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.

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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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As California joins seven other states in holding its primary Tuesday, one spotlight is on a handful of congressional seats in suburban Orange County, where Democrats think they can take back control of the House. That's in part due to the region's fast-changing demographics.

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Rancher Craig Verasjka enthusiastically voted for Donald Trump and his support for the president's interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, had been unwavering. Finally, he recalled thinking after the election, when making land management decisions the federal government might give a friendlier ear to rural Americans who rely on public lands to make a living.

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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A Utah militia leader accused of trying to blow up a federal cabin in Arizona pleaded guilty in a Salt Lake City courtroom Thursday, as part of a late-hour plea deal that avoided a potentially lengthy federal trial.

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.

Walk the bustling halls of Aztec High School in northwest New Mexico and at first glance you might think nothing is wrong.

Banners promote the Aztec Tigers girls' softball schedule. Students roughhouse out on the basketball courts.

But talk to kids for just a few minutes and it's clear all of that is on the surface. They're hurting.

"I feel like my security has been taken away from me," says Sarah Gifford.

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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.

In the pristine resort town of Whitefish, Mont., members of the small Jewish community believe that neo-Nazi online trolls have crossed a line. They went right past free speech rights, residents say, and made credible threats of violence.

Jeff Borders grins with pride as he watches a logging truck rumble down the mountain into a river cut canyon near his hometown of Orofino, Idaho. Logging will always be part of his heritage.

"I started getting into it when I was just out of high school, dad got me in on the company he was working for hookin' logs," Borders says.

His dad, his grandpa, and nearly everyone around here have worked in the woods.

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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

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