EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

This is the second story in a three-part series on the wildlife refuges of the Klamath Basin and water in the arid West. Read part one here.

A line of binoculars point upwards at a ridge on the edge of Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. There’s an owl’s nest in a small cave about 150 feet up, and Charlotte Kisling has her scope trained.

This is the first story in a three-part series on the wildlife refuges of the Klamath Basin and water in the arid West. Read Part two here.

Driving around Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is like being on bird safari. Guides today are refuge manager Greg Austin and biologist John Vradenburg.

Washington Lawmakers Leave Enviros Feeling Shorted

Jul 21, 2017

Washington’s legislative session, the longest in state history, did not deliver the money environmentalists wanted for toxic cleanup, oil transportation safety, or natural resources.

Going into the session, the Environmental Priorities Coalition — made up of more than twenty Washington environmental groups — had placed a priority on getting the state to spend more on environmental protection.

Chris Wolf and his colleagues at Oregon State University had a question. They wanted to figure out which is worse: chopping down an acre of woods in a forest that’s already been disturbed or chopping down an acre of woods in a forest previously untouched by humans.

Going into the study, he said, “we were more concerned about forest loss in areas that had already experienced a great deal of forest loss.”

Wolf and his team hypothesized that cutting down a last little patch of remaining forest would have disastrous effects for biodiversity.

Forestry Asks Landowners For Help Avoiding Eclipse Wildfires

Jul 21, 2017

Oregon’s Department of Forestry is asking land owners in several districts around the state to help ensure the agency is prepared to respond to wildfires as the solar eclipse approaches.

Land owners in several districts in the path of totality were sent letters from the Department of Forestry earlier this month asking residents to plan ahead. Fire responders warn of the challenges that might arise with an estimated 1 million visitors coming to the state to witness the eclipse.

What's the best way to ensure the return of salmon and steelhead to something like their historic numbers in the Columbia and Snake rivers? It’s been a hotly debated question for more than 20 years. And it's getting a renewed look with a controversial option on the table:

Removing the four lower Snake River dams.

Opponents of expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon say the move was rushed through with little public notice. Supporters point to a series of well-attended public meetings and a comment period in which more than 5,000 written comments were received.

But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s visit to the monument last weekend showed that the community divide over the monument is far from resolved.

Terrestrial is KUOW’s podcast exploring the choices we make in a world we have changed. Subscribe to the show. And join the Facebook group.

Why would a fourth-generation rancher who doesn't put much trust in the government choose to work with federal agencies to restore salmon runs on her property?

Federal and state agencies are investigating a string of wildfires in southeastern Oregon with a potential link to military training exercises.

Seven small fires ignited across state and federal lands on July 11, all attributed to human activity — a suspicious pattern that indicates they could be connected, according to federal officials.

In August, Oregon will be the first state in the continental U.S. in the path of a total solar eclipse. The rare celestial event is attracting crowds of first-time eclipse viewers as well as seasoned eclipse-chasers, also called “umbraphiles.”

Biologist Mark Buktenica scours the shoreline of Crater Lake. He scans white sun-bleached rocks, takes a step, flips a rock.

Scan, step, flip.

Downed flying ants coat the surface of the water. A lizard hunts nearby. Small grey-green toads, about the size of a quarter, hop out of his way.

Scan, step, flip.

“Good candidate, perfect rock, but no salamanders,” he mumbles under his breath.

Chad DelCurto parked his pickup beside the road winding the Snake River canyon, surveying the jagged green edge of Oregon where his cattle grazed. This is where he lost them.

There’s ample feed and room to wander on these remote and rugged stretches of public land. But there’s added risk to open range: harsh weather, disease, rustlers, predators.

“This is the reality — this is outside, all natural, grass-fattened beef,” he said.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wrapped up his weekend tour of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon on Sunday. Among others, he met with a pro-monument group of conservationists, landowners and local elected officials, and with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

Zinke’s visit is part of a review ordered by President Trump, to evaluate 27 national monuments declared or expanded by previous presidents since 1996. Zinke hiked trails and met with a range of stakeholder groups, including ranchers, timber interests and snowmobilers.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke toured the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon Saturday. He’s gathering information as part of President Trump’s order to review monuments designated by previous administrations.

Zinke hiked trails and held closed-door meetings with stakeholder groups, including ranchers and snowmobilers. At a mid-afternoon press conference, Zinke said it’s important to him to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be in Oregon to review the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument this weekend.

The Interior Department confirmed the visit Friday.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is scheduled to meet with Zinke during his visit Sunday.

Zinke’s review is in accordance with President Donald Trump’s executive order to review the status and size of national monuments across the country.

President Obama invoked the Antiquities Act to expand the monument in southern Oregon by nearly 50,000 acres during his final days in office.

Oregon’s attorney general is threatening to sue the Trump administration if it tries to change the boundaries of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. The Department of Interior is currently reviewing the status and size of national monuments across the country.

In his final days in office, President Obama invoked the Antiquities Act to expand Southern Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument by nearly 50,000 acres. The region is considered a bio-diversity hotspot in the West.

The U.S. House passed legislation this week that would provide a land base for two Western Oregon tribes.

The Oregon Tribal Fairness Action (H.R. 1306) would provide 17,500 acres of federal land to the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. Another 15,000 acres would be held in trust for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. Neither tribe currently has a land base.

Wildfire Near Summer Lake, Oregon, Winding Down

Jul 13, 2017

The Ana Fire burning near Summer Lake, Oregon, is winding down.

Officials say the fire, which began on July 8, is now 75 percent contained as of Thursday morning. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the Ana Fire is one of 119 active wildfires burning 1.1 million acres across the country.

Strong, gusty winds and low humidity are of concern for the 316 personnel still battling the blaze. A red flag warning has been issued for the area south of the fire.

At its peak, the Ana Fire was burning 6,000 acres.

A Disappointing Legislative Session For Oregon Environmentalists

Jul 13, 2017
Cassandra Profita / EarthFix

Paige Spence spread a few sheets of paper across her desk at the Oregon Conservation Network, listing out her organization’s goals for the recently adjourned 2017 legislature.

She made a mark for everything that passed, and drew an “X” by everything that didn’t. The first page has losses, but also a few wins. The next one doesn’t.

“Yeah, here’s where the X’s come in,” Spence said. “I think there’s a lot of real disappointments on this page.”

Editor’s note: Research, tenacious advocates and $16 billion have lifted Columbia salmon from the brink of extinction. But the Northwest has yet to figure out a sustainable long-term plan to save the fish that provide spiritual sustenance for tribes, food for the table, and hundreds of millions of dollars in business and ecological benefits. This is part of a special series of reports exploring whether salmon can ultimately survive.

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