Christopher Ketcham

Christopher Ketcham has written for Harper’s, Vanity Fair, GQ, and many other magazines. More of his work is available at

Recent Articles

This Land Was Your Land

In Utah and other Western states, the country's most pristine wilderness faces new threats from Big Energy and its powerful allies.

One spring morning a few years ago, while on horseback in the wilderness of southern Utah, I happened to meet a horse packer named AJ Rogers, who was filling a stock tank with water he had trucked from his house in a village 15 miles away. Rogers, who is 60, had been riding the remote canyons and mountains of the Book Cliffs-East Tavaputs Plateau in Utah for most of his life, and the roadless part of the plateau, forbidden to mechanized traffic, was beloved country. “Where else can you ride a horse daylight to dark and not cross a road?” he said. When he was 16, Rogers had organized with two friends his first unparented horse pack into the Cliffs, a ten-day journey that was to culminate in “a big bear hunt.” Two of the horses escaped and fled home, others got mired in a bog, and Rogers ended up lost for days, turned about in the deep woods. There were gunshots in the dark, and bears roaring, and hungry times, and a 25-mile night hike, and a posse out looking...

U.S. Out of Vermont!

Flickr/Gwen Roolf
Flickr/Gwen Roolf Last September, about 60 Vermonters met in the chambers of the house of representatives in Montpelier to celebrate the state’s “independence spirit” and to discuss the goals of “environmental sustainability, economic justice, and Vermont self--determination.” The speaker of the house had given up the space free of charge for the one-day conference. First at the podium was a Princeton-educated yak farmer and professor of journalism named Rob Williams, one of the organizers of the event, who at 9 A.M. opened the proceedings by acknowledging what he called “some unpleasant and hard truths.” Amid the twin global crises of peak oil and climate change, the United States was “an out-of-control empire.” It was “unresponsive to the needs, concerns, and desires of ordinary citizens.” Williams, who wore a T-shirt that said “U.S. Out of Vermont,” did not advocate revolution. He was looking for a...

New York Dispatch: "The Place Is Drowned"

Hurricane Sandy sends a brutal message to the city.

(AP Photo)
The high tide at 8:53 p.m. on Monday night, made higher by the full moon, sends the bay 13 feet over the Battery in Lower Manhattan. The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is flooding; so are the subways tubes that cross the East River. At least 250,000 people are already without power in Manhattan. In the south, distant flashes of light look like explosions, diffused in the howling sky. From my rooftop in Brooklyn, the explosions burn for a long moment, then are gone. A half hour later, the sirens call out, the firetrucks and ambulances race, and I wonder what has happened. Nothing to do but head out into the wind on the bicycle—the ultimate hurricane-adaptive transport to move fast in a city where all public transit is shut—and take stock of the moment, for it is historic: This is the first major hurricane in the age of climate change to strike New York City nearly directly, drive the ocean across the land, and put the city in its place—low-lying, seagirt, exposed. In 2005,...

Wolves to the Slaughter

The reintroduction of the gray wolf to the Northern Rockies was an ecological success story—until big money, old superstitions, and politics got in the way.

In April 2001, a U.S. government wildlife trapper named Carter Niemeyer choppered into the mountains of central Idaho to slaughter a pack of wolves whose alpha female was famed for her whiteness. He hung from the open door of the craft with a semiautomatic shotgun, the helicopter racing over the treetops. Then, in a clearing, Niemeyer caught a glimpse of her platinum fur. Among wolf lovers in Idaho, she was called Alabaster, and she was considered a marvel—most wolves are brown or black or gray. People all over the world had praised Alabaster, had written about her, had longed to see her in the flesh. Livestock ranchers in central Idaho, whose sheep and cows graze in wolf country, felt otherwise. They claimed Alabaster and her pack—known as the Whitehawks—threatened the survival of their herds, which in turn threatened the rural economy of the high country. She had to be exterminated. When Alabaster appeared in Niemeyer’s sights, a hundred feet below the...

The New Populists

In the month before the destruction of the encampment in Zuccotti Park, I got in the habit of biking across the Brooklyn Bridge each night to talk with the Wall Street Occupiers and wander among the tents. There was always work to behold—bigger tents going up, new volunteers welcomed, the kitchen doling out free food, the media groups live-streaming, dishes being done, cops being teased—and always conversation to be had and heard. The protesters liked to work, but they loved to talk, and mostly what they talked about was how to organize to destroy the power of money in America. They were pissed off about it—pissed off at the corporations, the banks, the financiers, the corrupt legislators, the corrupt presidents, the corrupt everything. “It doesn’t matter which party is in power,” Jeff Smith, a 41-year-old former media consultant, told me. “The banks and the corporations own them both.” And President Barack Obama? “He is worse than...