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.

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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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.

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.

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