Issues

Going Under
Going Under
HCN prides itself on digging deep, but this month we literally go underground, accompanying Emily Benson into a Wyoming cave, where scientists who study cave formations hope that 100,000-year-old weather data can help us understand climate change. This summer’s flooding damaged property around Yellowstone National Park, but in the long run it might refresh the ecosystem. Despite a recent Supreme Court decision, the Environmental Protection Agency can still shut down polluters. There’s money in restoring landscapes ravaged by extractive industries, while Arizona citizens hope to protect groundwater with the help of a ballot initiative. Have you ever thought the land might be better off under new management — maybe the original management? The LandBack movement has suggestions. On the Navajo Nation, Indigenous farmers like Graham Biyáál are reclaiming traditional growing techniques and preserving seeds and recipes. If Biyáál’s blue cornmeal mush doesn’t fill you up, try visiting California’s Punjabi dhabas. We also review an enchanting new short-story collection and struggle to keep up with Cassie da Costa as she runs her first half marathon.
Our Fiery Future
Our Fiery Future
August is hot, and so are the stories in this issue, which examine the West’s fiery future from a variety of angles, discussing how communities can work together to reduce fire risk; climate change and our “forever” fire season; recovery after devastating wildfires; and the weird underground fires that ignite in coal seams and sometimes cause raging aboveground wildfires. Elsewhere, we see the impacts of climate injustice in industrialized Wilmington, California, where residents fight cancer and other serious illnesses. What’s the one weird trick oil companies use to dodge those annoying cleanup costs? Just don’t pay them. We interview longtime HCN contributor Leah Sottile, whose new book shows how extremist beliefs can destroy the lives of ordinary people. In the mood for fresh air? Take a hike with the “School of New Art Geographies,” which brings together artists and scientists to do creative fieldwork in the Sonoran Desert. And enjoy our preview of the Utah Museum of Fine Art’s groundbreaking multimedia exhibition, “Air,” which opens our eyes to something we often take for granted.
Living with Rivers
Living with Rivers
Life in the West can be pretty confusing. Poaching is always a serious crime, unless you’re a non-Native hunter on the Wind River Reservation. Salmon tastes great, but it’s not all that healthy when farmed fish escape in a fragile ecosystem. Do you know what color your hydrogen is? It’s hard to fish on the Arkansas River when wealthy landowners and the state of Colorado keep yelling, “Get the hell off my lawn!” Raising healthy families isn’t easy in West Eugene, Oregon, when you live next door to a toxic industry. Tribes have a chance to reclaim Willamette Falls — *if* they can somehow work together. LiDAR, a laser mapping technique, teaches researchers about deadly landslides and inspires Daniel Coe to create extraordinary art. The U.S. will never heal its relationship with the land until it heals its relationship with the land’s Indigenous people. Elsewhere in this issue, we listen to new podcasts, read Elvia Wilk’s Death by Landscape, and wander around Wyoming in search of meadowlarks.
A Legacy of Weapons and War
A Legacy of Weapons and War
Can we learn from past mistakes? That’s the underlying question this issue, where we revisit the misery of last summer’s “heat dome” from inside a state prison in Walla Walla, Washington. The scars of Cold War nuclear testing endure, as shown by Emmet Gowin’s photos of the Nevada Test Site and a powerful essay by Terry Tempest Williams. With drought emptying Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam’s days as a power source may be numbered. Can rare-earth metals like tellurium help solve our energy problems and boost the economy of Grants Pass, Oregon? A “Wildlife Welfare Check” brings good as well as bad news, Western teens are fighting climate change in the courts, and the Yurok Tribe is returning giant condors to the California skies. We meet the Navajo Nation’s first economist, and science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson talks about the High Sierra. Laureli Ivanoff prepares her grandmother’s summer greens dessert, and a young writer searches for identity in rural Utah.
New Ways of Seeing the West
New Ways of Seeing the West
In this issue, we examine habitat connectivity through the eyes of two very different California residents: P-22, the mountain lion that found an unlikely home in LA’s Griffith Park, and Miguel Ordeñana, who has spent his life studying urban wildlife. Can a wildlife crossing help P-22 and LA’s other wild inhabitants? We ponder how place names connect human beings to landscape and consider how Russia’s war in Ukraine might affect the Western U.S. Recently appointed BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning talks about her beleaguered agency, which has too often failed to protect the lands it manages. A California sheriff’s enthusiasm for policing environmental crimes sparks accusations of xenophobia from Hmong Americans. A Cherokee professor dissects the popular series ‘Yellowstone,’ and Vauhini Vara talks about her novel, ‘The Immortal King Rao.’ A young writer questions parenthood amid climate change, and a runner seeks access to public spaces in developed neighborhoods. This issue welcomes poetry back to HCN ’s pages and features a stunning portfolio of Richard Misrach’s extraordinary new photographs.
The Archives Issue
The Archives Issue
In HCN’s first-ever “Archives Issue,” we examine the West through a variety of historical lenses. In one of our features, we meet a New Mexico woman who always wondered how her family got from rural China to Albuquerque. We rummage through natural archives, from ice cores, tree rings and pack rat middens to parasite burrows in thousand-year-old oysters. We see Oklahoma through the eyes of the first female Native American photographer and learn about LGBTQ+ life in LA from the 1970s onward. We visit archives devoted to specialized subjects: Idaho’s Black history, Rocky Mountain skiing, beer making in Oregon and everyday life in the pandemic. We also ask uncomfortable questions: Who is buried in the unmarked graves at a former Indigenous boarding school? And when is a cliff dwelling not a cliff dwelling? (Spoiler: When it’s in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and its stones were taken from a faraway ruin and reassembled to create a kitschy tourist trap.)
The Cloning Conundrum
The Cloning Conundrum
Our March issue confronts some of the West’s greatest challenges, from extinction, fire and the climate crisis to the best way to manage our remaining resources. Our feature story takes a long, thoughtful look at efforts to clone the black-footed ferret, perhaps North America’s most endangered mammal. In Alaska, beavers are thriving where they’ve never been before and transforming the tundra. We bring you a package of stories about the rapidly shrinking Colorado River and how Indigenous people seek more inclusion in its fate, alongside their water rights. In Portland, Oregon, activists demand affordable, carbon-free housing. Our facts and figures shows what happens in cyberspace has real-world environmental impacts. Was the fire that ravaged communities in Boulder County, Colorado, a product of the region’s coal-mining past? In Tacoma, Washington, the Puyallup Nation fights a methane gas project it was never consulted about. Four hunters were charged with trespassing in Wyoming, despite never touching private land. New memoirs draw disturbing parallels between climate change and illness. And two essayists ponder painful questions: How do parents deal with climate grief? And why does violent language still echo through the West’s most peaceful landscapes?
Essential
Essential
This month's feature story looks into how Western farmworkers bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change, doing back-breaking labor in triple-digit temperatures. In response, activists in Washington are charting a new path to climate justice. This story is accompanied by the powerful artwork by farmworkers and their allies. Elsewhere, we meet Iniko, the baby condor that became a celebrity, and we learn to love the Pacific lamprey, a species that outlived the dinosaurs but needs human help today. In Oregon, a non-Native developer is attempting to open a gaming operation that threatens tribal sovereignty. Hydrologist Phoebe Suino talks about the Rio Grande and Indigenous water rights, and the “green metals” that power our electric vehicles spark a not-very-green mining boom. Ben Goldfarb ponders the deeper meaning of the film “Don’t Look Up,” and a writer wonders whether the only thing standing between Butte, Montana, and gentrification is the fascinating but deadly Berkeley Pit. Laureli Ivanoff’s column, “The Seasons of Uŋalaqłiq,” makes its debut, and Tiffany Midge takes charge of “Heard around the West.”
Water Rights and Responsibilities
Water Rights and Responsibilities
In the first issue of 2022, you’ll meet some hardworking Westerners, from the Indigenous women determined to preserve New Mexico’s Rio Grande, to the Nevada gold miners employed by a mega-corporation that cares as little for its workers as it does for the land it bulldozes. In Puget Sound, the Swinomish Indian Community shows that eelgrass and aquaculture can coexist, while Wyoming wonders whether Natrium nuclear reactors can take the place of coal. We ask uncomfortable questions: Why did the National Park Service bury its own study on sexual harassment inside the agency? And will the “green energy revolution” stomp on Indigenous values the way the fossil fuel industry has? In California, there’s reason to doubt Big Ag’s insistence that expensive canal repairs will help marginalized communities. We’re still suffering from 2021’s extreme “weather whiplash.” Native Americans need a better platform than Facebook, and corporations should quit exploiting Indigenous sacred places. A new anthology, Evergreen, celebrates the Northwest, and HCN bids a fond farewell to Betsy Marston, whose final “Heard around the West” column rounds out this issue.
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.
High Country News Classifieds
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