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Kirk Siegler

As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers the urban-rural divide in America. A beat exploring the intersection between urban and rural life, culture, and politics, Siegler has recently brought listeners and readers to a timber town in Idaho that lost its last sawmill just days before the 2016 election, as well as to small rural towns in Nebraska where police are fighting an influx in recreational marijuana coming from nearby Colorado cities.

Based at NPR West's studios in Culver City, CA, but frequently roaming the country, Siegler's reporting has also focused on the far-reaching economic impacts of the drought in the West while explaining the broader, national significance to many of the region's complex and bitter disputes around land use. His assignments have brought listeners to the heart of anti-government standoffs in Oregon and Nevada, including a rare interview with recalcitrant rancher Cliven Bundy in 2014.

Siegler also contributes extensively to the network's breaking news coverage. In 2015, he was awarded an International Reporting Project fellowship from Johns Hopkins University to report on health and development in Nepal. While en route to the country in April, the worst magnitude earthquake to hit the region in more than 80 years struck. 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.

Prior to joining NPR, 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 near Missoula, Montana, and received a journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Across California and the West, where dozens of large wildfires are burning, public health agencies are urging people to seal off their windows and doors, change filters in air conditioning units and in some places wear masks if they have to go outside for any extended period.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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Cliven Bundy is finally set to face a federal jury.

Bundy is the recalcitrant Nevada rancher who has refused to recognize the U.S. government's control of public land, and is accused of leading an armed standoff against federal agents in April 2014. Bundy owed more than a million dollars in unpaid grazing leases and fines. But when the Bureau of Land Management came to round up his cows, it was met by an armed citizen militia and were forced to stand down.

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A federal trial opens in Las Vegas today. This is over a 2014 standoff where ranchers drew guns against federal agents. So far, prosecutors have struggled to convict Cliven Bundy and his sympathizers in related cases. Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

Chris Hernstrom was brewing in the craft beer mecca of Bend, Ore., when an ad caught his eye: Want to live somewhere gorgeous and make beer for a small community?

"It just seemed like an interesting challenge to come out to basically the exact opposite of Bend, some place where the brewing industry is still in its fledgling stages," Hernstrom says.

That place, Hernstrom's new home, is the cattle ranching hub of Valentine, Neb., population 2,700, tucked into the Niobrara River valley in the Sand Hills.

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