranch
Cody Easterday wagered hundreds of millions of dollars on the price of beef. He lost.
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.
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Immersed in the Wild
Immersed in the Wild
Edwin Dobb's cold swims in San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound and other Western waters bring him into contact with whales and other aquatic wildlife, as well as hidden currents and storms.
Into the wild
Into the wild
Rue Mapp's group Outdoor Afro encourages black people to explore nature and learn about things like bird-watching.
Guns -- and none
Guns -- and none
A woman who grew up with guns goes on to a life without them.
Fish face-off
Fish face-off
A proposal to ban gillnets in Oregon has commercial fishermen up in arms.
The oil spill's upshot
The oil spill's upshot
The tragic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could help the environmental movement, if greens act wisely.
Bloody Mystery Lingers in the Desert
Bloody Mystery Lingers in the Desert
The unsolved murder of rancher Robert Krentz adds to the already-high tension along the Arizona-Mexico border.
Health studies gas up
Health studies gas up
A small western Colorado town will be the subject of a study looking at the health impacts of natural gas.
New world, new canvas
New world, new canvas
Joxe Mallea-Olaetxe traces Basque history in arborglyphs on Western aspen trees.
Nature illiteracy
Nature illiteracy
Many hikers are obsessed about correct identification of flora and fauna, but a stalwart few are fine with simply seeing a bird as a bird.
One Tough Sucker
One Tough Sucker
Human beings are the greatest threat -- and the only hope -- for the Colorado River's razorback sucker.
Limbo land: Brownfields for green energy
Limbo land: Brownfields for green energy
Across the West, contaminated landscapes are becoming home to renewable energy projects.
Bracing for white nose syndrome
Bracing for white nose syndrome
A deadly fungus that causes white nose syndrome in bats is slowly moving closer to the West.
Yellowstone bison: Hazed and confused
Yellowstone bison: Hazed and confused
A decade-old Yellowstone management plan isn't doing much for wandering bison, or for the ranchers it's meant to protect.
Walking Woman
Walking Woman
The Owens River is flowing again -- and Mary Austin's Land of Little Rain is rejoicing.
Going to extremes
Going to extremes
Determined ideologues are hijacking Western politics, but some reformers are trying to change that.
The rabbit course
The rabbit course
An Oakland chef teaches students how to butcher bunnies for dinner.
Last rites in salmon country?
Last rites in salmon country?
Salmon fishermen gear up for a risky season despite California’s ongoing water wars.
Clean air, hazy politics
Clean air, hazy politics
A new Colorado air quality law pits coal against natural gas -- and rural environmentalists against urban ones.
Accidental Wilderness
Accidental Wilderness
Washington's Hanford Site and New Mexico's White Sands Missile Range both hold deadly nuclear contamination – along with unspoiled landscapes rich in wildlife.
Little doses of danger
Little doses of danger
A formerly fearless outdoorswoman becomes unexpectedly wary once she becomes the mother of two children.
One Way to Save the Wolf? Hunt It.
One Way to Save the Wolf? Hunt It.
Montana wildlife managers say the state's first wolf hunt has been a success -- for both the hunters and their prey.
It takes a district: Utah landowners control groundwater use
It takes a district: Utah landowners control groundwater use
In southern Utah's Escalante Valley, local landowners will form a water district to save their declining aquifer.
Goodbye, Rocky Mountain News; hello, Mrs. Li
Goodbye, Rocky Mountain News; hello, Mrs. Li
Former Rocky Mountain News employees meet to lament -- and celebrate -- how their lives have changed since Colorado's oldest newspaper folded a year ago.
Urban habitat
Urban habitat
The ups and downs of an Audubon nature center in the middle of low-income urban L.A.
The Secret Lives of River  Guides
The Secret Lives of River Guides
Every spring, Grand Canyon boatmen meet for an educational seminar -- and a rousing good time.
Crossing over
Crossing over
This particular city girl never wanted to live in a small mountain town – until she fell in love with one of the residents.
Viva la Archives!
Viva la Archives!
Budget cuts have endangered California's Water Resources Center Archives, which serves as the state's institutional water memory.
Wilderness by committee
Wilderness by committee
Complicated deals are being made over wilderness protection in Colorado and in San Juan County, Utah.
Sinclair flare up
Sinclair flare up
The Sinclair, Wyo., oil refinery has long been one of the state's most notorious polluters, but until recently, no one seemed to care.
Reduce, reuse, re ... steelhead?
Reduce, reuse, re ... steelhead?
In Oregon, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife carefully “recycles" hatchery-raised steelhead.
Nevada's Golden Child
Nevada's Golden Child
Hardrock mining's outsized political power in Nevada may finally be eroding, thanks to state budget woes.
The marten chronicles
The marten chronicles
Biologists trying to photograph wolverines see martens as a nuisance, but martens are actually pretty cool creatures themselves.
The Butterfly Sting
The Butterfly Sting
How a federal wildlife agent brought down one of the world's most notorious insect thieves.
Eligible mustangs
Eligible mustangs
In an effort to adopt out more wild horses, the Bureau of Land Management starts posting ads online.
Pioneer stock
Pioneer stock
A Franciscan manzanita, long believed extinct in the wild, is discovered near San Francisco, in the path of a highway expansion.
March Madness in Indian Country
March Madness in Indian Country
Basketball provides a bright spot in reservation life.
The Natural West
The Natural West
Readers offer up their images of The Natural West in this first in a series of contests that help kick off High Country News' 40th anniversary celebration.
Mountain towns and the persistence of the weird
Mountain towns and the persistence of the weird
The folks in Telluride, Colo., no longer chicken-pick live chickens, but they still indulge in skitching, bike polo, broomball and other odd pastimes.
Gary Nabhan remembers Stewart Udall
Gary Nabhan remembers Stewart Udall
Gary Nabhan remembers influential conservationist and former Interior secretary, Stewart Udall.
Just journalism, or hegemonic narrative?
Just journalism, or hegemonic narrative?
Sofia Martinez responds to High Country News' coverage of environmental justice in Albuquerque's Mountain View neighborhood.
Quartzsite or Bust
Quartzsite or Bust
A colorful look at life in Quartzsite, which becomes an RV mecca every winter.
Untold tales of the American frontier
Untold tales of the American frontier
The second edition of John Ravage's book, Black Pioneers: Images of the Black Experience on the North American Frontier, illuminates the roles blacks played in settling the West.
Cutting away from the pack
Cutting away from the pack
High Country News interviews Keith Allred, who is running for governor as a Democrat in ultra-Republican Idaho.
Mobile Nation
Mobile Nation
Every winter in Quartzsite, Ariz., tens of thousands of RVers form an impromptu community in the desert.
Inspired by nature
Inspired by nature
Three pioneering Western scientists and inventors use biomimicry to tackle environmental problems.
East to the West
East to the West
A writer contemplates where the West begins, both in the landscape and in his life.
Reefer politics
Reefer politics
The West leads the way on medical marijuana.
Failed State
Failed State
Photojournalist Julian Cardona on living and working in Mexico's war zone.
The smoke police
The smoke police
Simon Winer patrols the San Francisco Bay Area, sniffing out violators when poor air quality requires a ban on wood-smoke fires.
Chuck Bowden’s border war
Chuck Bowden’s border war
On the U.S.-Mexico border, the corrupt and futile War on Drugs takes a violent toll on the poorest people.
Down the wormhole
Down the wormhole
An obscure cave near Steamboat Springs, Colo., contains rare hydrogen sulfide-consuming worms that might hold a key to extraterrestrial life forms.
Water fallout
Water fallout
A nuclear power plant proposed for Green River, Utah, needs more water than might be available in this dry part of the world.
Skeletons in the closet
Skeletons in the closet
When the media reported that Everett Ruess' bones had been discovered, solving a 70-year-old mystery, Utah State Archaeologist Kevin Jones had his doubts.
The other Big One
The other Big One
What would happen if a killer storm like the one that walloped the West in 1862 hit California today?
Cross(border) winds
Cross(border) winds
Facing tough opposition in the Southern California desert, companies look to build renewable energy plants in Mexico.
Prodigal Dogs
Prodigal Dogs
Evidence suggests that wolves may have returned to Colorado, and they are here to stay.
Feinstein's Water Bomb
Feinstein's Water Bomb
A rider to the jobs bill could free up water for California farms—and blow up hope for balance in the future of the state’s water politics
The squeal of silence
The squeal of silence
Time spent alone in a cabin in the wild reminds a writer that silence is more than the absence of noise.
Supreme beings
Supreme beings
The Supreme Court's precedent-overturning ruling allowing more corporate money in politics raises the possibility that it plans to tackle the Commerce Clause next.
The Forgotten Mesa
The Forgotten Mesa
Without basic services, life on Pajarito Mesa is all about surviving.
Dangerous game
Dangerous game
Western game wardens are hampered by huge territories, increased responsibilities and continuing budget cuts.
The Shot Heard Round the West
The Shot Heard Round the West
Twenty years after the SouthWest Organizing Project accused conservation groups of ignoring environmental justice, diversity in the movement remains elusive.
The easy way to purify our geography
The easy way to purify our geography
We can't change the names of places that were named for scoundrels, but we can change their namesakes.
Drive that Hummer
Drive that Hummer
If you could find a Hummer that got perfect gas mileage and didn’t pollute, would you be willing to get behind the wheel?
Ancient conversations
Ancient conversations
Archaeologist Carol Patterson works with Ute tribal elder Clifford Duncan to interpret the enigmatic patterns in Southwestern rock art.
Ending hunger
Ending hunger
A New Mexico woman fights hunger by sending healthy snacks home with schoolchildren every Friday.
Mountains of mercury
Mountains of mercury
The EPA has failed to regulate the mercury discharged from cement plants like the one in Durkee, Ore.
Legal pyro
Legal pyro
How Tahoe National Forest fire chief Jeanne Pincha-Tulley rose to the top rank of Forest Service disaster management.
The genesis of the West
The genesis of the West
Douglas Brinkley's magisterial The Wilderness Warrior describes how Teddy Roosevelt created the American West we love today.
The EPA rides again
The EPA rides again
Under Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency swings into action, much to the dismay of ranchers and industry.
‘The Cadillac of California irrigation districts’
‘The Cadillac of California irrigation districts’
California's Westlands irrigation district wants to blame the tiny and endangered Delta smelt for its water troubles, but the real culprit is simply long-term drought.
If you're a Westerner, you might just be happy
If you're a Westerner, you might just be happy
Westerners are some of the happiest people in the country because we get to live in the West.
Out of the frying pan . . .
Out of the frying pan . . .
If we don’t deal with climate change now, we’ll face horrendous social and economic consequences.
Don't squeeze the geezers in the great outdoors
Don't squeeze the geezers in the great outdoors
Senior citizens and the disabled must fight a federal proposal to make them pay more for access to public land.
The big bonfire
The big bonfire
The economy is stuck in a ditch, but on climate change the U.S. is finally moving in the right direction.
'Firebrand ways'
'Firebrand ways'
Longtime activist Kieran Suckling talks about the Center for Biological Diversity.
Colorado River blues
Colorado River blues
Photos and audio stories of communities that live along the troubled Colorado River.
Little orphan easement?
Little orphan easement?
When a land trust dissolves, its conservation easements need to be taken on by another group, but that’s not as easy as it sounds.
The federal energy two-step
The federal energy two-step
Oil and gas companies are furious with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, but environmentalists wonder if he’ll go far enough in restraining the industry.
Recreation on the range
Recreation on the range
A sheepdog attack highlights conflicts between recreators and ranchers in Colorado's increasingly popular national forests.
Wind Resistance
Wind Resistance
Wyoming is one of the best places in the world to generate power from wind. But the wind rush is running into opposition from greens, and the fossil fuel industry.
Erratic behavior
Erratic behavior
The Mojave Desert's Giant Rock has long been home to UFO buffs and wild parties, but nowadays it’s fallen victim to graffiti and litterbugs.
The ghost of Tulare
The ghost of Tulare
Steve Haze is determined to restore California's long-vanished Tulare Lake, and now it seems that his dream might finally come true.
My brother, the bear
My brother, the bear
A Colorado woman copes with marauding bears, dead chickens and her beloved brother's schizophrenia.
The wreck
The wreck
While scientists try to understand the reasons behind recent seabird die-offs, volunteers count the corpses on Northwest beaches.
Dueling Claims
Dueling Claims
A tribal attempt to protect New Mexico's Mount Taylor sparks a bitter struggle over uranium mining, religious differences and claims to an ancient landscape.
'The West's Biggest Bully' gets his
'The West's Biggest Bully' gets his
Controversial right-wing "shock jock" John Stokes loses his Montana radio station in a battle over bankruptcy.
Catron County confluence
Catron County confluence
A threat to Catron County's groundwater brings conservative ranchers and liberal newcomers together.
After the Floods
After the Floods
The Ice Age Floods reshaped the landscape of eastern Washington -- and our knowledge of geology.
The Eastern Frontier
The Eastern Frontier
New York City is really the West, buried under time's wrapping.
A cleaner coal?
A cleaner coal?
Proponents say that underground coal gasification could produce cleaner energy, but some environmentalists have their doubts.
The Lost Art of Listening
The Lost Art of Listening
Can the Arapaho language be saved from extinction?
Return of the pod man
Return of the pod man
Arizona farmer Mark Moody raises mesquite trees for food and furniture.
Gone in 60 seconds
Gone in 60 seconds
Despite auctioneer Peter Stremmel's enthusiasm, the Western artwork sold at this year's Coeur d'Alene Art Auction in Reno didn't bring very high prices.
The Wicked Witch of the West
The Wicked Witch of the West
Cheyenne lawyer Harriet Hageman has relentlessly fought the roadless rule for nearly a decade.
Is the BLM practicing unsafe CX?
Is the BLM practicing unsafe CX?
The Bureau of Land Management used a large number of "categorical exclusions" to streamline permitting for oil and gas development.
Roadless-less
Roadless-less
Judge Clarence Brimmer is determined to bring down Clinton's roadless forest rule, which has been mired in lawsuits ever since its controversial birth.
My father’s political career
My father’s political career
A writer remembers her father's unlikely political career, running as a Democrat in a Republican part of Colorado.
Avalanche education for all
Avalanche education for all
In Ketchum, Idaho, Janet Kellam tries to educate the locals about the danger of avalanches.
Refugees unsettle the West
Refugees unsettle the West
In Greeley, Colorado, a meatpacking plant observes Muslim traditions such as Ramadan while multicultural refugees adapt to the West's very different landscape and culture.
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