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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.

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President Biden today restored the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah that were dramatically reduced under former President Trump. He also reimposed fishing restrictions at a third monument off the coast of New England.

Joey and Scott Bailey are sitting in their kitchen trying to figure out how they'll get through these next few months.

"Just your grass hay that we would spend $30 a bale on, people are spending $150 a bale, and they're driving 250 miles to get it," Scott says.

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Traveling through the drought-stricken West Monday, President Biden used his bully pulpit to sound the alarm about climate change and accompanying extreme weather events and worsening wildfires.

When Mimi Routh got orders to evacuate from the Tahoe Senior Plaza where she lives, she decided not to wait for the city bus like most of her neighbors who were also fleeing the flames of out of control Caldor Fire.

Instead, the 79-year-old Air Force veteran decided to head out on her own. She grabbed a few cherished essentials and drove herself to a shelter in Nevada about twenty miles away.

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Off a lonely highway in northern Nevada, a collection of brightly colored tents, a horse trailer and latrines suddenly comes into view. It's a stark contrast to the pale, sagebrush covered mountains.

"I've been camped here for about a month and a half now," says Gary McKinney, who's ducked under the shade of his tent, its nylon fabric flapping in the near constant wind.

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By the heat of the afternoon, smoke from the largest wildfire burning in the U.S., the Dixie Fire, drifts into Paradise, Calif.

"Quite literally, it's hanging over your head," says Dan Efseaff, director of the Paradise Recreation and District.

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Out-of-control wildfires in northern California are burning homes and again forcing thousands to evacuate.

One of the biggest concerns remains the Dixie Fire, the second largest wildfire in the U.S. It has now burned some 322,000 acres, including much of the northern Sierra Nevada town of Greenville.

Most days by about 8 a.m., the gates at Arches National Park in Utah close because all the parking lots are full and the trails are at capacity.

Many tourists then spill out onto the surrounding federal public lands — those red rock canyons and river cut gorges that first put one of the West's adventure tourism capitals, Moab, on the map.

On a recent hot afternoon, swimming holes along a federal Bureau of Land Management trail east of town, usually a quiet hideaway from the bustle of Arches and nearby Canyonlands national parks, were humming.

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The sun has risen over Delicate Arch, a famous, hulking mass of red sandstone you might remember best as having once been an ubiquitous screen saver.

The miles-long climb for a family photo beneath the 52-foot-tall behemoth at Arches National Park is worth it for Judy Lee and daughter Lindsey Cho. They're on a road trip through the Southwest from their home in Orange County, Calif.

"It's almost our turn, woo-hoo!" Cho says, while she and her mom take sips from their water bottles.

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The number of new wildfires in the U.S. so far this year is at a ten-year high, according to federal data, prompting warnings of a long, potentially dangerous summer of fire.

One of the biggest areas of concern right now is the high desert Great Basin region in Utah, Nevada and eastern Oregon.

"When you have standing dead grass that's already out there and when we have high heat, that ignition potential raises dramatically," said Paul Peterson, a fire management officer for the Bureau of Land Management.

Shoppers and diners are slowly returning to Albuquerque's trendy Nob Hill neighborhood.

It's a welcome sign to Mike and Kathy Holmberg of Arizona, who are on their first visit back to New Mexico since the start of the pandemic. They typically spend summers here in the mountains where it's cooler. But the couple also noticed New Mexico feels much more cautious than Arizona. Restaurants here still require customers to give their name and phone number for contact tracing. Businesses still operate under strict capacity limits.

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