Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
10:45 am
Mon March 16, 2015

What Fat Grizzlies Can Teach Us About Obese Humans

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NPR Story
10:25 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Mountain Bikers Protest At City Park

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 10:17 am

Portland’s mountain bikers are unhappy over the city’s recent decision to ban them from riding at the River View Natural Area in Southwest Portland. The Park is home to some of the city’s only natural trails for mountain biking. Portland City Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish stated in a letter that they’re trying to “protect the city’s investment in the area,” by allowing only “passive, nature-based recreational uses.”

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NPR Story
10:18 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Beavers Provide Free Labor To Build Salmon Habitat

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 3:26 pm

They may be our state animal, but many people think beavers are a nuisance. They can cause flooding to parks, backyards, and farmland, and it was long believed that salmon couldn't pass through beaver dams. But now some scientists have found that beaver dams actually create a good habitat for young salmon.

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NPR Story
5:25 pm
Sat March 14, 2015

What a Record-Low Snowpack Means For Summer In The Northwest

Scott Pattee, a water supply specialist with the National Resources Conservation Service, checks snow levels at Stevens Pass ski resort in Washington's Cascade Mountains.

Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 3:54 pm

Scott Pattee stands well over 6 feet, but he’s dwarfed by the tall white tube set up near the Stevens Pass Ski Area to measure snow depth.

Little black numbers marking inches of snow ascend the side of the tube. The top number reads 250 inches, an amount of snow that’s hard to imagine right now.

Most of the mountains around Pattee are green and brown, not white - even though it’s officially still winter until March 19 arrives.

And the snow depth, according to the tower?

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4:15 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

Long Road Lies Ahead For Northwest Forest Plan Update

A timber industry group has filed a lawsuit challenging the latest habitat protections for the northern spotted owl, a threatened species.

Timber interests and environmental groups are gearing up for a multi-year fight over how federal forests are managed in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

The Northwest Forest Plan is now 20 years old and due for an update, according to the US Forest Service.

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4:53 pm
Wed March 11, 2015

Low Snowpack Could Lead To More Fires In Oregon, Washington

Three Fingered Jack looms over Hoodoo Ski Area, closed on a lovely Thursday afternoon. A dry winter has led to a very low snowpack in Oregon.

Originally published on Thu March 12, 2015 8:22 am

Low snowpack this winter could lead to an earlier, and more extreme fire season in the Northwest.

In many parts of Oregon and Washington, the snowpack is just ten to twenty percent of the average. It's not that precipitation is low, it's just that it has fallen as rain rather than snow.

John Saltenberger is with the Interagency Coordination center in Portland. He says the low snowpack means fire season could come early. Normally, firefighters are brought on in June, in anticipation of fires starting in July or August.

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NPR Story
9:52 am
Wed March 11, 2015

Port Of Seattle Unswayed In Decision To Host Shell's Arctic Drilling Fleet

Hundreds of people attended the Seattle Port Commissioners' public meeting to voice their feelings about a controversial lease that would allow Shell Oil to keep its arctic drilling fleet at the Port of Seattle. 

SEATTLE -- Port officials are standing behind their controversial decision to host Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet, despite protests, legal action and a city-led investigation.

The Port of Seattle signed a lease earlier this month that has caused a stir among some citizens and elected officials. At a public meeting Tuesday the port's commissioners got an earful when they opened the floor to testimony about their decision to lease Terminal 5 to Foss Maritime, which will then host Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet.

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NPR Story
10:56 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Action Taken To Protect Fish At Bottom Of Ocean Food Chain

A new rule prohibits new fisheries on forage fish species including silversides, shown here.

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 3:08 pm

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.

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9:08 am
Mon March 9, 2015

Oregon Arsenic Discovery Could Lead To Cleaner Drinking Water

UO Geologist Qusheng Jin found arsenic cycling happening in groundwater in a rural area near Creswell, Oregon.

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.

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NPR Story
11:01 pm
Sun March 8, 2015

Some See Grizzlies As Good For Ecosystem, Others See Them As Bad Neighbors

The Yellowstone grizzly bear is an omnivore, it eats meat, fruits, berries, grass and bugs.

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 1:17 pm

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.

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NPR Story
5:23 pm
Fri March 6, 2015

Washington Tribe's Whale Hunt Proposal Gets First Look From Regulators

A gray whale breaching in the Pacific Ocean.

Originally published on Sun March 8, 2015 11:44 am

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.

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NPR Story
5:39 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Researchers Return From Open Waters With Baby Orca Video And More

Southern resident killer whales in February, 2015.

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.

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NPR Story
5:05 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Portland Firefighters Seek Training On Oil Train Fires And Transportation Accidents

Firefighters with Portland Fire and Rescue demonstrate how they would apply fire retardant foam to contain and extinguish an oil train fire.

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 12:23 pm

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.

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5:01 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Truffle Hunters Shut Out Of Some Favorite Spots This Season

Eric Lyon says he wouldn't be able to hunt for mushrooms without the help of his trusty companion Leroy. Each time Leroy finds a truffle, he gets rewarded with a treat. 

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 4:05 pm

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.

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4:58 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Oregon House Sends Clean Fuels Bill To Governor

New rules passed Wednesday in Oregon would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuel by 10 percent over a 10-year period.

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 7:01 pm

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.

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6:31 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Oregon Gold Miners Face Limits If Lawmakers Don’t Act

Southern Oregon continues to produce gold, more than 150 years after the initial gold rush in the state.

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 3:31 pm

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.

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3:12 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Satellites Give Scientists A Better View Of Forest Insect Outbreaks

Damage from mountain pine beetles on lodgepole and whitebark pine trees in Deschutes National Forest.

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 6:02 pm

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.

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NPR Story
3:06 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Mt. Hood Glacier Cave Featured By Oregon Field Guide Collapses

The Snow Dragon Cave is partially closed after a collapse.

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 9:51 am

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.

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NPR Story
12:21 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Crews Work To Clean Up Yakima River Oil Spill

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

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.

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NPR Story
3:14 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Public Input Sought On Plan For Grizzly Bear Reintroduction In Washington

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The National Park Service is evaluating whether to reintroduce grizzly bears to Washington's North Cascades.

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 9:28 am

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.

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