Issues

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.
Land-Grab Universities
Land-Grab Universities
In this issue, we release an unprecedented investigation into the United State’s land-grant university system, which was created from the expropriation of Indigenous land. This two-year investigation uncovers the origin of wealth that undergirds The nation’s system of higher education. The issue also looks at ranked-choice voting in Oregon, the cultural trend of meatless hamburgers, and the origins of immigration practices that are sweeping through Western communities. In Seattle, we follow scientists who are scrambling to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Meanwhile, award-winning authors Tommy Orange and Louise Erdrich discuss Erdrich's new novel, and an essay takes a retrospective look at the life and work of writer Charles Bowden.
Wiring the Wild
Wiring the Wild
This special issue is dedicated to winter recreation and asks who — and what —belongs in the backcountry. Our feature story investigates how telecom giants are pushing to build infrastructure on protected public lands. An essay considers the tension between the digitized West and exclusivity. From Colorado, we report on the effects that ski wax has on the environment. In Wyoming, a ski mountaineer changes the way she skis to protect wildlife. We report on the ongoing fight between snowmobilers, conservationists and wolverines in Idaho. In New Mexico, we share a photo essay on the last of the shovel racers. We also take a look at the ethics of shed hunting and review the 15th annual Backcountry Film Festival.
Predator (Mis)perceptions
Predator (Mis)perceptions
In this issue, we ask some big questions about wildlife conservation. In our first feature we examine the human relationship with cougars, which are surrounded in myth despite new research having drawn them out of the shadows. Our second feature asks, at a time when Colorado voters are deciding whether to reintroduce wolves, what science can provide in politics. In Idaho, we look at the residual power of Ammon Bundy, the West’s “strike anywhere” match. We report on the ways that Indian Health Service is under-serving Indigenous women. We take a look into a grassroots movement to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms to help treat PTSD. We report on the U.S. detention system's capacity to bankrupt families, and we talk with an author about how billionaires are changing Western communities.
How One Woman Took a Stand Against Tribal Disenrollment and Paid For It
How One Woman Took a Stand Against Tribal Disenrollment and Paid For It
In this issue, we investigate how a Nooksack tribal leader in Washington took a stand against her tribe’s disenrollment efforts and became the target of a home invasion, cyber stalking and constant harassment. In Alaska, we look at a budget threat to ferries forming the marine highway system. We check out a University of California lawsuit against the federal government after the Trump administration shut down the DACA program. In Navajo Nation, we ask why LGBTQ+ people are barred from Diné ceremonies. In a photo essay, we bear witness to the funeral of a deported undocumented U.S. Army veteran whose body was returned to his family in New Mexico for burial. We also interview a wildlife biologist who changed careers to become an advocate for equity in the conservation movement.
Crossing to Safety
Crossing to Safety
In the first issue of our newly redesigned monthly magazine, we lead off with an in-depth look at efforts in one Idaho town to block a series of wildlife crossings across the notoriously dangerous Targhee Pass. Elsewhere, we look at the lives of two groups of young Westerners: In Alaska, Native youth push for climate action, while in a former coal-dependent Colorado county, a high school class trains students in solar energy. We take a fact-driven deep-dive into the lifecycle of nuclear power production, and examine water right fights in Montana and the politics of housing in Washington. We interview a farmworker organizer who talks politics and immigration. We ask what the cowboy hat means for "Americanism," and critique the weird world of Western tropes as they manifest in Texas.
Party Favors
Party Favors
This special double issue takes on the complex politics of the American West. We investigate how the national Democratic party chose Xochitl Torres Small, a New Mexico congresswoman, in the 2018 primary. The investigation tears back the curtain on the political process, showing how the party picked a favorite while stamping down challengers. On the other side of the party divide, another feature profiles Oklahoma Republican Congressman Markwayne Mullin. A white-passing citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Mullin is one of the few Native federal lawmakers, but his ultra-conservative views complicate his relationship with Indian Country. Along the border, meanwhile, communities are fighting back against President Donald Trump's most notorious political symbol – the border wall being built through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Elsewhere, the issue looks at the ongoing youth climate case in Oregon, disparities in federal disaster aid, Wyoming's dependence on the dying coal industry and more.
Forever Mines
Forever Mines
In this issue we take a dive into pollution, first with an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, produced in collaboration with High Country News and the Ohio Valley ReSource, as mining companies have taken advantage of loopholes to get out of environmental remediation by idling their operations. We also look at aerial spraying in Oregon and how locals are working to upend the practice. Another HCN investigation finds the EPA awarded a contract to do clean up on the Navajo Reservation to an outfit with a troubled past. We look into why California’s program to help low-income residents during PG&E blackouts has nearly zero applications. We travel to Idaho, where many refugees have found success in resettlement. We also provide a perspective on the BLM chief’s fixation with wild horses as a threat to public lands, and more.
Storied Landscapes
Storied Landscapes
In our annual Books and Authors special issue we celebrate the storied West. Read an excerpt from George Takei’s memoir on his childhood experience in an internment camp and an excerpt from Beth Piatote’s first short-story collection that delves into family connection. Find author interviews with nature writer Terry Tempest Williams and poet Jake Skeets. We review many books from all corners of the West, dive into essays and provide a list of the season’s best reads.
Where Hunting Still Has Meaning
Where Hunting Still Has Meaning
In this issue we take a deep look at hunting and its meaning for the West. We dive into a Washington-Canada cross-border hunt that also served as strategic attempt to get Canada to recognize a tribe it considers ‘extinct.’ In Alaska, a hunter pursues a mountain goat but gets another adventure entirely. We take a look at cash-strapped states that sell high-priced trophy tags and allow sportsmen to hunt where, when and what they want – to the dismay of some. In Wyoming, a hunting family faces the prospect of chronic wasting disease on their kill. We also check in on the Klamath River, which now has the legal rights of personhood in Yurok tribal court. And we look into a new study that finds antibiotic-resistant bacteria proliferates in coastal waterways.
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