Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

Action Taken To Protect Fish At Bottom Of Ocean Food Chain

Mar 10, 2015

West Coast fishery managers adopted a new rule Tuesday that protects many species of forage fish at the bottom of the ocean food chain.

The rule prohibits commercial fishing of herring, smelt, squid and other small fish that aren't currently targeted by fishermen. It sets up new, more protective regulations for anyone who might want to start fishing for those species in the future.

Arsenic in drinking water is a worldwide problem. Now a discovery by scientists at the University of Oregon could lead to a new way to remove the toxic chemical, making groundwater supplies safer for communities.

In the environment, arsenic is continuously cycling through different forms and combinations. Sometimes it’s dissolved in water, embedded in rocks, or in gas form in the air. Sometimes the chemical has organic molecules attached to it. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Okanogan is a small town nestled in the foothills of Washington’s northern Cascade mountains, where nearby ranches and homesteads butt up to public forestland.

One of those homes is a cabin in the woods where Bill Bruton and his wife have lived for the past 15 years. He's not too keen to have grizzly bears as neighbors -- a proposition that's drawn dozens of people to meetings hosted by federal agencies in Okanogan, Winthrop and Wenatchee, Washington.

Washington's Makah Indian tribe wants to resume its traditional practice of whale hunting.

The first step in winning federal approval came Friday, when NOAA Fisheries issued a draft environmental impact statement analyzing the tribe's request.

The orcas commonly spotted in the waters of Puget Sound during the summer lead a much more mysterious life in the winter time.

But a team of researchers has just returned from a three-week cruise following orcas along the coast of the Northwest and British Columbia. And they brought back some clues to help demystify the orcas' winter activities.

The Portland City Council today approved a plan to send 13 firefighters to Texas for a special training course on flammable liquid fires.

Portland Fire and Rescue said they are seeking the training in response to the increased rail shipments of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields by rail and barge through the Portland area. Federal agencies have said the crude from the Bakken fields in North Dakota is more flammable than oil from other regions.

It’s truffle season in Oregon’s forests. On a recent weekend, forager Eric Lyon leads a big black Labrador into a stand of Douglas fir trees near the town of Banks.

"Where's the truffle?" he says to the lab named Leroy.

Leroy keeps his nose close to the ground. He's on the scent of a truffle.

"There’s maybe six, 10 inches of the soil that has truffle aroma," explains Lyon, "but they can isolate the exact spot and I just use my little spoon and pop it out."

Leroy stops and digs gently with one paw. "Great aroma! Oh, that's a good one Leroy," Lyon says.

After five hours of debate Wednesday, the Oregon House of Representatives approved a controversial bill that would extend a state effort to reduce carbon emissions from transportation fuels.

The bill passed 31-29 after several failed Republican motions to replace the bill, send it back to committee and postpone it indefinitely.

Tom Kitchar has a theory of mining. It goes something like this:

Way, way back, when humans first came down from the trees, someone picked up a certain rock and realized it was useful.

It was heavy or sharp or easy to grip and use. It was a weapon. It was some sort of tool.

Soon everyone wanted one of these rocks. And those who went out to find and collect them were the first miners.

You might call it the forester's version of Google Earth: new satellite mapping that's giving scientists a clearer view of insect outbreaks in Northwest forests.

A study published this week describes how scientists with Oregon State University have combined new satellite imagery with older data from airplane and ground surveys to show in unprecedented detail where insects are damaging trees in the region.

One of Mt. Hood's glacier caves, Snow Dragon, has partially collapsed, according to Glacier Caves Explorers. Sometime between November 2014 and the end of January, the roof caved in near the entrance.

Brent McGregor of Glacier Cave Explorers said two skylights opened in the cave in November, and last month about hundred feet collapsed, possibly due to warm air entering through the skylights. This has also been a historically low snow year for Mt. Hood.

Crews Work To Clean Up Yakima River Oil Spill

Mar 2, 2015

Emergency crews are responding to a 1,500-gallon oil spill in Central Washington’s Yakima River.

The used motor oil has threatened wildlife since it escaped Sunday from an above-ground storage tank at the site of a former feedlot. The heavy oil flowed across a paved area and into an irrigation ditch, known as Sulphur Creek, which drains into the Yakima River. An oil sheen flowed as south as Prosser, about 25 miles away.

The North Cascades of Washington used to be home to thousands of grizzly bears. Their numbers have dwindled to only a handful over the past century, mainly after over-hunting for fur in the late 1800s.

Now, the federal government is asking for the public's input on its plans to boost grizzly bear numbers in Washington’s North Cascades.

Legal recreational marijuana will become a reality in Oregon on July 1.

That's expected to create new market opportunities for large-scale indoor marijuana producers who rely on powerful grow lights.

“They’re energy hogs. They use an ungodly amount of electricity,” says Ashland City Administrator Dave Kanner.

What Is The Value Of Nature?

Feb 27, 2015

Environmentalists agree that conservation is key, but there is a long-standing dispute over how much to focus on nature's intrinsic value rather than emphasizing its value to humans.

New Orca Baby Spotted Off Washington Coast

Feb 26, 2015

When a family of killer whales swam near a small research vessel off the Washington coast this week, the scientists on board were excited by the large number of endangered orcas that they saw. Their excitement grew when they spotted an orange-tint in the water.

A baby calf.

“We saw it again this morning swimming with its mother,” Brad Hanson, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Thursday. “It’s probably just a few days old.”

Hyla Woods

Feb 26, 2015

A family-run timber company in Oregon's coast range defines profit differently. At Hyla Woods, cutting trees must profit the health of the forest more than the owners' bank account. Peter and Pam Hayes are 5th generation loggers whose philosophy embraces the public trust, not just personal wealth.

MORE INFORMATION

Hyla Woods Website

Oregon Forest Health Reports

President Obama has vetoed the KeystoneXL Pipeline, but as more oil moves through the Northwest by rail, one Republican state senator says a pipeline through Washington state could be a solution.

Rep. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane has introduced legislation that would provide $250,000 to study a possible oil pipeline through Washington state.

The pipeline would move oil from the middle of the country to refineries and terminals on the Washington coast.

A New System To Keep Troops Cool And Use Less Diesel

Feb 25, 2015

Keeping cool may soon take a lot less energy. Northwest researchers have developed a new air cooling system that could be used in cars, buildings and on the Navy’s front lines.

The new air chilling system designed by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could soon be helping to keep troops and cargo cool while they’re at sea.

Japanese Fish Found Alive In Oregon Waters

Feb 25, 2015

Oregon scientists are trying to figure out how a fish, native to Japan, was pulled out of a crab pot on the Oregon coast - alive.

"I've been thinking about it ever since I heard about it," says John Chapman, an invasive species expert at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

He says there's only a handful of ways the striped knifejaw could make it here: in the ballast water of a ship; someone could have dumped their aquarium into the ocean; or the fish survived under debris washed out to sea after the Japanese tsunami.

Pages