Issues

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.
Severed Ties
Severed Ties
In this issue we examine how Indian boarding schools were at the center of a policy to hold Indigenous children hostage to open the West for settlement. We look at how the collection of data can be fatal for wildlife and travel to California where keeping Indigenous food culture alive risks jail time. Using audio leaked to HCN, we listen to BLM staff confront leadership over their pending headquarters move. In New Mexico, a fading mining town looks to revive itself with Airbnb. We ask what it will take to save Columbia and Snake River salmon and check in on the rebuilding of a 100-year-old boat that became a YouTube star.
"We can either wait on Mother Nature – or we can give it a shot ourselves."
"We can either wait on Mother Nature – or we can give it a shot ourselves."
In this issue we update an ongoing water struggle in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, where ranchers and farmers are in a race to conserve. We check in Montana and the effects of President Trump's trade war with China. We explain the failure of explosive devices against sea lions and highlight the curious deaths of gray whales at sea. We dive into the use of Indigenous struggles by white nationalists and other extremists, and describe the Indigenous narratives of a Maori filmmaker.
In Bad Faith
In Bad Faith
In this issue, we dive deep into relationships of religion and power in Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed lax water regulation. In a story from New Mexico, researchers are trying to rebuild the desert’s biocrust. And we report from Oregon, where the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians is reclaiming some of its traditional land – only after a wildfire swept through it. We ask whether boom-bust economies like those in Wyoming can survive the necessary shift away from fossil fuels, and we check in on a mountain goat lift operation in Washington. We ask what it means to be a mom who loves the desert when your daughter loves the Dollar Store. And we review Joe Wilkins' new novel, which is an examination of the myth of mountain masculinity.
2068: The Speculative Journalism Issue
2068: The Speculative Journalism Issue
In this special issue, we venture into the realm of science fiction. Using last year’s Fourth National Climate Assessment as our guide, HCN writers and editors asked what the West would look like in 50 years, and how we would cover it. The result is a range of fictional short stories based on the assessment and other climate research. Through the lens of speculative journalism, we look at agriculture in a rainier Montana; the pursuit of climate criminals in a collapsed United States; unethical conduct around drone cloud-seeding; the potential of a “Fire Service” instead of a “Forest Service”; the misuse of flies to devour human waste on the country’s last ski slopes; and the potential use of virtual reality to help people imagine glaciers past. Taken together, these stories represent myriad futures for the America West under different climate scenarios. They also make a subtle argument for human imagination in helping us grapple with climate change.
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