EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

About 100,000 acres of federal land in southwest Oregon would be off-limits to new mining claims under a proposal expected Monday.

The area is in Josephine and Curry counties near the Chetco River. Conservation groups have been trying to protect the area from nickel mining and other types of mineral extraction.

The Bureau of Land Management has the power to stop new mining development for up to 20 years through a process called “land withdrawal.”

It’s been a one-two punch of low snowpack last winter and not enough rain this spring for many Northwest rivers. Warm temperatures and low river flows are causing problems for salmon making the return migration.

In rivers and streams across the Northwest, waters are reaching a tipping point for salmon. Salmon like water temperatures to be 68 degrees. Officials say water temperatures in June are what is normally expected in late August.

Tom Petersen’s 50-foot crab boat sits idly in the Port of Willapa Harbor, a tiny coastal inlet 40 or so miles north of the mouth of the Columbia River.

On a normal early-summer day, Petersen would be selling Dungeness crab to canneries, big-city buyers and even fresh off the back of his boat to locals and tourists.

And he’d be making good money doing it. With crab selling at up to $10 per pound, Petersen could be making thousands of dollars a day.

Public Input To End On Timber Sale Near Oregon Gulch Fire

Jun 25, 2015

The public comment period for the New Hayden Fox vegetation treatment project in southern Oregon ends Friday. The Bureau of Land Management field office in Klamath Falls is proposing commercial timber thinning, brush mowing and reducing overall fire hazards.

The 1,450-acre area is located in the southwestern portion of the Klamath Falls Resource Area, just north of the California border.

The $343.5 transportation funding package to cover road and transportation updates has been abandoned by Oregon Senate leaders due to the looming end of session deadline.

The propsal was drafted by eight bipartisan lawmakers, known as the "Gang of Eight," and proposed raising millions annually through a 4-cent gas tax increase. However, Gov. Kate Brown said there just wasn't enough time to push the complex package through.

Oregon Firefighter Trains For A Big Season

Jun 25, 2015

Across the West, wildland firefighters are preparing for a busy season and a hot, dry summer, which is becoming the new norm. As EarthFix reported, more than 1.3 million acres have burned in the Northwest each year for the past three years.

Teresa Brna, 24, is a new seasonal firefighter with the Ochoco National Forest based in Prineville. OPB will check in with her throughout the summer. Recently, reporter Amanda Peacher followed her for a day at "guard school."

Update: Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday called for the repeal of Oregon's clean fuels law and the passage of a transportation package to be considered separately. See below.

Hot weather is coming to the region this weekend, which concerns fire officials. As a precaution, fire managers say they're ramping up resources in anticipation for more blazes.

"I'm sure everyone is aware of the heat wave that is predicted over the next several days," Tom Fields, Oregon's Department of Forestry Fire Prevention Coordinator, said in a statement. "While we're all looking for ways to stay cool, now is not the time to be careless with activities that could lead to a wildfire."

This year’s drought is affecting Washington in all kinds of ways. It’s even threatening to make a potential government shutdown more painful. That would happen on July 1 unless a budget agreement is reached.

Jeff Marti, the Washington Department of Ecology’s drought coordinator, says the state won’t be able to grant emergency permits to access water if your well dries up or if river levels drop so low that your pipes no longer reach the water.

A new scientific study just published in the June issue of the journal Carcinogenesis: Integrative Cancer Research suggests that chemicals found in the environment that could be harmless in low doses, have the capacity to become carcinogenic if combined. The research spanned two years, and 174 scientists in 28 countries.

The longstanding legal battle over maintaining dams and salmon in the Columbia River is back in court this week. On Tuesday, a new judge will hear arguments on the Obama administration's latest salmon plan.

Chandra LeGue and David Calahan are facing a bit of a problem. They’re at the Sundown Trailhead near Southern Oregon's Applegate Valley. And they’re standing in the middle of a cloud.

Normally hiking in foggy weather isn’t a big deal. But on this day LeGue wanted it to be clear so the Google Trekker apparatus she’s carrying on her back can photograph the trail.

A couple of years ago, divers in Puget Sound began to notice something odd: Starfish were disappearing.

The sea creatures would get sores and then melt into piles of mush. Sea star wasting syndrome is a gruesome disease and it spread to starfish all along the West Coast. Scientists still don't know a lot about it.

Katie Campbell, a reporter for EarthFix and KCTS, says that although scientists have isolated the cause, the creatures continue to die.

Toxic Algal Bloom Hits West Coast

Jun 17, 2015

A huge toxic algal bloom is forcing many shellfish fisheries to shut down along the West Coast. The health effects from eating shellfish contaminated by the toxin associated with the blooms can result in memory loss, seizures and even death.

The West Coast is experiencing the largest bloom of toxic algae in more than a decade, prompting wide-ranging closures of commercial crab and shellfish harvesting.

It’s also causing some very weird behavior in marine wildlife.

Wildlife managers spotted a sea lion on the southern Washington coast that was arching its back and having seizures. They had to euthanize it.

West Coast Fish Species Recovers Decades Ahead Of Schedule

Jun 16, 2015

Fishery managers say two valuable West Coast groundfish have recovered ahead of schedule: canary rockfish and petrale sole.

That's good news for the fishing industry. The fleet has been restricted from catching healthy stocks of fish that swim alongside these protected species at the bottom of the ocean.

For more than a decade, canary rockfish have been what's considered a "choke" species. That is, protecting them choked off fishing access to other valuable species like Dover sole and black cod.

The Vatican has invited Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to discuss climate change and human trafficking with Pope Francis. The city says Hales is one of 16 mayors from around the world chosen to attend a papal summit on July 21.

Pope Francis is issuing a decree this week on climate change. In a draft leaked by an Italian magazine, he backed the scientific explanation of climate change, and linked the issue to global inequality and poverty.

As the Northwest drought deepens, millions of dollars in emergency federal aid are headed toward stricken states, top Obama administration officials told seven western governors Friday.

The White House says it will make $110 million available to help those suffering from the effects of drought.

A variety of federal agencies will disperse the money. Some will be used to help farmers find ways to conserve water, change grazing practices and improve irrigation.

Rob Manning/OPB

Northwest  forest policy is once again heating up.  Last week, federal officials presented their latest assessment of the Northwest Forest Plan, which covers more than 2 million acres of federal land in Washington, Oregon and California.  Jes Burns from our EarthFix team gets together with JPR’s Liam Moriarty to break it all down.

On a former landfill site in Northeast Portland, a white rot fungus has taken hold – and that's a good thing. It's a mushroom known for its ability to clean up water pollution.