Feature stories

The U.S. stole generations of Indigenous children to open the West
The U.S. stole generations of Indigenous children to open the West
Indian boarding schools held Native American youth hostage in exchange for land cessions.
Colorado farmers fight to save their water and their community’s future
Colorado farmers fight to save their water and their community’s future
‘We can either wait on Mother Nature — or we can give it a shot ourselves.’
The Mormon Church supplied tainted water to its members for years
The Mormon Church supplied tainted water to its members for years
Utah regulators turned a blind eye to faulty water systems at a girls’ summer camp, trusting the LDS Church would eventually fix the problem.
Browse High Country News feature stories
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.
Socialism and the West
Socialism and the West
Despite our reflexive fear of the word "socialism," the West was built on subsidized government efforts.
Watts of water
Watts of water
Not all environmentalists believe that pumped hydroelectric storage projects are a good way to achieve more renewable energy.
Death by a thousand wells
Death by a thousand wells
Unregulated domestic wells are straining water supplies in Washington’s Yakima Valley and throughout the West.
A guide to the past -- and the future
A guide to the past -- and the future
The WPA Guide to 1930s Montana has become the author's favorite guidebook.
Water across the Divide
Water across the Divide
In 2003, Colorado's Grand Ditch was breached, causing flood damage to the Upper Colorado River and to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Audubon feathers fly in Arizona
Audubon feathers fly in Arizona
A controversial proposed land swap reveals the growing rift between Maricopa Audubon and a new and wealthier rival -- Audubon Arizona.
Empty nest
Empty nest
Making a case for the California condor's return to the Northwest
Biotech beet-down
Biotech beet-down
That candy bar you're eating may have been made with genetically modified beets that were illegally approved.
Silenced Springs?
Silenced Springs?
Rare and tiny spring-dwelling creatures are threatened by everything from invasive species to Las Vegas' plan to pump groundwater from a rural part of Nevada.
Conservation for the Adrenaline Crowd
Conservation for the Adrenaline Crowd
Environmentalists in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado have struggled to get recreationists behind their causes.
When reverence isn't enough
When reverence isn't enough
Writer and philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore talks about water, family and the sacredness of landscapes.
Water and the National Parks
Water and the National Parks
National parks are good for a lot of things, including keeping water in rivers.
Bicycles, books and beer
Bicycles, books and beer
Todd Simmons founded a bookstore, a journal and a publishing company in Fort Collins, Colo., on little more than a shoestring and a dream.
Conservationists wrong to oppose wolf hunt
Conservationists wrong to oppose wolf hunt
Wolves have recovered, and it's time for more rational management, including carefully-regulated hunting.
The sky is a crowded attic
The sky is a crowded attic
Novelist Andrew Sean Greer talks about how the West’s vast landscapes transformed his life and his fiction.
Living on Glacial Time
Living on Glacial Time
Climate change is altering the lands we call home in ways we'd never imagined.
Books for lonely times
Books for lonely times
When you're camped all alone in the wilderness, there is nothing like a book to bring you comfort.
Timothy Egan's Western odyssey
Timothy Egan's Western odyssey
New York Times correspondent and National Book Award winner Timothy Egan talks about his enduring love for the West.
Coming home to the cosmos
Coming home to the cosmos
A wandering writer comes home to Utah after chasing meteorites around the world for years.
Township 13 South, Range 92 West, Section 35
Township 13 South, Range 92 West, Section 35
A writer looks into the history of the people who lived on the Colorado mesa she now calls home.
A new land grab
A new land grab
The Oglala Lakota are determined to reclaim both their land and cultural heritage.
Lawless future
Lawless future
State parks are facing a budget crisis all their own, especially in California.
Solar salvation?
Solar salvation?
Timber companies and unemployed workers are looking to renewable energy for an economic boost.
The new Third World
The new Third World
While some Americans fight over healthcare reform, others line up at dawn to receive free care at a temporary clinic in Los Angeles.
From Tuscany to the Mohave
From Tuscany to the Mohave
Guiseppena Bellandi Perry remembers the events -- and the husbands -- who brought her from her native Italy to the desert of Needles, Calif.
The dark side of dairies
The dark side of dairies
A combination of lax laws and poor oversight leaves dairy workers vulnerable to exploitation and on-the-job dangers.
The dictionary reader
The dictionary reader
What kind of person spends the whole summer stuck inside a cabin reading the dictionary?
Brushed aside
Brushed aside
On Washington's Olympic Peninsula, the once-lucrative floral greens industry is floundering as its immigrant workers face deportation.
From Corn to Cabernet
From Corn to Cabernet
A burgeoning wine industry could provide a welcome economic boost to Colorado's Western Slope.
Mission critical
Mission critical
With global warming threatening the planet, even environmentalists are looking more kindly at natural gas.
Cigarette wars
The late activist Alison Gottfriedson was one of many Indians who saw selling tax-free cigarettes as an act of Native sovereignty.
A slow-moving disaster
A slow-moving disaster
As bark beetles ravage Rocky Mountain forests, communities like Granby, Colo., have to adjust to a radically different landscape.
The bare bones of life
The bare bones of life
The rocky, remote landscapes of the Southwest have long served astronomers as a metaphor for the surfaces of other planets.
The same old Sen. Reid?
The same old Sen. Reid?
Year after year, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid has stood squarely in the path of every attempt to reform the 1872 Mining Law. Plus: The Energy Department wants to dump tons of deadly mercury, most likely in the West.
Revival or dam-nation?
Revival or dam-nation?
The push for alternative power could spawn a rush for small hydropower projects in the Northwest.
Nirvana on a backhoe
Nirvana on a backhoe
Kim Erion restores habitat using heavy equipment and a heartfelt connection to things like logs and rhododendrons.
The Most Cooked-Up Catch
The Most Cooked-Up Catch
Saving fisheries -- and taking the edge off the dangerous derby of the sea.
Wild Turkey, gunfire and big pipelines
Wild Turkey, gunfire and big pipelines
Aaron Million wants to build a gigantic water pipeline all the way from southwest Wyoming to Colorado's Front Range.
Retooling for the next mission
Retooling for the next mission
Iraq war veterans find a new life in Colorado, this time fighting for the environment with the help of Veterans Green Jobs.
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