Issues

Visions of Wildness
Visions of Wildness
In our final issue of 2021, we dive into controversies, from the fight over putting a wind farm next to a Japanese American incarceration camp, to a report on how income inequality is transforming the West. Lack of housing makes life difficult for Jackson Hole-area workers, while an Indigenous activist questions how much Biden’s Bears Ears proclamation accomplished. Our features tackle two subjects that often divide HCN’s own readers: Wild horses and cattle ranching. On the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Indigenous people wonder if wild horses and buffalo can coexist, and we learn about modern-day ranching’s crazy economics when a Washington rancher tries to cheat the big meatpackers and win. Was the Northwest’s summer heat dome a “stress test” for wildlife, or a massacre? There’s even some good news: Activists are unionizing the big environmental groups, we visualize a healthy Klamath River, and an Indigenous writer reclaims her culture’s relationship with fire, while Rick McIntyre tells an inspiring story in his book, The Redemption of Wolf 302.
The Radioactive Waste Next Door
The Radioactive Waste Next Door
This issue takes us into Western communities that are facing serious challenges. In White Mesa, Utah, the nation’s only active uranium mill wants to import radioactive waste from overseas over the fierce objections of its next-door neighbors, the Ute Mountain Utes. Meanwhile, in Shasta Vista, California, cannabis-growing Hmong Americans defied evacuation orders to fight wildfires because they don’t trust the hostile county they live in. Climate change threatens Hatch, New Mexico’s famous green chiles, as well as the snow that sustains Rocky Mountain ski towns (among other things). We look into why reducing methane emissions matters. Still, wildfire experts see reasons for hope, and some communities are coming together: When Alaska’s Yukon River saw dismal salmon runs, other Native villages helped feed hard-hit communities. Black and Native communities are discussing their complex relationship, and Chuck Sams might become the first Native American to lead the National Park Service. Finally, archaeologists are starting to realize that Indigenous people have been around longer than academics have, after all.
In The Graces of Grasses
In The Graces of Grasses
In this issue, Westerners struggle to cope with the effects of our nation’s politics and policies. Our feature story delves into how right-wing extremists, responding to pandemic recommendations, are causing public health officers to step down across the West. Meanwhile, families who can’t afford skyrocketing rents are camping year-round on public land and often finding it’s not easy. The sparks are flying between utility equipment and climate change. But there’s also good news: Oregon families are rebuilding houses — and lives — after last year’s fires, while St. Johns, Arizona, decided its at-risk youth needed a youth center more than juvenile detention. In north-central Montana, Aaniiih and Nakoda youth reclaim their heritage by restoring the prairie, while elsewhere in the state, volunteers remove fences that impede migrating wildlife. Jason Asenap reflects on the need for more Indigenous critics to discuss Indigenous films and TV series, and a Washington writer wonders if nature can mend the growing political fractures in her tiny community.
Where Wolves May Tread
Where Wolves May Tread
In this issue, we examine rivers from several angles: as wildlife corridors, as water supplies, and as waterways that sustain cultures as well as fish. Our feature takes us down the Upper Green River, trying to track a wolf pack; Colorado officially welcomes the predators, but wolves coming from Wyoming struggle to find refuge. We shine a spotlight on the Klamath River Basin, where the Klamath Tribes struggle to save endangered c’waam and koptu. The bonds between the river and the Yurok people cannot be broken, though some wonder whether salmon will survive until the dams come down. Meanwhile, the river the whole Southwest depends on — the Colorado — is rapidly disappearing. In other news, the Supreme Court makes voting harder for Indigenous people. We review Douglas Chadwick’s Four Fifths a Grizzly and Nawaaz Ahmed’s debut novel, Radiant Fugitives. And a young writer working for the Montana Conservation Corps learns that you don’t need to fall in love with a landscape in order to take good care of it.
A Mega-Dairy Comes to the Desert
A Mega-Dairy Comes to the Desert
Water, climate, habitat and humanity mingle in our August issue. The feature examines a Minnesota-based mega-dairy’s impacts on rural southeast Arizona, a region already suffering from a shrinking aquifer. In Washington, dams may doom the Skagit River’s imperiled salmon, unless a local tribe convinces regulators to remove them. In Montana, the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation wants to restore the polluted Little Bighorn River, while in Alaska’s Yukon Flats, tribes worry about water and wildlife when a company with a history of environmental violations begins exploring for oil. Humans need habitat, too, and Tucson, Arizona, hopes to ease the housing crisis by building accessory dwelling units. This month’s Facts and Figures untangles the relationship between heat, drought and the power grid. We preview a breakthrough Indigenous TV series, “Reservation Dogs,” and review Alexandra Kleeman’s neo-noir climate thriller, “Something New Under the Sun.” Finally, we include Tope Folarin’s thoughtful essay about how his childhood memories encouraged his family’s tentative return to the outside world, post-COVID-19.
An Urban Greenspace Revolution
An Urban Greenspace Revolution
In our July feature Correspondent Leah Sottile shows how good plans go awry with her feature on how a locally supported rails-to-trails project in Yamhill County, Oregon, got derailed by politics. In Arizona, landscapes sacred to Indigenous people are sacrificed to mine valuable minerals. In California, a rural community has waited years for safe drinking water, while farther north, the drought-stricken Klamath River’s salmon are dying for lack of water. Meanwhile, lockdown-weary Americans are overusing — and often abusing — Western parks and public lands. But it’s not all bad news: Stella Kalinina’s photographs reveal industrial sites being turned into public green spaces. We also interview two women who organize farmworkers, and review “Fireline,” a podcast that takes a fresh take at wildfire, and a book, Lisa Wells’ “Believers,” about people determined to live good lives despite the reality of the climate crisis.
Once and Future Fires
Once and Future Fires
This month, we look at how Westerners cope with wildfires: In Idaho, small towns clash with the Forest Service over how to manage the forest, while in Oregon, people left homeless by fires find refuge in a Medford hotel. Alaska Natives respond to food insecurity by building biomass-fueled greenhouses, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes announce a plan concerning the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people. Water remains a perennial problem: Phoenix, Arizona, is outgrowing its supply, while California’s new groundwater sustainability act is getting off to a troubled start. Asian Americans flock to gun shops after recent attacks, Montana activists continue to fight for racial justice, and cannabis growers use more energy than you’d expect. Finally, we talk to Michelle Nijhuis about her new book and review two other intriguing volumes — “Red Nation Rising” and “Finding the Mother Tree.”
Beauty and Biodiversity in the Borderlands
Beauty and Biodiversity in the Borderlands
The May issue takes us into little-known landscapes, from the Atascosa Highlands of Arizona, where a photographer and an ecologist are documenting biodiversity, to the concrete channels of the Los Angeles River, where people who lack housing fish and attempt to get by. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a Chicano community wants an urban wildlife refuge to remain a haven for locals, while in Denver, second-graders say wolf reintroduction will be nothing short of “amaaaazing!” We provide some background to the “firearms frenzy” in the West, and an incarcerated person in San Quentin, California, describes his experience with overcrowding and COVID-19. Prominent U.S. institutions are finally acknowledging how much they profited from Indigenous lands, but fine words alone won’t undo the damage. Meanwhile, the descendants of enslaved people still fight for a place in the Cherokee Nation. We review Going to Trinidad by Martin J. Smith, the story of a pioneering Colorado surgeon and his transgender patients, and talk to geographer Diana Livermore about her pursuit of climate justice. And we check out the quirkier side of the region in our regular Heard around the West column.
Holding Fast
Holding Fast
In this issue, we bring you not one but two feature stories: The first dives into the Chinook Nation’s century-long battle for federal recognition, while the second looks at how a proposed land exchange in McCall, Idaho, pushed the locals to seek new ways to preserve public access. In reportage, we learn how Colorado gets stuck with the cleanup bill when energy companies abandon old oil and gas wells. The Biden administration faces major decisions on issues affecting tribal lands and water, and a new report focuses on internet infrastructure in Indian Country. With traditional sources of conservation funding dwindling, we ponder a difficult question: Who should pay to preserve the West’s land and wildlife? Elsewhere, we discuss Montana’s new anti-trans legislation and delve into the shadowy history of Albuquerque’s racist housing market. Our “Facts and Figures” department explains how the West’s unusually deadly avalanche season is, ironically, largely due to the region’s low snowfall. We talk to Kathy Reed, who hopes to carry on the legacy of Alma Smith Jacobs, Montana’s first Black librarian, and we review two promising debut novels, along with a thriller by a young Indigenous filmmaker. Finally, in “Heard around the West,” we learn that mountain lions don’t belong in basements, and that it’s not necessarily a good idea to invite large wildlife to a big backyard buffet.
The Rough Road Ahead
The Rough Road Ahead
In this issue, our feature story looks at the ways our culture criminalizes homelessness, focusing on an Oregon man who was caught in a cycle of poverty and policing that ended in his unexpected death. We also dive into the climate crisis, as drought further stresses the Colorado River Basin and impacts California’s Punjabi American farmers. Elsewhere, we consider what might change under the new administration, as President Joe Biden pauses oil and gas leasing on public lands and halts construction on his predecessor’s border wall. In Nevada, we investigate a lithium mine that was fast-tracked without the input of a nearby tribe. We’re still keeping an eye on COVID-19 — checking out a successful telemedicine program, meeting the foreign-born doctors easing health-care shortages in the West, and talking to a vet-virologist about the first case of the disease in a Utah wild mink. We review a book about life in the Bakken oil fields, ponder new perspectives on art in the desert, and, as always, find something to smile about in our column, “Heard around the West.”
End of the Line
End of the Line
In this issue, we focus on some of the ways the ongoing transition away from coal will be felt across the West. Our feature story profiles Diné activist Nicole Horseherder and her long quest for an equitable energy economy on the Navajo Nation. A half-century ago, what law professor and scholar Charles Wilkinson dubbed the “Big Buildup” transformed the West’s energy economy; now, it’s coming to an end in the “Big Breakdown.” We talk to some of the workers at the Boardman coal-fired plant in Oregon, as it shutters. Elsewhere, in Wyoming, we look at how communities are turning to wind power to make ends meet as they figure out how to get by in a future less dependent on fossil fuels. In other news, we look at how Western tribes are taking over land-management responsibilities at places like Montana’s National Bison Refuge. And we examine the disturbing links between the attempted coup in Washington, D.C., and the right-wing extremism rooted in the West. Activist Jackie Fielder discusses housing inequities in the time of COVID-19, while in rural Colorado, we meet a unique group of LGBTQ+, anti-fascist, pro-gun ranchers who have put together a community of their own. Finally, we reflect on the legacy of legendary Western author William Kittredge and reconsider Joan Didion's vision of the West.
No Place Like Home
No Place Like Home
In our first issue of 2021, we dive into the concept of home, leading off with an in-depth feature about second-home owners in Gunnison County, Colorado, who fought back after county officials asked them to leave when COVID-19 arrived. Throughout the West, we learn how small towns with already-overheated housing markets are seeing a staggering increase in prices during the pandemic as the Zoom boom sends workers flocking to more desirable locations. Our cities are changing, too, as is shown by a unique research project in Seattle that details the many ways in which COVID-19 is transforming urban landscapes. In many places, evictions are on the rise, but in Pima County, Arizona, some of the constables charged with enforcing evictions are finding ways to help tenants stay in their homes. In Juneau, Alaska, an 80-year-old tugboat reveals a very different problem: the abandoned vessels that are littering the West coast. We talk to interesting people like Danielle Geller, a trained archivist who researches her mother and ponders the meaning of family, and former EPA program leader Mustafa Santiago Ali, who wants to help communities go from merely surviving to thriving. We also meet Nick Tilsen (Oglala Lakota), whose arrest for protesting President Trump at Mount Rushmore links him to a long history of Indigenous resistance. Finally, in her Bell Prize-winning essay, Kimberly Myra Mitchell describes how she found solace from grief in the midst of fighting wildfires.
A Community Divided
A Community Divided
In this issue, High Country News checks out election results from across the Western U.S., with a special focus on issues involving climate, justice and power at both the local and national levels. Our feature story visits Evanston, Wyoming, where a grassroots movement called WyoSayNo fought to block private companies from building an immigrant detention center in the economically struggling town. In California’s Coachella Valley, we meet families who have been waiting for years to get clean and safe drinking water. We consider the lasting impacts of William Perry Pendley’s illegal stint as head of the Bureau of Land Management, noting how his efforts to undermine new backcountry conservation areas in Montana also undermined trust in land management. In Denver, we look at how legacy environmental organizations are working to move past their racist beginnings and rebuild relationships with neglected communities of color. We meet a group of Black cowboys, who are enthusiastically training for the annual Arizona Black Rodeo in Phoenix, and hear from environmental lawyer Dinah Bear about what the Trump administration’s changes to the National Environmental Protection Agency mean for the West. Finally, some of our favorite Western writers recommend good books for winter reading, and we experience how joy and sorrow come together in Olivia Durif’s reflection on the intimacy of natural burials at a quiet Washington preserve.
When the Smoke Clears
When the Smoke Clears
With election results looming and wildfires still burning, this issue’s on-the-ground reporting – from the Inland Northwest to southern Arizona – canvasses the landscape for solutions. Our feature takes a deep dive into the history, and future, of a co-operatively managed food distribution hub in Spokane, where small farmers collaborate in the name of community – and where the pandemic opened the door for new partnerships. We spend time in Arizona’s Patagonia Mountains with the Soto family, whose connection to their land has survived the boom-and-bust cycles of a legendary mining region. Documentary photos convey their story and enrich the entire issue. A photojournalist memorializes the “silent guests” on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana, where missing and murdered Indigenous women refuse to be forgotten. This issue roves the Intermountain West with stories about wildlife connectivity; a hunter for whom queerness and rural identity are forever intertwined in the high Montana sagebrush; and a Las Vegas couple navigating multiple jobs, parenting and homeschooling. We also hear from researchers, who explain why wildfire models cannot keep up with the extremes of climate change, and how COVID-19 imperils efforts to keep invasive species from spreading. Finally, we spend time with a historian, who ponders the lessons of Redwood Summer; a poet, whose lyrical portraits fight off harmful misrepresentations; and a novelist, who updates a Latin American literary trope for the digital age.
Democracy's Frayed Western Front
Democracy's Frayed Western Front
As this highly anticipated election draws ever closer, High Country News takes a look at how the campaign season has been affecting parts of the West. Portland, Oregon’s political landscape was rocked when federal troops brought tear gas to the #BlackLivesMatter protests, but it’s anyone’s guess how, or whether, the turmoil will affect the upcoming mayoral election. In Nevada, young canvassers are working to get out the Latino vote, while a decades-long battle over the Las Vegas Pipeline finally comes to a peaceful conclusion. Our feature story from Grand Junction, Colorado, the new headquarters of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, considers how the presidential candidates’ competing energy goals will impact the West’s economy and public lands. Elsewhere, we examine census data showing how rural counties benefit from counting incarcerated individuals in the counties where they’re imprisoned instead of the ones where their homes are located. In Indian Country, the disrupted census count is likely to leave tribal nations underrepresented and underfunded, while in Alaska, 11 tribes are pushing for a better environmental consultation process. Finally, we review Ruthie Fear, a new novel that confronts gentrification in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, and White Utopias, a nonfiction book about cultural appropriation at festivals like Burning Man.
The Next West
The Next West
In this issue, we celebrate our 50th anniversary with a look at the life and legacy of High Country News’ founder, Tom Bell. We recall the magazine’s 50-year history and consider the West to come. Our feature story focuses on the Southwest, where extreme heat is having a deadly impact on elderly, homeless and low-income residents. Elsewhere, we discover how undocumented workers, ineligible for federal COVID-19 aid, survive and even organize despite the pandemic and economic crisis. We dig into the Trump administration’s environmental policy changes, including the planned “evisceration” of the National Environmental Policy Act, and analyze the Great American Outdoors Act, which boosts support for public lands, but fails to address climate change and fossil fuels. The issue also examines the West’s changing demographics, as energy boomtowns empty out while urbanites flee to rural areas. Finally, we reflect on New Mexico author Rudolfo Anaya's lasting influence and interview Hillary Hoffmann and Monte Mills, whose new book examines the history, future and present-day context of the legal fight to protect Indigenous cultures.
Infectious Ideologies
Infectious Ideologies
Extremist thinking tends to replicate during times of confusion and uncertainty. In this issue, we look at some of the extremist groups currently making headlines across the West, including Christian Reconstructionists in Idaho and Montana, patriot militias in Oregon and radical right-wing vigilantes in New Mexico. Our August issue also highlights collaborative efforts that transcend conflict, examining the life-saving solutions of two West Coast communities facing dire shortages in food and housing, and chronicling the decades-long efforts of the Pueblo of Acoma and U.S. investigators to return a stolen ceremonial shield to its home in New Mexico. We track the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the once-thriving clean energy industry and explore the long-term consequences of the psychological trauma that wildland firefighters experience. Finally, we introduce readers to a literary experiment in nature poetry and a debut novel about three generations of Cherokee women, and we learn how the pandemic forced one scientist to question the whole concept of “invasive species.”
'I am here fighting for my life and future children'
'I am here fighting for my life and future children'
In this issue, we bear witness to the protesters in the #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations who have overflowed the streets of Los Angeles. We examine innovative alternatives to policing in Eugene, Oregon, where non-emergency EMS services are dispatched for de-escalation, mental health crises, substance abuse and other issues — all without police involvement. Scanning the data, we map the disproportionate police militarization and violence across the Western U.S. As the climate crisis worsens, we consider the adaptions forced on the Inupiaq people of the Arctic, as well as on the coastal cities of California. Our feature story follows the arduous efforts to save a vanishing species of catfish along the U.S.-Mexican border. And we describe the unexpected rise of labor organizing among fruit packers and ski patrollers alike. The issue also features an interview with a founder of #BlackBirdersWeek; an argument for full-time wildland firefighters; and a former insider’s warning of a compromised Bureau of Land Management.
Dissent at a Distance
Dissent at a Distance
In this issue, our feature story looks at a massive poaching ring in Washington and Oregon and the determined investigators who took it down by tracking it digitally. We also scrutinize the Gadsden flag, the Revolutionary War-era symbol that’s become popular with anti-government figures. We look at a small health-care clinic in rural Oregon that made a successful shift to telemedicine during the pandemic, and then visit the Navajo Nation, where the coronavirus is seriously straining the public health system. In Arizona, we meet a wave of younger, more ethnically diverse environmental activists, and we also learn how the pandemic is inspiring new forms of collective action against immigration detention in the Borderlands. In Alaska, we ponder the fate of sockeye salmon — and the communities that rely on these remarkable fish — in a rapidly warming climate. Elsewhere, we dig into a new report revealing the racism and disenfranchisement Indigenous voters face, and we review a new book that shows how the U.S. is essentially closing its doors to asylum seekers.
Lives on Lockdown
Lives on Lockdown
In this issue, a Los Angeles native recounts her lifelong commitment to a city now under lockdown, celebrating its defiance, vastness and paradoxes. We show how Arizona’s public health workers are adapting to COVID-19’s challenges in order to serve underserved communities, and we visit the Borderlands, where President Trump is building the border wall over local objections. In Washington, we explore the fascinating Pumice Plain in Mount St. Helen’s National Volcanic Monument, where important scientific research may be threatened. Elsewhere, we review a book about Lissa Yellow Bird’s search for the missing in Indian Country, and we talk to Antonio R. Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, about the challenges facing these institutions. Finally, in a lighter vein, we share tips on social distancing from some of the West’s most experienced social distancers — a useful reminder that we humans have a lot to learn from our fellow creatures.
High Country News Classifieds
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