EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Air quality in the Portland metro area was rated by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality as unhealthy Tuesday. Areas near Grants Pass and Medford also had substantial haze from nearby wildfires.

Smoke from large fires burning in southwestern Oregon and northern California is blowing north and blanketing the Willamette Valley. This includes smoke from megafires such as the Chetco Bar Fire — burning over 100,000 acres near Brookings, Oregon — and the Miller Complex of fires.  

It's been a busy August for the Oregon National Guard.

More than 600 guard members have been called up to fight wildfires burning out of control in the state. They've dropped more than 750,000 gallons of water on the fires by helicopter.

Even as the firefighting continues, two small teams with the Oregon Air National Guard's 125th Special Tactics Squadron are being sent on a very different mission: assisting the relief effort in Texas.

The Chetco Bar Fire in southwest Oregon has been burning since July. It's now scorched about 118-,000 acres and it’s still completely uncontained. Last week it was designated the nation’s top priority wildfire.

The megafire is still burning just five miles outside the coastal city of Brookings. OPB/EarthFix reporter Jes Burns is on the scene asking questions and getting answers.

What’s The Status This Afternoon Of Both The Fire And The Evacuations It’s Caused?

Hot, dry weather Sunday on the southern Oregon coast made it difficult for fire crews to stop the spread of the Chetco Bar Fire. Fire crews were refocused to keep it from creeping closer to coastal communities.

Residents of the coastal town of Brookings have been dealing with smoke and evacuation warnings for weeks now. Hundreds of them gathered Sunday evening at Brookings-Harbor High School to learn the latest on the fire burning just a few miles from town.

Q&A: So Why Are Atlantic Salmon In The Northwest?

Aug 25, 2017

Last weekend, a net pen broke apart near Washington’s Cypress Island. The pen held 305,000 Atlantic salmon, non-native fish.

The company that owns the pen, Cooke Aquaculture, says it is unsure exactly how many Atlantic salmon escaped. It estimates somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 fish. Cooke and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are inventorying fish are still inside the pens.

The U.S. Forest Service is moving forward with a plan to allow exploratory mining near Mount St. Helens.

The agency issued a draft decision approving Canadian company Ascot Resources Ltd.’s plans to drill for copper and gold in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Patrick Lair with the U.S. Forest Service drove into the Ochoco National Forest to see how things looked after hosting thousands of eclipse visitors.

He drove the same road on Wednesday that more than 30,000 people took to get into the massive Symbiosis Festival on Big Summit Prairie – a patch of private land in the middle of the national forest.

"At one point, we had bumper-to-bumper traffic from the prairie out past Prineville," he said. "I'm kind of amazed not to see more trash on the sides of the road."

Deer graze on tall prairie grass. Bushy-tailed foxes chase rabbits across a windswept landscape. Bald eagles perch along cliffs overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and snow-capped Olympic Mountains.

The southern tip of Puget Sound’s San Juan Island is a wildlife-viewing wonderland.

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior is recommending reducing southern Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, according to the Washington Post.

The boundary shift comes after a Trump administration review of more than 20 national monuments across the West.

State wildlife officials have authorized the killing of two wolves from a pack in Eastern Oregon after confirming four attacks on livestock.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said non-lethal deterrents failed to prevent the Meacham Wolf Pack from attacking cattle and sheep on private land in Umatilla County.

Portland Public School students will still not be able to use campus water fountains when the new academic year starts next week. 

Instead, students returning to school on Wednesday will continue drinking bottled water while PPS begins the process of replacing non-classroom water fixtures to deal with the problem of high lead levels in its water. The replacements will be installed in six waves of 15 schools at a time. 

Q&A with OPB reporter Kristian Foden-Vencil

Geoff Norcross: So just how bad is this fire now?

Kristian Foden-Vencil: Well, it’s destroyed 20 outbuildings, 13 vehicles and five homes. A Level 3 mandatory evacuation order was in place for 3,400 homes. That's been dropped to level 2 now as firefighters have made some progress and the weather has turned more cooperative. But in total, up to 4,000 people have been affected.

Commercial fishing boats are scrambling to catch as many Atlantic salmon as they can after a net pen broke near Washington's Cypress Island. Fishers reported thousands of the non-native fish jumping in the water or washing ashore.

A fish farm's net pen failed Saturday afternoon when an anchor pulled loose and metal walkways twisted about. Onlookers said it looked like hurricane debris.

Rural Economy | Sage Grouse Plans | Steelhead

Aug 10, 2017

Rural Oregon was hit harder by the recession than urban areas, and it is still recovering. Central Oregon regional economist Damon Rundberg shares a report showing that even after seven years of uneven economic recovery, Oregon’s rural counties remain below peak employment. And we hear from OPB’s Amanda Peacher about one ranch that’s trying a new economic model.

This is a guest post by Sarah Craig, assoc

The benefits of an above-average snowpack measured in most locations statewide earlier this year have yet to be fully realized due to extreme heat and little precipitation.

While water reservoirs have reaped rewards from winter snow, people who rely on small tributaries for farming or irrigation are looking at potential shortages.

The Interior Department has released new recommendations for a plan to protect greater sage grouse. The guidelines will give more leeway to mining, ranching and industry groups. They’ll also change a conservation plan that took years to devise.

Sage grouse are iconic birds in the West — including in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. But their numbers in 11 states have dramatically declined with their loss of habitat.

The time is almost here. On the morning of Monday, Aug. 21, many in America will collectively raise their heads to the sky to witness the first total solar eclipse in the region in 38 years. This time around, Oregon is ground zero and the state is preparing for a phenomenon that has been embraced by people from all over the world. Here are some key things to know before the solar eclipse completely covers our lives.

Oregon officials say Willamette River steelhead are on the verge of extinction because they’re getting eaten by sea lions at Willamette Falls.

They're asking Congress for permission to kill some of the sea lions this year to protect the fish.

Native winter steelhead are already on the Endangered Species List because they’re threatened by the impacts of dams and habitat loss.

But with more and more sea lions feasting on fish below Willamette Falls, new data show the steelhead now face about a 90 percent chance of being wiped out altogether.

Lawmakers in Congress passed a major win for West Coast crab fishermen that now goes to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature.

The bill permanently extends a tri-state fishery management agreement in Washington, Oregon and California.

Pages