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Nate Rott

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.

Based at NPR West in Culver City, California, Rott spends a lot of his time on the road, covering everything from breaking news stories like California's wildfires to in-depth issues like the management of endangered species and many points between.

Rott owes his start at NPR to two extraordinary young men he never met. As the first recipient of the Stone and Holt Weeks Fellowship in 2010, he aims to honor the memory of the two brothers by carrying on their legacy of making the world a better place.

A graduate of the University of Montana, Rott prefers to be outside at just about every hour of the day. Prior to working at NPR, he worked a variety of jobs including wildland firefighting, commercial fishing, children's theater teaching, and professional snow-shoveling for the United States Antarctic Program. Odds are, he's shoveled more snow than you.

Updated at 8:59 p.m. ET

The Trump administration is proposing to exempt Alaska's Tongass National Forest from long-standing protections against logging and development, opening the door for potential timber harvesting on 165,000 acres of old-growth forest.

Can you see it? The fire in the photo above?

A single tree burning doesn't put up much smoke.

There's a flash of lightning, sizzling across the sky. Then a pause as bark smolders and flames creep, building heat until poof: a signal in the sky.

Philip Connors, gazing outward from a tower, sees it as a new dent on the crest of a distant ridge. He's spent thousands of hours contemplating the contours of southwest New Mexico. The fuzzy smudge is out of place.

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In a move that critics say will hurt plants, animals and other species as they face mounting threats, the Trump administration is making major changes to how the Endangered Species Act is implemented. The U.S. Department of Interior on Monday announced a suite of long-anticipated revisions to the nation's premier wildlife conservation law, which is credited with bringing back the bald eagle and grizzly bears, among other species.

The warnings come with unsettling regularity:

Climate change threatens 1 million plant and animal species.

Warmer oceans could lose one-sixth of their fish and other marine life by the end of the century.

Angel Portillo doesn't think about climate change much. It's not that he doesn't care. He just has other things to worry about. Climate change seems so far away, so big.

Lately though, Portillo says he has been thinking about it more often.

Standing on the banks of a swollen and surging Arkansas River, just upriver from a cluster of flooded businesses and homes, it's easy to see why.

"Stuff like this," he says, nodding at the frothy brown waters, "all of the tornadoes that have been happening — it just doesn't seem like a coincidence, you know?"

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Standing next to his mud-splattered red pickup in Central Arkansas, a tired Robert Stobaugh watches an osprey soar over a field of flooded rice. If anything can survive flooding, he says, it's rice.

"But even rice doesn't like this," he says, looking at the swamp of rust-brown water in front of him.

Updated at 9:35 p.m. ET

The Arkansas River just keeps rising. The usually placid tributary of the Mississippi has become a bloated torrent carrying entire trees downstream, drowning riverfront property and halting commerce for hundreds of miles.

Scott Pruitt, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and his staff spent roughly $124,000 in excessive travel costs during a ten-month period, according to a new report from EPA's internal watchdog.

Up to 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth are at risk of extinction — many of them within decades — according to scientists and researchers who produced a sweeping U.N. report on how humanity's burgeoning growth is putting the world's biodiversity at perilous risk.

The Trump administration is postponing controversial plans to greatly expand oil and gas drilling off of the nation's coasts, following a recent setback in court and months of pushback from coastal communities.

Last month, a federal judge in Alaska ruled that President Trump exceeded his authority when he signed an executive order to lift an Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

Thirty-five miles out of Carlsbad, in the pancake-flat desert of southeast New Mexico, there's a patch of scrub-covered dirt that may offer a fix — albeit temporarily — to one of the nation's most vexing and expensive environmental problems: What to do with our nuclear waste?

Despite more than 50 years of searching and billions of dollars spent, the federal government still hasn't been able to identify a permanent repository for nuclear material. No state seems to want it.

During a testy confirmation hearing on Thursday, President Donald Trump's pick to be the nation's largest land steward told senators that he would take steps to prevent conflicts of interest and to improve ethics guidelines at the Interior Department.

A former lobbyist who represented oil and gas interests, David Bernhardt has been dogged by questions about his own ethics during his short run as the Acting Interior Secretary.

Democrats and environmental groups have accused the former Deputy Interior Secretary of making policy decisions that favor former clients.

New Mexico, a poor but fossil fuel-rich state, is aiming to make itself a national leader in the fight against climate change.

Lawmakers passed ambitious legislation this week that will reshape the state's energy sector by mandating that the state's publicly regulated utilities get all of their electricity from carbon-free sources like solar and wind by 2045.

Trina Jo Bradley squints down at a plate-sized paw print, pressed into a sheet of shallow snow.

She reaches down with fingers outstretched, hovering her palm over a sun-softened edge. Her hand barely covers a third of the track.

"That's a big old foot right there," she says, with a chuckle. "That's the one where you don't want to be like: 'Oh! There he is right there!"

Bradley, like many ranchers, applies a wry sense of humor to things that feel out of her control.

In Tennessee, a wildland fire training academy was canceled. In California and the southeast U.S., forest cleanup and fuel mitigation projects, intended to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, are being postponed. In Montana, a workshop designed to help forest managers better prepare communities for fire risk has been scuttled.

As the partial government shutdown stretches into its third week, becoming the longest shutdown in U.S. history, hundreds of thousands of federal workers remain furloughed.

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And now to the Department of the Interior. President Trump says he plans to name a new interior secretary this week. On Saturday, the president tweeted that Ryan Zinke would leave the post by the end of the year.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

Ryan Zinke is out as secretary of the interior.

Zinke will be leaving the Trump administration at the end of the year; his successor is expected to be announced next week.

On Saturday morning, President Trump tweeted that Zinke is leaving after serving for almost two years. He said Zinke has accomplished much during his tenure and thanked him for his service.

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

Vast amounts of wetlands and thousands of miles of U.S. waterways would no longer be federally protected by the Clean Water Act under a new proposal by the Trump administration.

The proposal, announced Tuesday at the Environmental Protection Agency, would change the EPA's definition of "waters of the United States," or WOTUS, limiting the types of waterways that fall under federal protection to major waterways, their tributaries, adjacent wetlands and a few other categories.

The Trump administration has released plans to lift or alter habitat protections for the greater sage grouse across millions of acres of Western land.

About 150 steps from John Imperato's Southern California home, pavement gives way to an ever-shrinking stretch of soft sand.

Imperato lives in Del Mar, a small, affluent town just north of San Diego. He spent his life savings to live here. He wanted to raise his son like he grew up, withing walking distance of the sea.

Del Mar is a picturesque place; its name means "of the sea," in Spanish.

That's becoming increasingly true.

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We're learning more about the man who allegedly killed 12 people at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The victims include a sheriff's deputy who responded to the scene. The suspect, Ian David Long, is also dead. NPR's Nate Rott has been on the scene for the past couple of hours.

The environment is not typically a top issue for American voters.

But this has not been a typical year.

When a wildfire starts, whether by lightning or human hand, it is almost always smothered.

Firefighters and aircraft are dispatched at the first sign of smoke. Ground crews build tight containment lines, contouring where they can with the fire's edge. Helicopters douse hot spots and flames with deluges of foamy water.

The public and media extol their efforts. The headline reads, "Brave firefighters tame destructive fire."

After more than three months, the volcanic eruption on Hawaii's Big Island appears to be slowing.

Geologists at the Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory say the flow of lava from a crack in the earth at the foot of the Kilauea volcano has greatly diminished in recent days. It was lava from that vent, Fissure 8, that ran toward the coast in a molten river, inundating two seaside communities and reshaping the island's southeast coast.

That doesn't mean the event is over. Tina Neal, the scientist in charge of the observatory, noted that eruptions like this typically wax and wane.

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

The images from the eruption of Kilauea are breathtaking. Lava is gushing from cracks in the earth, spraying — at times — more than 200 feet in the air. Eruptions from the Halema'uma'u crater continue to punch plumes of gas and ash into the Hawaiian sky.

For those living in the southeast corner of the Big Island, the eruption is devastating. Thousands have been evacuated, as rivers of lava slowly burn their way down the flanks of the long-active volcano, consuming homes and blocking roads.

As Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has moved to roll back a sweeping array of Obama-era regulations he's relentlessly cited his goal of providing "regulatory certainty."

In his first address to career employees last year he told the gathered room at the EPA, "Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate. Those that we regulate ought to know what we expect of them, so that they can plan and allocate resources to comply."

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