Looking outside the box

  • Paul Larmer


This issue’s cover story is a bit of a departure for us. Usually, we print an in-depth story from a single author on a topic we believe will resonate with readers throughout the West.

But pivotal moments in history can prod even the most ardent adherents of routine to venture outside their boxes. And this moment, we deem, is one of them.

At a regular editorial meeting held shortly after the re-election of President George W. Bush, Associate Editor Matt Jenkins asked the questions that were forming in all of our minds: How are we going to approach the next four years? What stories are the most important for us to follow? And how can HCN help set a positive agenda that is not mired in the morass of partisan politics?

What followed was a series of lively debates, and ultimately the decision to tackle a team-written cover story that lays out the top 10 issues we see breaking in the region.

The exercise has been invaluable. For one, it has given us the opportunity to talk to a wide range of Western activists and thinkers. Their work and ideas have long played an important role in how we frame our journalism, and once again they have delivered, providing us with perspective — along with dozens of specific story ideas that you will see explored in future issues of the paper.

Putting this issue together has also given us the space to think more deeply about the relationship between Westerners and the federal government. Federal administrations, such as this one, have the power to dramatically change our landscape, but so do the states and local communities. It’s heartening to see all the tools that conservation-minded folks are fashioning to achieve their goals despite daunting obstacles on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

And finally, this cover story has humbled us by accentuating the enormity of the challenge ahead for the West. Our top 10 cover a lot of territory, but we left out many critical issues, including those three large elephants in the room — population growth, immigration and sprawl — which cast long shadows over every other issue. Rest assured that HCN will not ignore these — nor any other — looming issues in the years ahead. But we will need your help. Let us know what issues are in your top 10 and deserve HCN’s attention. We’re all ears.

Send letters to [email protected] or Greg Hanscom, editor, High Country News, P.O. Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428. You can also visit HCN’s online forum about the future of the West at www.hcn.org/takeitforward.jsp.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

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