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Know the West

From billionaires to bankruptcies, the West is full of flashpoints

And we’re here to cover them all.


This month, the U.S. Justice Department will argue for a chance to retry Cliven Bundy and his supporters for their armed standoff with federal officers in 2014, following a mistrial two years ago. Lately, one of Cliven’s sons, Ammon, has been traveling around the West, looking for a place to spark another conflict, “an eager, strike-anywhere match,” as HCN Correspondent Leah Sottile writes. The Western United States is full of flashpoints, and in this issue we re-examine many of them.

Original Illustration by Sarah Gilman/HCN
In Colorado, a potential ballot measure to reintroduce wolves to the state could come to a vote in November. As biologist and essayist Ethan Linck writes, the decision over wolves will be informed by science but ultimately driven by the feelings of voters, calling into question the value of research in public decisions. In Washington, longtime contributor Sarah Gilman asks whether our fear of mountain lions is justified, reminding us that the Bureau of Land Management’s current acting director, former anti-fed lawyer William Pendley, once “accused cougar defenders of condoning ‘human sacrifice.’ ”

From Nevada, Editorial Fellow Kalen Goodluck reports on the Pyramid Lake Paiute’s reintroduction of bighorn sheep to tribal land from which the animal had been absent for nearly a century. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump, who has already derailed dozens of environmental protections, is now targeting one of the nation’s most important laws, the National Environmental Policy Act.

Brian Calvert, editor-in-chief
Bear Guerra/HCN
These conservation issues are important, of course, in defining the West, but so too are the injustices that gnaw at Western communities. Elsewhere in this issue, we describe how the detention system is bankrupting immigrant families. We also report on the impediments to reproductive health that women face in Indian Country and the ways in which billionaires are reshaping the Western landscape. We look at efforts to legalize more drugs in Western states, and examine how independent Indigenous zines are helping young people navigate their identities.

As High Country News moves into its 50th year, we hope to show readers the Western U.S. in full, so that anyone who lives in the region (or watches it from afar) will understand it better. As editor-in-chief, I hope that we can help you make meaningful decisions about this unique place, and that we’ll inform, inspire and challenge you to act on its behalf. It is our aim to reintroduce you, again and again, to this complicated West.

Brian Calvert is the editor-in-chief of High Country News.

Email him at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor