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.

Rush hour in Big Sur, Calif., has taken on a whole new meaning.

Most mornings and afternoons, a newly built footpath that plunges through a grove of towering redwoods is clogged with workers and schoolchildren.

That hiking trail is a lifeline. It circumnavigates a bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway that has been closed since February, after it collapsed from rain and mudslides. Without that path, much of the village of Big Sur would be cut off from the outside world.

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.

Marches in support of worker rights and labor unions are taking place around the world Monday, dubbed "May Day." Here in the U.S., they're expected to draw larger than usual crowds due to President Trump's efforts to crack down on immigration.

In heavily Latino Los Angeles, where labor unions also hold big sway, community organizers spent much of the last weekend doing last minute planning and logistics, as well as peacekeeping training.

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."

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.

At the very southernmost tip of Illinois, the pancake flat cornfields give way to the rolling, forested hills of the Delta.

Here, at the windy confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, it feels more southern than Midwest when you arrive at the old river port and factory town of Cairo, once made famous in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

But Twain might not recognize Cairo today.

Along a snowy highway in the Rockies lies Buford, Wyo., elevation: 8,000 feet, population: one.

This tiny town is in danger of losing its last — and only — resident, as the town's longest running business may have to close.

But this is really a story about three people. The first is Jason Hirsch, Buford's town manager.

He mans the Buford Trading Post, which is also the gas station, the store and well, town hall basically.

"The politics are pretty easy around here," Hirsch says. "Sometimes you know, you have arguments with yourself."

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.

Wyoming has become a flash point in the debate over whether hundreds of millions of acres of federal public lands should be turned over to state hands.

From Buzz Hettick's place on the edge of the windswept college town of Laramie, it's a short drive into the heart of these remote lands, vast tracts run by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

On a recent, blustery morning, Hettick was scouting out an elk hunt in the Laramie range, a patchwork of private and public BLM land north of his home.

"A lot of wildlife uses public lands," he says.

The day after the election, Jen Stebbins-Han's kids came home from school and posed a question that before this year, she says, she might have laughed off.

"My kids came home and asked us if their dad was going to be deported," she says. "I don't know where they heard that because it wasn't from us."

Stebbins-Han's husband is Korean-American. Jen is white. The couple has three young biracial kids.

"There is a part of me that's afraid because I don't know what somebody's going to do because they feel emboldened to be able to," she says.

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.

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.

When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet for their third and final debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday — the only one held in the West — they'll be sparring in an important swing state where six electoral votes are up for grabs.

But there's another number you should know about that likely won't get much attention, even though it's hugely important to many Westerners: 81 percent. That's the amount of land in Nevada that's currently owned, operated and controlled by the federal government.

A large flock of sandhill cranes squawks overhead as Brenden Quinlan watches what's left of an early season snow storm roll off the massive Steens Mountain; the snow turning to sleet and then rain as it soaks the wetlands of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in remote eastern Oregon.

"It's something I find that's medicinal [to] come and hang out here," Quinlan says. "It's quiet."

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

Just after dawn, on a rutted out dirt road west of Las Vegas, Nev., Bureau of Land Management Ranger Shane Nalen steers his four by four over a small hill.

"You never know what you're going to roll up on out here," he says, his dispatch radio squawking in the background.

A panoramic view of the rugged Nevada desert unfolds. But there's also something peculiar. The desert carpet is lit up with reflecting lights shimmering in the soft morning sun.

In the small flood-ravaged town of Springfield, La., Rachel Moriarity waited more than a week for a center where she could apply for emergency food stamps to finally open in the Am-Vets hall — but she's been turned away at the door.

This week they are processing only those with last names beginning with A through D.

"I don't have a vehicle to get here," she tells a staffer from the state, who replies that due to the volume of applicants in need, there isn't anything they can do.

When a fast-moving, erratic wildfire ignites, firefighters right away try to save homes and steer the flames away from life and property. But experts say the real danger often occurs in the hours after the big wall of flames rips through.

When rancher Cliven Bundy claimed his family of Mormon pioneers had "ancestral" rights to the federal land in and around Gold Butte, Nev., Vernon Lee scoffed.

"As a native, and as the tribe that actually had that land granted by the federal government back in the 1800s, he really doesn't got a right at all," Lee says. "If anybody's got a right it would be the Moapa Band of Paiutes."

Lee, who is a former tribal councilman, is sitting on a lawn chair in the shade of his mobile home on the Moapa River Reservation.

In Southern California, an out-of-control wildfire that ignited Tuesday in a mountain pass east of Los Angeles has forced mass evacuations and destroyed an untold number of homes and businesses.

The Bluecut Fire is just the latest inferno to plague the historically dry state. In recent days, fast-moving wildfires have raced into mountain towns and even whole cities, blackening more than 30,000 acres and destroying hundreds of homes and structures.

Even with Cliven Bundy and many of his militia supporters in jail, anger toward the federal government is still running high in some parts of the West.

Clashes between ranchers and federal land managers over grazing rights are continuing. In southern Utah, things have gotten so bad lately that some local sheriffs have threatened to arrest federal rangers who try to close forest roads and cut off access to ranchers and other users.

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether Garfield County Sheriff James "Danny" Perkins is serious or pulling your leg.

Stanton Gleave hardly fits the stereotype of a modest, keep-to-himself Western rancher.

Standing in a collection of muddy pens taking a break from shearing sheep near his home in tiny Kingston, Utah, Gleave gives an earful about his frustrations with the Bureau of Land Management and environmental groups.

"That's who we're actually fighting with," says Gleave. "They've indoctrinated and got into this BLM and Forest Service 'til a lot of 'em are right up in the head positions now."

The out-of-control wildfire burning in northern Alberta has fire officials south of the border casting a nervous eye toward the summer.

The latest news that the Canadian blaze has moved into oil fields after destroying parts of an entire city comes as the U.S. Forest Service issues its annual wildfire forecast for the Western United States Tuesday.

In Utah, the Alta Ski Area gets to keep its slogan "Alta is for Skiers."

A federal appeals court has upheld the resort's long-standing snowboarding ban in a legal challenge brought by a group of local snowboarders.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Big Trees Lodge.

Visitors to Yosemite National Park could be forgiven for not recognizing those hostelries' names.

They used to be called — and were famously known as — the Ahwahnee and Wawona hotels.

"It's just really surreal," said Monica Hubert, a former manager of the Wawona. "I mean, it's a National Historic Landmark."

The hotels and other Yosemite landmarks have been renamed because of a contract dispute.

Two days after law enforcement officers shot and killed one of the armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, the FBI released an aerial surveillance video of the incident.

Ever since a tense, armed standoff near Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch in 2014, a vast and sensitive piece of federal public land adjacent to the Grand Canyon has gone unmanaged and unpatrolled.

It's safe to travel into the area called Gold Butte so long as you're not in a federal vehicle, according to Jaina Moan of Friends of Gold Butte, which wants to see the area federally protected.

The last time there was any known federal presence was last summer, when scientists under contract with the Bureau of Land Management were camped here, gathering field research.

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