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Kirk Siegler

As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers rural life, culture and politics from his base in Boise, Idaho.

His beat explores the intersection and divisions between rural and urban America, including longer term reporting assignments that have taken him frequently to a struggling timber town in Idaho that lost two sawmills right before the election of President Trump. In 2018, after the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, Siegler spent months chronicling the diaspora of residents from Paradise, exploring the continuing questions over how – or whether – the town should rebuild in an era of worsening climate-driven wildfires.

Siegler's award winning reporting on the West's bitter land use controversies has taken listeners to the heart of anti-government standoffs in Oregon and Nevada, including a rare interview with recalcitrant rancher Cliven Bundy. He's also profiled numerous ranching and mining communities from Nebraska to New Mexico that have worked to reinvent themselves in a fast-changing global economy.

Siegler also contributes extensively to the network's breaking news coverage, from floods and hurricanes in Louisiana to deadly school shootings in Connecticut. In 2015, he was awarded an international reporting fellowship from Johns Hopkins University to report on health and development in Nepal. While en route to the country, the worst magnitude earthquake to hit the region in more than 80 years struck. The fellowship was cancelled, but Siegler was one of the first foreign journalists to arrive in Kathmandu and helped lead NPR's coverage of the immediate aftermath of the deadly quake. He also filed in-depth reports focusing on the humanitarian disaster and challenges of bringing relief to some of the Nepal's far-flung rural villages.

Before helping open the network's first ever bureau in Idaho at the studios of Boise State Public Radio in 2019, Siegler was based at the NPR West studios in Culver City, California. Prior to joining NPR in 2012, Siegler spent seven years reporting from Colorado, where he became a familiar voice to NPR listeners reporting on politics, water and the state's ski industry from Denver for NPR Member station KUNC. He got his start in political reporting covering the Montana Legislature for Montana Public Radio.

Apart from a brief stint working as a waiter in Sydney, Australia, Siegler has spent most of his adult life living in the West. He grew up in Missoula, Montana, and received a journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The historic government shutdown is beginning to stir anxiety in and around Paradise, Calif. The town of about 25,000 people was almost completely destroyed by a deadly wildfire last November and almost everyone and everything directly affected is relying heavily on federal aid.

So far FEMA and Small Business Administration loans do not appear to be affected. But local officials say the shutdown is causing delays in more under-the-radar infrastructure projects, which could have serious, longterm consequences.

Editor's Note: NPR's Kirk Siegler is based temporarily in Butte County, Calif. Along with other reporters, he will be covering the cleanup and recovery effort in and around Paradise. If you want to share your story email natdesk@npr.org with "Paradise" in the subject line.

The quaint, college town and farming hub of Chico is clogged. People are living out of every hotel in town. Campers line neighborhood streets and the country roads that fan out into the walnut and citrus orchards. Every guesthouse and guest room is full.

When firefighter and Malibu town councilman Rick Mullen got the call last month for the Woolsey Fire, he set in motion a plan his family had long practiced. While he and his crew mobilized to the front lines, his son stayed home and defended their house, even though they were under evacuation orders.

His son and some friends were a small crew who knew what to do, had supplies to survive for days on their own, and they stuck to the plan.

It's looking like the House and Senate could be finally coming to agreement on the sweeping Farm Bill. One of the latest big sticking points has been a provision that would limit public review and environmental analysis of forest projects on federal public land.

The Trump administration is pushing this in the wake of the deadly wildfires in California. In his second visit to Paradise, Calif., in as many weeks, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said on Monday that some of the disaster could have been mitigated if there had been more active forest management.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

To explain why folks in rural Delta County, Colo. are feeling a lot less anxious than they were a couple years ago, consider the story of Johnny Olivas.

He's digging a line down a steep, dirt driveway, where he'll lay fiber optic cable into a home. His company, Lightworks Fiber, has begun installing badly needed broadband to this remote valley of deserts and aspen-cloaked mesas.

"I didn't know anything about fiber optic, but you catch on pretty quick," Olivas says during a break. "It's a hell of a lot easier than coal mining."

A Wyoming property rights attorney who's long criticized what she calls federal overreach over public land management will take a position as one of the U.S. Department of Interior's top litigators.

The DOI confirmed in an email Monday that Karen Budd-Falen will join the agency as deputy solicitor for parks and wildlife.

You can add Robert Rodriguez to a growing list of Angelenos living right on the brink of homelessness. Rodriguez shares his story, talking softly, as he leans on his walker outside his old apartment. He was evicted the day before.

"Everything is gone," he says. "It's all in storage."

In Redding, Calif., where the Carr Fire burned more than 200,000 acres and destroyed more than a thousand homes, there's a feeling of desperation. Something has to be done to clear the dense stands of trees and thick brush in the mountains around town, or the next fire will be even worse.

"It's not just global warming," said Ryan Adcock, who grew up here. She was forced to evacuate her home for five days due to the Carr Fire and was taking advantage of a rare smoke free morning walking with her kids along a river front bike path.

Along the country roads that fan out from Ogallala, Neb., there are abandoned, weathered old farmhouses and collapsed barns, remnants of the hardscrabble settlers who first tapped the Ogallala aquifer and turned the dry, high plains into lush wheat and corn fields.

Like a lot of the Midwest, western Nebraska slowly emptied out over the years, which is why a lot of locals say the current housing shortage is nothing short of a paradox.

Updated August 13

One year after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., hundreds of counterprotesters overwhelmed the small number of 'this year's Unite the Right' rally attendees in Washington D.C.

Here's a telling statistic: Seven of the most destructive wildfires in California history have occurred just in the past 13 months.

The Camp Fire in Butte County is at the top of the list as the most deadly and destructive with at least 79 deaths, over 15,000 structures and 151, 000 acres burned and the fire still not fully contained.

Ten years after the housing collapse during the Great Recession, a new and different housing crisis has emerged.

Back then, people were losing their homes as home values crashed and homeowners went underwater. Today, home values have rebounded, but people who want to buy a new home are often priced out of the market. There are too few homes and too many potential buyers.

On the last day of school in the rural town of Cairo, on the southernmost tip of Illinois, the fire truck ran its hoses so kids could cool off in the sweltering heat. The staff barbecued burgers and hot dogs.

It was a light-hearted anecdote to what had been another tough year.

After a precipitous decline since 2012, enrollment dropped by another 100 or so students. This year there were only 26 seniors in the graduating class.

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

Thousands of service workers marched on campuses across California on Wednesday, marking the final push of a planned three-day strike that began earlier this week. Custodians, cafeteria staff, truck drivers and nurse's aides, among others, took up signs and slogans to call attention to their floundering contract negotiations with the University of California system.

Honduran Deana Quczada peels back her young daughter's black hair to reveal a deep scar on her forehead. She was beaten, Quczada says, six months ago as part of an apparent revenge attack on her family by gangs that Quczada's husband may have been mixed up with. When her daughter was released after spending a month in the hospital, Quczada immediately fled with her north in hopes of making it to the United States, where she could ask for political asylum.

I've heard that if you ask the U.S. for help, they will give it, she says in Spanish.

Family photos, Bible verse decals and wedding mementos adorn Jimmy Mejia and Patty Garrido's living room walls in South Los Angeles. Despite their efforts, the decorations can't mask the unpatched holes in the ceiling and the roaches that crawl around their kitchen. In one corner, there's a hole where the drywall caved in after a recent storm.

"The heater doesn't work, so in the winter it's really hard; it gets really cold here," Mejia said.

At last count, nearly a dozen local governments in California have voted to oppose what is known as the state's "sanctuary law" — Senate Bill 54 — escalating tensions over the long-divisive issue of illegal immigration in the Golden State.

The law, passed last year, aims to protect some immigrants in the country illegally by limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

Terry Lewis has probably ridden every trail, gully and meadow you can find in the mountains around his boyhood home of Weed, N.M.

"It's harder to get to know our country, if you don't do it on horseback," Lewis says.

Lewis, 74, is bouncing along a dirt road in a worn pickup, certainly not his preferred mode of travel in this high altitude island of tree-covered mountains that towers over the harsh southern New Mexico desert. Lewis recalls a time when he'd cover two or three times as much ground on horseback, riding to his old summer ranges here.

Patrick Hogan has never been able to rebound after losing his home during the financial crash 10 years ago. He worked temp agency jobs. But $10 an hour jobs doesn't cut it in one of the most expensive corners of the nation.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Ranchers across the West watched intently as the federal government prosecuted a Nevada ranching family for leading armed militia standoffs over cattle grazing on public land. Last month, the case against Cliven Bundy and his sons collapsed and now they're calling on other cattlemen to defy federal grazing rules and regulations.

The question now is whether – or if – that will resonate among scores of other ranchers who rely on federal public land to graze their cattle.

Updated at 2:49 p.m. ET

Less than one month after U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the case against Cliven Bundy, his two sons, and a self-styled militiaman, Navarro has dismissed the charges entirely. The decision Monday puts an end to the federal case against the four men for their role in the 2014 armed standoff over cattle-grazing rights in Nevada.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Sidney, Neb., Cabela's corporate headquarters and flagship superstore sit up on a hill like a castle over the prairie. Pretty much everybody in town has deep ties to it. Melissa Norgard got her first job there working in the store's deli when she was 16.

"When I was growing up here, no, I never would have ever thought, Cabela's leaving, no," Norgard says.

Wildfires in December are the new norm for California.

In the West, they are burning hotter and more intensely than ever due to climate change, and the situation is made worse by the explosion of development in fire prone areas and past firefighting decisions. Here are three reasons the fires are massive and likely won't abate anytime soon.

1. It's nearly impossible to put out a modern mega-fire

The destructive wildfires in Southern California are capping one of the worst fire seasons on record in the state. They come less than two months after thousands of homes burned and more than 40 people were killed by fires in Northern California. Climatologists warn that this is the new reality for the region, where wildfires are occurring year-round.

Los Angeles residents Neil Fazzari and his wife, Kirsten, are stunned to see such a large wildfire this late in the year. "It was a shock this morning when our neighbors knocked on our door," Kirsten said.

President Trump has dramatically scaled back two national land monuments in Utah. The administration and Republican leaders in Utah say taking the land out of the hands of the federal government will allow the state to decide what to do with it, including protecting some areas and possibly allowing development in others.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Updated at 9:30 p.m. ET

On a visit to Utah on Monday, President Trump announced his proclamations dramatically shrinking the size of the state's two massive national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. Taken together, Trump's orders mark the largest reversal of national monument protections in U.S. history.

The change has already been challenged in court by conservation groups.

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