Kirk Siegler

Kirk Siegler is a reporter for NPR's National Desk. In this role he covers Southern California and the West from NPR West's studios in Culver City, CA.

Since joining the national desk in December of 2012, Siegler has covered everything from a dock worker strike at the nation's largest port to an unprecedented manhunt for an ex-LAPD officer wanted for a string of vengeance killings. He's also contributed extensively to the network's coverage on the ongoing national conversation about guns; assignments that have taken him from Newtown, CT, to an inner-city Los Angeles hospital's trauma ward, to rural Wyoming.

Siegler has won numerous Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press Awards for his coverage of Environmental, Political and Business issues in Montana and Colorado. Siegler was a 2010 Science Literacy Project fellow at the University of California-Berkeley and most recently he completed the 2012 Knight/MIT "Food Boot Camp" Fellowship.

Prior to joining NPR, Siegler spent seven years reporting from Colorado, where he became a familiar voice to NPR listeners reporting from Denver for NPR Member Station KUNC. He also spent two years as a reporter and news director at Aspen Public Radio. Siegler got his start in reporting in 2003 covering the Montana Legislature for Montana Public Radio.

Siegler has spent much of his adult life living in the West. He grew up in Missoula, MT and received a B.A. in journalism from the University of Colorado in Boulder. He is an avid skier and enjoys traveling and visiting his family scattered across the globe.

Take a drive around the perimeter of Colby Frey's farm in Nevada and it's clear you're kind of on an island — an oasis of green surrounded by a big, dusty desert.

Nearby, a neighbor's farm has recently gone under. And weeds have taken over an abandoned farmhouse in the next property over.

"It's just kind of sad, because it seems like it's kind of slowly creeping towards us," says Frey, a fifth-generation farmer trying to adapt to the current drought in California and in the far West.

California is shaping up to be the next major battleground over the Second Amendment, as gun rights activists in the nation's most populous state push for loosening concealed carry laws.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Here's some good news about the water situation in Northern California: More rain is falling today. San Francisco has seen eight inches over the past week and down south, L.A., has seen four. That's more rain than those two cities received over the whole past year. But the drought is still on and is still severe. And California's farmers are still looking at a bleak situation.

Here's NPR's Kirk Siegler.

In northern Nevada, a place famous for its wide, open spaces and expansive cattle operations, ranchers are in a bind due to the historic drought.

Much of the state is desert, so when people talk about drought, they're really talking about the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. It's at barely 20 percent of average.

This is a huge concern for farmers and ranchers like Julie Wolf, because the mountains store the snow that melts and feeds rivers and reservoirs. These bodies of water then allow the desert to bloom with grass and alfalfa for her cattle.

When Pete Olsen talks about drought on his fifth-generation dairy farm in Fallon, Nev., he's really talking about the snowpack 60 miles to the west in the Sierra Nevada.

The Sierras, Olsen says, are their lifeblood.

That is, the snowmelt from them feeds the Truckee and Carson rivers and a tangle of reservoirs and canals that make this desert bloom. Some of the highest-grade alfalfa in the world is grown here. And it makes perfect feed for dairy cows, because it's rich in nutrients.

Los Angeles may be known for its celebrities, glitz and glam, but the city's mayor, Eric Garcetti, is focused on something decidedly less flashy: infrastructure.

Take the city's airport LAX, for example. You'd be forgiven for mistaking its terminals for a cramped bus station. And stepping out onto the curb can feel like an assault on the senses, with the horns, aggressive shuttle drivers and travelers jostling for taxis.

At a 10,000-foot summit in Yosemite National Park, Frank Gehrke clicks into his cross-country skis and pushes off down a small embankment onto a meadow of crusty snow. He's California's chief of snow surveys, one of the most influential jobs in a state where snow and the water that comes from it are big currency. He's on his monthly visit to one of a dozen snowpack-measuring stations scattered across the high country of the Sierra Nevada.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Think your commute is bad? Try 580 miles, one-way.

Door to door, that's how far Rory Richardson travels between his home in western Montana and his job on the oil fields near Williston, N.D. Often, he makes the trip on a plane his company charters to shuttle workers between here and the Northwest.

"It's no fun coming over to North Dakota," he says, clutching a duffel bag and a cooler of food as he walks out of Williston's one-room airport and into the biting North Dakota winter.

But this is Richardson's new life.

A remarkable transformation is underway in western North Dakota, where an oil boom is changing the state's fortunes and leaving once-sleepy towns bursting at the seams. In a series of stories, NPR is exploring the economic, social and environmental demands of this modern-day gold rush.

On a Sunday at dusk, Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder train is jampacked, filled with people heading to their jobs in North Dakota towns like Minot, Williston and Watford City.

This is one of the best times of the year to spot gray whales off the coast of Southern California as they migrate south for the winter. But recently, there have been an unusually high number of sightings of other whales.

"We've had so many whales," Dan "The Whale Man" Salas tells the guests on his boat. "This is all in the last two weeks. We've had orcas, we had a sperm whale, we've got humpback whales, blue whales, fin whales. Yesterday we had a massive pod of gray whales, so we never know what we're going to see out here."

Thirty-four wildland firefighters died in the line of duty this year. Some of those fatalities were isolated incidents, but one event captured the nation's attention, sparking a larger conversation about the new dangers firefighters face.

That event unfolded in central Arizona the afternoon of June 30, a Sunday.

"I'm here with Granite Mountain Hot Shots. Our escape route has been cut off," says a crew boss on recently released radio traffic from the Yarnell Hill Fire. "We are preparing a deployment site, and I'll give you a call when we are under the shelters.

Longtime civil rights attorney Connie Rice has been following this week's indictments against officers in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. She says it points to a subculture of corruption within certain units, much like the city's scandal-ridden police department of the 1990s.

In the main downtown jails, sheriff's officers are accused of beating and choking inmates without provocation, harassing visitors and then covering it all up.

John Morse was president of the Colorado Senate until September, when he became the first elected official recalled in the state's history.

Three months later, he's climbing the rotunda steps of the gold-domed Capitol building — his office for seven years. He hasn't been here since October. Gazing up at the dome, he says, "This is one of my favorite things to do. That's my version of smelling the roses."

Morse's political career ended over the gun bills he pushed through these chambers eight months ago. But he says he would do it all again.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In Los Angeles today, federal prosecutors announced charges of corruption and civil rights abuses inside the nation's largest jail system. The indictments came against 18 current and former deputies of the LA Sheriff's Department. NPR's Kirk Siegler has details from outside the federal building in downtown Los Angeles.

Pages