About Us

Our Mission

Universal Museum News is a nonprofit 501(c)3 independent media organization that covers the important issues and stories that define the American West. Our mission is to inform and inspire people – through in-depth journalism – to act on behalf of the West's diverse natural and human communities.

What we do

Universal Museum News is the nation's leading source of reporting on the American West. We publish an award-winning magazine and a popular website, along with special reports and books. Through in-depth reporting, Universal Museum News covers the American West’s public lands, water, natural resources, grazing, wilderness, wildlife, logging, politics, communities, growth and other issues now changing the face of the West. From Alaska and the Northern Rockies to the desert Southwest, from the Great Plains to the West Coast, Universal Museum News covers 12 Western states and is the leading source for regional environmental news, analysis and commentary — an essential resource for those who care about this region.

Our print and online magazine has more than 36,000 subscribers, including policymakers, educators, public land managers, environmental professionals, outdoor enthusiasts and thousands of other “people who care about the West.” Our website attracts nearly 400,000 sessions each month, and our online archives are unusually deep, from the first issue in 1970 to today.

Universal Museum News’ commitment to environmental stewardship, diversity and social responsibility gives an added resonance to our unique Western voice, through journalism that goes well beyond what other journalists do. We strive to inspire and engage readers to expand their own perspectives and accept the challenge of new stories and new ideas. As we increasingly embrace diversity in our organization, our journalistic work does a better job of representing a society that is home to many viewpoints. Only by doing so can we fulfill our mission and ensure that Universal Museum News remains a relevant, engaging publication that is essential to all who care about the West.

We are a nonprofit

Universal Museum News’ independent research and unique voice are supported largely by our devoted readership through subscriptions and contributions to the Research Fund. Grant support, advertising and syndication sales make up the rest. Read our annual report and our 990.

Help us keep going

In order to continue we require support from our readers. Please consider subscribing to the magazine and making a donation. We offer a number of subscription options, including a free two-issue trial, which offers you complete access to the website for a limited time. Feel free to view our basic financial information in our most recent IRS 990 form.

If you'd like to visit our Paonia office, we offer tours Monday through Friday, 1:30-3:30 p.m. daily. But you’re welcome any time if you call ahead (1-). See you here!

We also have a satellite office in Gunnison, Colorado, located on the Western Colorado University Campus, in Kelley Hall, rooms 147 and 148. We welcome our dear friends.

If you have any questions regarding subscriptions please  our friendly in-house circulation staff or call .

Republish our work

We syndicate our Universal Museum News work, and our articles have been featured in The New York TimesNewsweekUtne ReaderThe Christian Science MonitorThe Navajo TimesThe Boston GlobeRolling Stone, USA Today and many more publications. The Los Angeles Times describes Universal Museum News as "the most influential environmental journal in the Mountain West."

Find out more about syndicating Universal Museum News stories.

Universal Museum News has received numerous national journalism awards, including:
  • We received eight first-place awards, nine second-place awards and two third-place award for its coverage of tribal affairs for the Native American Journalists Association 2019 National Native Media Awards.
  • 2019 Thomas L. Stokes Award for Best Energy and Environment Writing for "The rising risks of the West’s latest gas boom" by Daniel Glick and Jason Plautz.
  • 2019 American Society of Journalists and Authors Outstanding Reported Essay for "In this rapaciously dry year, a quiet question grows louder: What are we doing here?" by Cally Carswell.
  • We received six first-place awards and one third-place award for our coverage of tribal affairs for the Native American Journalists Association 2018 National Native Media Awards.
  • 2018 James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards: Foodways for "The Teenage Whaler's Tale" by Julia O'Malley.
  • 2018 Walter Sullivan Award for “Inside the Firestorm,” by Douglas Fox.
  • 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Sciences Kavli Science Journalism awards: Gold for magazine writing for "Inside the Firestorm" by Douglas Fox, and a silver for online journalism for "The West’s newest bird species has a beak like a crowbar" by Nick Neely.
  • 2016 Society of Environmental Journalists Award for Beat Reporting for Jonathan Thompson's story "When our river turned orange," which appeared on our website and was later followed up on in a feature story about the Gold King Mine spill.
  • The American Geophysical Union named Doug Fox its 2015 Walter Sullivan Award Winner for his story “Dust Detectives,” which appeared in our Dec. 22 issue. The award committee praised Fox’s “excellent storytelling, compelling characters, and his choice of an important, newsworthy topic.”
  • The National Association of Science Writers recently recognized contributing editor Cally Carswell with a prestigious 2014 Science in Society award for her story  "The Tree Coroners". The Dec. 16 story, which profiled researchers who hope to save the West’s threatened forests by understanding just how and why trees die, won the Science Reporting with a Local or Regional Focus category. 

    This story also received a 2014 Society of Environmental Journalists Awards: second place in the Outstanding In-depth Reporting, Small Market category. The SEJ judges said, “Cally Carswell’s well-written, educational and entertaining story created a narrative that most certainly heightened public awareness about an important topic that is often overlooked when discussing the planet’s growing carbon footprint: the vital role trees play … This story highlighted the challenges of this important work.”
  • The 2013 Utne Media Award for Environmental Coverage. "HCN stood out for its consistent reports on important stories we're not reading anywhere else," wrote the Utne judges. "From the effects of Twilight-inspired tourism on the Quileute Nation to half-built subdivisions at the foot of the Grand Tetons, HCN shines a spotlight on our culture's relationship to the wild. And while it might be easy to vilify, say, a developer in the Tetons or the Twilight tourists, HCN's reporters seek nuance instead."
  • A 2013 Science in Society Award, from the National Association of Science Writers, in the Science Reporting with a Local or Regional Focus category, for Hillary Rosner's "The Color of Bunny," a story about how snowshoe hares are adapting to climate change.
  • A 2012 Science in Society Award, from the National Association of Science Writers, in the Science Reporting with a Local or Regional Focus category, for "Perilous Passages," a package of stories on animal migration. This package also won the 2012 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism.
  • The 2012 Society of Environmental Journalists Awards, first place in the Outstanding Beat Reporting, Small Market category, for Matthew Frank's coverage including "Montana's stream access law stays strong."
  • A finalist for the 2012 Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, for Stephanie Paige Ogburn's "Cattlemen struggle against giant meatpackers and economic squeezes."
  • A 2011 Special Citation from the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism for David Wolman's "Accidental Wilderness." This story also won a Society of Environmental Journalists Award (third place in the Outstanding In-depth Reporting, Small Market category).
  • The 2011 Excellence in Journalism Awards, from the Native American Journalists Association, Best Feature Monthly, Division 1 category, for Terri Hansen's "Celebrating Shades of Green."
  • A 2010 Special Citation from the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism for Jonathan Thompson's "Wind Resistance."
  • A 2010 Kavli Science Journalism Award, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in the Small Newspaper category, for Hillary Rosner's "One Tough Sucker."
  • A 2010 Science in Society Award, from the National Association of Science Writers, in the Science Reporting with a Local or Regional Focus category, for J. Madeleine Nash's "Bring in the Cows."
  • The 2010 Utne Reader Independent Press Award for Best Environmental Coverage.
  • A 2010 Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism with a social-justice perspective, for Rebecca Clarren's "The Dark Side of Dairies."
  • A 2010 First Person Narrative award, from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, for Michelle Nijhuis' essay "Township 13 South, Range 92 West, Section 35."
  • The Native American Journalists Association Best Environmental Story of 2010, in the Monthly/bimonthly category, for Debra Utacia Krol's "Cultural Blight."
  • The 2009 Society of Environmental Journalists Awards, second place in the Outstanding Small Market Reporting, Print category, for Florence Williams' "On Cancer's Trail," and third place for J. Madeleine Nash's "Back to the Future."
  • A 2009 Mental Health America national journalism award for Ray Ring's "My Crazy Brother."
  • A 2008 Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism with a social-justice perspective, for Ray Ring’s "Disposable Workers of the Oil and Gas Fields."
  • A 2008 Special Citation from the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism for Hannah Nordhaus' "The Silence of the Bees."
  • A 2008 Media Award from the American Institute of Biological Sciences, for Michelle Nijhuis' "Beetle Warfare" and "Bonfire of the Superweeds."
  • The 2008 Society of Environmental Journalists Awards, second place in the Outstanding Small Market Reporting, Print category, for Peter Friederici’s "Facing the Yuck Factor," which also won a 2007 Award of Excellence in the Best of Newspaper Design competition of the Society for News Design.
  • A 2006 Utne Reader Independent Press Award for Best Local/Regional Coverage.
  • A 2006 George Polk Award for Political Reporting for Ray Ring’s "Taking Liberties,"  which also won an American Planning Association Award.
  • The 2006 James V. Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism for Matt Jenkins’ "Squeezing Water from a Stone."
  • A 2006 Science Journalism Award, from the American Association for Advancement of Science for Michelle Nijhuis’ series: "The Ghosts of Yosemite," and "Save Our Snow,"  and "Dust and Snow."  The series also won the 2006 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism from the American Geophysical Union.
  • The 2005 Society of Environmental Journalists Awards, third place in the Outstanding Explanatory Journalism category, for Ray Ring's series on new angles in environmental politics, including "Where Were the Environmentalists When Libby Needed Them Most? The Story of an Ailing Town in Northwestern Montana Calls into Question the Health of the Environmental Movement."
  • The 2004 Society of Environmental Journalists Awards, third place in the Outstanding Beat Reporting category, for Ray Ring's series of stories including "A losing battle (an analysis of wildfire policy)," and  "The West's biggest bully: Environmentalists in Montana's Flathead County make quiet progress against a 5,000-watt loudmouth," and "The big story written small: How most daily newspapers fall short covering environmental and growth issues." SEJ judges said Ring's stories provided "compelling and provocative coverage of Western natural-resource conflicts ... sweeping in scope, befitting the West's broad canvas, and meticulous in detail, a mark of fine reporting. On topics ranging from wildfires to an anti-environmental shock jock, Ring presents fascinating insights into the region's unique blend of natural wonders and human foibles."
  • The 2003 Society of Environmental Journalists Awards, third place in the Outstanding Beat Reporting category, for Ray Ring's series of stories including "Wolf at the Door." SEJ judges said, "Equally at ease writing about wolves or killer bees, about the fervor of snowmobilers or the foibles of Arizona governors, Ray Ring reported scenes so vividly that readers felt taken along for some fascinating rides. A chronicler this skillful didn't have to moralize; he just let the subjects speak for themselves. His stories for Universal Museum News had depth and texture rarely matched by the efforts of publications with much greater resources."
  • A 1986 George Polk Award for Environmental Reporting.

Our history

Find more detailed information on our history.

August 1969: Tom Bell, a Wyoming rancher, wildlife biologist and World War II combat veteran, purchases Camping News Weekly.

1970: Bell renames the publication Universal Museum News and begins to focus on environmental issues, based in a Lander, Wyoming, headquarters.

1971: Bell establishes the publication as a nonprofit because subscriptions and advertising alone weren't supporting it.

1973: Bell announces that HCN will cease publication due to a lack of revenue. "We have done our best. It was not good enough." Readers step up to preempt the closure, mailing in donations and notes encouraging the team not to quit.

1974: Bell steps back and the publication is taken over by staff writers Bruce Hamilton and Joan Nice Hamilton.

1978: A car accident kills HCN news editor Justas Bavarskis and injures three other staffers, putting the publication into another financial crisis. Once again, readers donate enough to keep it going (over $32,000 this time).

1983: The Universal Museum News board of directors hires Ed and Betsy Marston to run the publication, and they move HCN from Wyoming to Paonia, a small town in rural western Colorado. Over the years, they expand the scope of coverage and increase circulation from 3,000 in 1984 to 20,000 in 2001.

2002: Ed Marston steps down after 19 years as publisher. Betsy Marston continues to work at HCN as editor of our Writers on the Range op-ed syndicate.

2003: Managing editor Paul Larmer officially becomes HCN’s new publisher after some time as interim. HCN runs our first full-color cover, while the rest of the magazine remains in black and white.

2005: HCN becomes a full-color magazine throughout.

2016: Distribution of the print magazine continues to grow, which is currently at an all-time high of 35,000 and nearly 55,000 subscribers to our weekly newsletter.

Ethics policy

We subscribe to standards of editorial independence adopted by the Institute for Nonprofit News:

Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions.

We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support.

Our organization may consider donations to support the coverage of particular topics, but our organization maintains editorial control of the coverage. We will cede no right of review or influence of editorial content, nor of unauthorized distribution of editorial content.

Our organization will make public all donors. We will accept anonymous donations for general support only if it is clear that sufficient safeguards have been put into place that the expenditure of that donation is made independently by our organization and in compliance with INN's Membership Standards.

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