EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

The federal government has been telling Oregon for over a decade that its rules to protect threatened coastal salmon are not up to snuff. Now, the state is faced with a loss of federal dollars unless it gets with the program.

In response, the Oregon Board of Forestry is weighing whether to require timberland owners to leave more trees standing along streams to better protect fish habitat. And that’s got owners of small timber lands especially worried.

The marina at Howard Prairie Lake is high and dry. The docks tilt awkwardly this way and that, stranded on the uneven lake bottom.

“Normally, on a year when the lake is full, we’d most likely have 15 to 16 feet of water above our heads. So, yeah, it’s a little pasture right now,” says Steve Lambert, Program Manager of Jackson County Parks.

Kelly Welker knew Seattle’s Georgetown area was an industrial neighborhood when she moved here nine years ago. The air quality isn’t great. But lately, she says, it’s been getting worse.

“I had never experienced going outside of my house and having my eyes burn within a couple of minutes,” Welker said. “Having my sinuses burn within a couple of minutes.”

The Obama Administration is expected to announce a new clean water rule in the next few days, which has some Northwest farm groups worried what new regulations could mean for their operations.

The rule has also drawn criticism from property rights groups and praise from environmentalists.

Of all the shellfish that sell on the black market, one clam is above the rest -- the geoduck.

Pronounced "gooey-duck," these hefty clams bury themselves in sand where they stay for 100 years, doing little more than stretching their meter-long, fleshy siphons up into the water column to feed on phytoplankton.

In shallows when tides have retreated, people dig up geoduck clams with shovels. In deeper areas, scuba divers spray high-pressure hoses into the seafloor to unearth them.

Governor Declares 8 Additional Counties In Drought Emergencies

May 22, 2015

Gov. Kate Brown declared drought emergencies in eight additional counties around Oregon Friday, bringing the total this year to 15.

She also released a public service announcement launching the hashtag #ORdrought.

“It may look green now, but we are going to experience one of the worst droughts in the history of our state," said Brown in a statement. "Snow pack is at historic lows and severe water shortages are nearly a certainty in many areas.”

Astoria officials and locals have been scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to get rid of the ubiquitous barking sea lions that have arrived by the thousands this year on the city's docks. But now, the city may be bringing in the big guns, or should I say, whale.

The Daily Astorian reports that the Port of Astoria is looking into bringing a fake orca near the East End Mooring Basin to hopefully scare away pesky sea lions laying around.

“This exciting discovery shows that wolves are continuing to naturally regain their historic range in the Pacific Northwest,” said spokesman Chase Gunnell in a news release.

Unlike Oregon's famous wandering wolf, OR-7, this wolf doesn't have a radio collar.

In recent months, roaming wolves have also been spotted near Mount Hood, Klamath Falls, and Malheur County in Oregon.

As of 2014, there are 16 known wolf packs in Washington and 9 known packs in Oregon.

This summer is expected to be dry and hot, and that means increased wildfire risk. Communities near range or forest land are especially vulnerable.

In Oregon, it costs an average of $56,000 to protect a home from an encroaching wildfire. That's according to a study by the Headwaters Economics, a public policy think tank out of Bozeman, Montana.

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The state has hired a wildlife-conflict specialist to help reduce tensions caused by the state's growing population of wolves.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife hired Francine Madden, who is executive director of the Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration in Houston. The nonprofit works to resolve conflicts that arise when protecting animals leads to problems in local communities.

Madden was introduced Thursday to members of the agency's Wolf Advisory Group at a meeting in Spokane.

The Oregon Department of Energy announced $1.5 million in grants Thursday to developers across the state. Of the 17 projects the department funded, all but one involves solar power.

The one exception is a $110,000 hydroelectric project for the Sisters Irrigation District. The solar recipients include a school, two ranches, a theater, a visitors center, and two affordable housing projects.

The biggest awards were $250,000 each for proposals based in Klamath Falls, Sheridan and St. Paul.

A federal judge in southern Oregon heard court arguments Wednesday in a challenge against a county's restriction on growing genetically engineered crops.

Two farms brought the case against Jackson County, arguing the ban violates Oregon’s Right to Farm Act. The farmers had genetically engineered-alfalfa planted before voters approved the ban.

Several dairies accused of polluting the groundwater in Washington’s Yakima Valley will now start handling their waste more carefully. That’s because a federal judge has approved an order between environmental groups and dairies. Environmental groups had sued the dairies because they worried about pollution leaking into water supplies.

Hundreds of Oregon industrial facilities are facing tough new restrictions on their stormwater pollution.

Robert Grott, executive director of the Northwest Environmental Business Council, says the restrictions are catching many businesses off-guard.

"Many of them are not in compliance with what they should be doing, so we're trying to bring people up to par," he said. "A lot of businesses aren't staffed to do this right. They might have just one person or a few people on a maintenance team that are supposed to comply with what can be a very complex, technical challenge."

The Bureau of Land Management kicked off a series of public meetings Tuesday on how to manage its forests in Western Oregon. The so-called O & C Lands were once owned by the Oregon and California railroad, but are now used, in part, to produce income for county services.

In April the BLM released a draft Resource Management Plan featuring five different paths forward. The options differ in various ways – from how much land is open to logging (and generating timber receipts for the counties) to how to protect waterways and wildlife.

Environmental Update On Wildlife Detectives

May 20, 2015

We sit down with EarthFix reporters Tony Schick and Katie Campbell to discuss "Wildlife Detectives," a multimedia series investigating illegal wildlife exploitation and trafficking in the Pacific Northwest. Topics include:

Portland and Seattle are known for their parks — and now they have the accolades to prove it.

Laura Daugherty balances a small tray on one gloved hand, like a waiter at black-tie restaurant.

Today’s main course is ring-necked pheasant – freshly skinned and raw.

Her patrons are a teeming pile of flesh-eating beetles.

“I’m sure they’re pretty hungry,” she says of the half-inch long insects. “And this is a nice fresh body for them to work on.”

It’s mud season in eastern Idaho. Winter is over. The reservoirs are filling, the ground is greening and the eagles are returning.

These birds are why researcher Michael Whitfield is in the woods.

“Every spring there’s that anticipation of seeing if such-and-such eagle is still around,” says Whitfield, the principal Idaho researcher at the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Project. “If they’re successfully nesting and if they survive.”

“There’s just something about it. It’s just an adrenaline rush. It’s like, ‘Oh, this could be the one. This could be a really, really nice one.’ I’ve never quite been able to explain that feeling,” Tanner said.