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Know the West

High Country News – the voice of the West — celebrates 50 years and looks to the future

Pioneering nonprofit unveils $10 million campaign to expand its editorial work and influence.


PAONIA, CO, January 31, 2020 – It all started back in January 1970, when Wyoming rancher and educator Tom Bell first cobbled together a gritty black-and-white tabloid newspaper dedicated to covering the immense environmental problems faced by the Western United States. Today, 50 years later, High Country News is an award-winning full-color nonprofit magazine, still thriving in this digital age and poised to expand its work in the region.

This year, High Country News will celebrate its unique history as the chronicler of the West with “Writing the West,” an ambitious $10 million campaign aimed at bolstering the magazine’s investment in its editorial staff and freelancers and creating a permanently endowed intern and fellowship program. The campaign will also fund much-needed technological upgrades for HCN’s website and other database systems, along with new marketing initiatives designed to double the number of readers, particularly students and policymakers. The Ford Foundation has jump-started the campaign with a $1 million grant over the next five years.

High Country News has now brought unblinking journalism to people around the country for 50 years,” said publisher and executive director Paul Larmer. “Our 50th anniversary is a landmark occasion for the history and future of the West and the people who want to understand it. And because we have accomplished all this through the support of loyal readers rather than corporate advertisers, it also marks a milestone for nonprofit, independent journalism in this country.”

Our reporters live and work in the West to bring you stories from the place you love.

Concerned about the mounting threats extractive industries posed to the West’s land, air, water and wildlife, Tom Bell founded the publication, now headquartered in the rural town of Paonia, Colorado, to raise public awareness about the region’s environmental issues. Bell, a decorated World War II veteran and wildlife biologist, wrote many articles himself and tapped Western writers, editors and photographers to create what would become one of the first environmental periodicals dedicated to the West. Since then, High Country News has broadened its coverage to include the complex web of relationships between ecology, culture, economics and politics. In 2018, it became the first non-Indigenous publication to open an Indigenous Affairs desk, staffed by Native American journalists and focused on covering the vast archipelago of tribal nations in the West.

High Country News has created a legacy of ethical, independent journalism that deeply informs and bridges the widening divides in our society,” said Samaria Jaffe, vice president of the organization’s board of directors. “I can’t think of a more important legacy to build on for the next 50 years.”

The anniversary celebration will feature a special issue of the magazine, along with social media campaigns celebrating the diversity of the West and a traveling museum exhibit illuminating HCN’s 50-year history. Other public events scheduled around the West include a June 12 gala in Denver, Colorado.

For more information, go to https://www.hcn.org/50-years/ or contact: 

Paul Larmer, Publisher 
[email protected], 970-927-4898 x20


Laurie Milford, Development Director
[email protected], 970-927-4898 x31