Nate Rott

Nathan Rott is a reporter on NPR's National Desk.

Based at NPR West in Culver City, California, Rott spends a lot of his time on the road, covering everything from breaking news stories like the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino to in-depth issues like the future of our national parks. Though his reporting takes him around the country, Rott's primary focus and interest is the ever-changing face of the American West. Whether it's the effects of warmer waters in the Pacific Ocean, the changing demographics of rural towns, or the plight of the prairie chicken, Rott tries to tell the stories of the people that live, breathe, and work in the American West and portray the issues that are important to them.

Rott owes his start at NPR to two extraordinary young men he never met. As the first recipient of the Stone and Holt Weeks Fellowship in 2010, he aims to honor the memory of the two brothers by carrying on their legacy of making the world a better place.

As a Montanan and graduate of the University of Montana, Rott prefers to be outside at just about every hour of the day. Prior to working at NPR, he worked a variety of jobs including wildland firefighting, commercial fishing, children's theater teaching, and professional snow-shoveling for the United States Antarctic Program. Odds are, he's shoveled more snow than you.

The greater sage grouse is a peculiar and distinctly Western bird. It's about the size of a chicken and about as adaptable as the dodo bird, which is to say it's not very adaptable at all — at least not in a human-driven time scale.

In biological terms, the greater sage grouse is perfectly adapted for its habitat: the rolling hills of knee-high silver scrub that's sometimes called the sagebrush sea. It's the oft-forgotten parts of the fast-changing West — The Big Empty, as settlers used to call it.

The Fish Creek Fire in Interior Alaska isn't much to look at. It's about 7,500 acres in size, sitting about an hour south of Fairbanks near the twisty Tanana River. The main fire front — the made-for-TV part, with torching trees and pulses of orange heat — flamed out more than a week ago, leaving behind a quiet charred landscape.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

"Extreme." "Unprecedented." "Historic." Those are just a few of the words being used to describe the start of this year's fire season in North America.

The wildfires are centered in the northwest of the continent, but their consequences are far-reaching. Thick smoke has blanketed parts of Wisconsin and North Dakota. It's triggered air alerts in Minnesota and Montana and muddied skies as far south as Tennessee and Colorado.

And, of course, things are even worse at the source.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now to a victory tour that kicked off today in Los Angeles. The U.S. women's soccer team is back from Canada, gold trophy in hand, after dominating Japan in the World Cup final on Sunday. NPR's Nathan Rott took in the scene at the LA rally.

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