#Lookback: High Country News: Fifty Years of Conservation Journal

A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

The Fremont County Museums are hosting a traveling exhibit highlighting the first 50 years of the Lander born magazine High Country News. Created by The Autry Museum of the American West and High Country News., the exhibit dates are Lander Pioneer Museum Feb 14 – March 11th, The Dubois Museum, March 14th – April 3rd and The Riverton Museum April 4th-24th.

Tom Bell a Milford rancher, wildlife biologist, WWII veteran, and local historian bought Camping News Weekly in 1969. He changed the name to High Country News in 1970, and he devoted his journal to the preservation of the public land, wildlife and the western way of life he loved. For three years, Tom and his wife, Tommie struggled to keep HCN solvent, even taking a second mortgage out on their ranch. By 1973 Tom announced he was giving up and closing down HCN, but readers responded with enough donations to keep the journal in business.

In the 1970s Congress passed many environmental regulations such as The Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act to protect our environment from further degradation. HCN covered and promoted this legislation.

By the 1980s there was a backlash from industry and organizations such as the Sagebrush Rebellion who opposed the federal regulations. High Country News covered the controversy.

In the 1980s High Country News reorganized as a non-profit and hired Ed Marston and his wife Betsy, a television reporter from New York, as publishers. High Country News was moved to Paonia, Colorado. HCN started doing more investigative reporting on topics such as western watersheds and clearcutting of the old-growth forests of the West. Circulation increased from 4000 subscriptions to 10,000 paid subscribers.

Ed Marston retired in 2002 and was followed by Paul Larmer, who added full-color pictures and turned HCN from a black and white newspaper to a full-color magazine. Circulation increased to 25,000 paid subscribers. A website was added to increase HCN’s impact far beyond its modest circulation. Today High Country News continues to cover controversial topics such as climate change, the Standing Rock Protest, and the rollback of the Bears Ears National Monument.

A divided government has little interest in protecting public lands from development, but HCN continues to advocate for the protection of our public lands. HCN covers topics ranging from Alaska to the Rockies, to the West Coast, to the Southwest, and the Great Plains.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

March 12th at the Pioneer Museum 7 pm, “Lander in 1920”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 12th at the Riverton Museum 6:30 pm, “History of Radio & Broadcasting In Fremont County” by Ernie Over

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 12th at the Dubois Museum 7 pm, “Swift Fox Ecology, Distribution and Trends in Wyoming” by Nichole Bjornlie

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 21st at the Riverton Museum 2-4 pm, “Build Your Own Telegraph” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop

Children’s Exploration Series


Consider supporting The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander or the Riverton Museum with a monetary donation. The museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark. Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.

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