Kirk Siegler

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.

Siegler grew up near Missoula, MT, and received a B.A. in journalism from the University of Colorado.  He’s an avid skier and traveler in his spare time.

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

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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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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.

Next door to the Mandalay Bay casino where Sunday night's shooting rampage occurred on the Las Vegas strip, British tourist Gary Shepherd was struggling like nearly everyone else to process what happened.

"Whether this will finally change your gun laws, I fancy not, personally," Shepherd says.

The country's latest – and now deadliest in recent history – mass shooting has again reignited debate over gun control, and whether tougher gun laws could prevent future tragedies.

The early analysis is that Shepherd's hunch is probably right.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending that the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be shrunk. He also is calling on Congress to give Native American tribes more say in how the new monument is managed.

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Russian Americans have been among President Donald Trump's most loyal supporters. After a week of scandals, many say they're unfazed by the recent scandals roiling Washington.

A lot of the anger over federal public land in rural Utah today can be traced back to a windy, gray day in Arizona in September 1996. At the Grand Canyon, President Bill Clinton formally designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, more than 100 miles away.

"On this remarkable site, God's handiwork is everywhere in the natural beauty of the Escalante Canyons," he said.

But Clinton didn't set foot in Utah. The planning for the monument was largely done in secret, and state leaders had little warning it was coming.

Phil Lyman cared so much about what he sees as his right to drive all-terrain vehicles into Recapture Canyon, he went to jail for it.

"Going into this, you know, I've said a number of times, I'm a foot soldier," the San Juan County, Utah, commissioner says. "I'm not a captain. I'm not a general. I'm willing to die on a battlefield for a good cause."

President Trump is expected to sign an executive order Wednesday that could end up shrinking — or even nullifying — some large federal national monuments on protected public lands, as established since the Clinton administration.

A quiet change to the website photo banner of a relatively obscure federal agency is causing a bit of an outsize stir on social media.

On the top of its home page, the Bureau of Land Management, which manages more than 200 million acres of public land under the U.S. Department of the Interior, swapped out a photo of a young boy and his companion backpacking across a mountain meadow in favor of one showing a massive coal seam at a mine in Wyoming.

As California water officials confirmed Thursday that the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada remains well above average, pressure was mounting on the state to lift emergency water restrictions that have been in place for two years.

The snowpack across the mountains is now 164 percent of average, a closely watched marker in the nation's most populous state — and biggest economy — where one-third of all the drinking water comes from snow-fed reservoirs.

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It became clear in the last election that a stark division existed between urban and rural areas. In places such as north Idaho, people with similar political stripes have begun seeking each other out.

When Adrien Koch retired last summer from her job with FEMA in the Bay Area, she and her husband resettled in the wooded mountains of north Idaho. They had visited only a few months before on a vacation but had quickly fallen in love. For Koch, Idaho reminded her of the California she knew in the 1970s.

Republicans want to eliminate one of the nation's newest national monuments.

Former President Barack Obama created the 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah just days before he left office.

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President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the U.S. Department of Interior, Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., says he does not believe climate change is a hoax and promises to bring a Teddy Roosevelt-style approach to managing federal public lands.

Zinke made the comments at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday. The congressman and decorated former Navy SEAL commander faced about four hours of questioning.

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A few weeks before the election, the Tri-Pro lumber mill in north Idaho shut down. It was the second mill to close in the area in six months, putting more than a hundred people out of work.

While that's big economic loss for any community, it was especially tough for the tight-knit town of Orofino and its 3,000 or so residents.

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As we wait for Hillary Clinton's concession speech, this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. With Renee Montagne, I'm Steve Inskeep.

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The surprise acquittal of Ammon Bundy and six other militants who occupied a bird sanctuary in Oregon last January has emboldened the movement's militia followers, who claim the federal government has no right to own public land.

"We're fighting for our freedoms, for our rights to keep our Constitution," said defendant Shawna Cox, outside a federal court in Portland last week.

As the six-week trial of Ammon Bundy and his co-defendants wound its way to Thursday's startling conclusion, Bundy's supporters were a colorful presence outside the federal courthouse in Portland, Ore.

They dressed in traditional cowboy attire and waved American flags at passing cars. Some even rode horses up and down the busy city sidewalk.

A block away, Jarvis Kennedy watched all of this and rolled his eyes.

"We don't claim to be victims, but we were," he said.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

The jury hearing the federal trial of seven people who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon entered a fourth day of deliberations Wednesday — a day after jurors' ability to reach a verdict came into question.

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