EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

President Obama has turned two vast sections of Nevada and Utah into national monuments. The Bears Ears monument in Utah covers 1.35 million acres; Nevada's Gold Butte monument is closer to 300,000 acres.

A monument under consideration for southeastern Oregon would be larger than both those monuments combined. But there’s no word on whether such a designation is coming for the Owyhee canyons of southeastern Oregon.

Conservation groups have been pushing for creation of an Owyhee national monument, but ranchers and local leaders generally oppose that.

Coal Train Derails Near Vancouver, Washington

Dec 28, 2016

A single Burlington Northern Santa Fe train car carrying coal derailed early Wednesday about 5 miles east of Vancouver, Washington.

The train was traveling from Montana to British Columbia, Canada.

Gus Melonas, a spokesperson with BNSF, said the railroad has a team on site that's investigating the cause of the derailment, but so far it has ruled out track failure.

New Year Means New Laws In Oregon

Dec 28, 2016

The new year means a slate of new laws will take effect in Oregon. One example: Starting Jan. 1, it will be against the law to release sky lanterns in Oregon.

A sky lantern is essentially a miniature hot air balloon. But of course, there's no one along for the ride. According to Rich Hoover of the Oregon State Fire Marshall's office, that lack of control is a huge problem.

"Essentially," he said, "you are letting go an open flame and you have no control over what direction it takes or where it ends up landing. And that's an extreme fire hazard."

The National Guard has closed facilities across the country to the public because of lead contamination, following an investigation by The Oregonian newspaper.

Normally, the Guard rents out the buildings where it trains and practices, called armories, for community events, from weddings to Cub Scout sleepovers.

Oregon, there's nothing to do here. Count that among sentiments you'll hear from pretty much nobody, ever.

Even after 28 years of producing stories for "Oregon Field Guide," Oregonians have never let us down. We have never run out of stories to tell or spectacular places to visit.

Every year we get invited somewhere we've never seen before, called to join some crew on a wild new adventure, implored to showcase some hidden geologic wonder, or find inspiration to explore a town we've never paused to enjoy. And to that we say, "Grab the cameras and load em' up!"

Cilde Grover braces herself with her cane as she ducks through a small arch in the pasture fence.

“Molly, come!” she calls out, as her dog bounds ahead and blurs into the forest in the misty distance.

Grover remembers wide open pastures on her family's homestead near Brookings in Oregon's southwestern-most corner. That was back in the 1950s and '60s, when she and her three sisters were growing up. But now the trees have the upper hand.

“I look around and I go 'it's closing in on me!'" she laughs, glancing around at the forest all around her.

Oregon’s Marine Mammal Institute is trying to introduce a new vehicle license plate — featuring whales.

The plate would have mother and calf grey whales, with a lighthouse in the background and the title ‘Coastal Playground,' “The idea is that the coast is a wonderful place to come and play for ourselves, but there are other things out there living and playing also,” said Oregon State University professor, Bruce Mate.

Marijuana growers use a lot of pesticides — especially when these mildew- and mite-sensitive plants are grown indoors.

But a growing number of farmers and shops are trying to give their customers a satisfying cannabis high without the downer of pesticide-related environmental or health risks.

Johnny Vanella is among them. At the JV Ranch outside Goldendale, Washington, he harvested his first organically grown cannabis crop this fall.

The Federal Railroad Administration is requiring Union Pacific railroad to increase its inspections and the quality of its track maintenance.

The agreement announced Friday comes in response to a fiery oil train derailment in June in the Columbia River Gorge.

Under the agreement, Union Pacific will need to increase track inspections to twice per week.

Oregon Smokejumper Dies In Alabama

Dec 21, 2016

An Oregon firefighter died Monday from injuries he sustained while working in Alabama.

Redmond Smokejumper Ray Rubio, 52, sustained serious injuries from a fall in November.

The Army veteran had been in Alabama to assist with the outbreak of multiple large fires.

A judge has cleared the way for eight Seattle-area youths to move ahead with an expanded lawsuit that contends Washington has failed to take action on climate change.

The Washington suit is one of several brought against states by children who say they're not doing enough to protect them from climate change. A U.S. District Court judge in Eugene, Oregon, ruled last month that a group of Oregon youths can move ahead with a similar case against the federal government.

Climbers and hikers in the Pacific Northwest have seen first-hand how our glaciers have been shrinking in recent decades. But, until now, scientists couldn’t prove those changes were due to climate change.

Scientists have long known that, globally, glaciers are shrinking because of climate change. But looking at individual glaciers is a different matter, says Gerard Roe, a professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington.

A lot has to happen behind the scenes to get great radio interviews and stories to your ears. The producers of OPB's daily news talk show, "Think Out Loud," have a unique view of the conversations that end up on the air.

OPB looks back at the stories that defined 2016 in Oregon, Southwest Washington and the United States.

When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in mid-February this year, Republicans in Washington, D.C., promptly announced they would not vote on any candidate to fill the vacancy until after the election. Meanwhile, Democrats urged those across the aisle to meet with Merrick Garland, outgoing President Barack Obama’s nominee for the bench.

Winter Storms Give Oregon Snowpack An Early Boost

Dec 20, 2016

Across Oregon and much of Washington, the snowpack is above normal.

Julie Koeberle, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the string of winter storms across the Northwest in recent weeks is benefiting the region’s snowpack.

“Year’s past, we’ve had a little bit of a slow start to the snow season. And so, this year we’ve had an early start and it’s benefited the ski areas," Koeberle said. "It’s been great for recreation."

Judge Halts Logging On State Forest In Oregon

Dec 20, 2016

A federal judge in Eugene has ordered a pair of Oregon timber companies not to log on a former section of state forest near the south coast.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken told Scott Timber Company and Roseburg Forest Products to halt further work on a parcel called Benson Ridge in the Elliott State Forest.

At Lyle Falls, Washington’s Klickitat River rushes through steep canyon walls toward the Columbia River Gorge.

It’s one of a few places where members of the Yakama Nation still fish from scaffolds using dip nets. Fishermen say it’s the only place that comes close to what used to exist at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River.

For thousands of years, generations of tribal fishermen have learned to fish on platforms above the falls. That tradition continues in fishermen like James Kiona Jr., who grew up watching his elders fish here.

The agency in charge of managing Oregon's water resources is being stretched to the limit.

That's one of the findings in a new audit from the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

The Oregon Water Resources Department oversees the state's water rights and works to ensure the state has an adequate supply of water for the future.

The new audit says the agency has been focusing too much time on managing existing water rights instead of working to sustain Oregon's water resources for the long run.

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a sound coming from one of the deepest spots in the ocean. They believe it’s the song of a Minke whale, but it’s not like any they’ve identified before.

The so-called “Western Pacific Biotwang” is more horror movie than Nashville ballad. A low moan at the beginning is typical of baleen whales, but it was the end that caught the ear of OSU researcher Sharon Nieukirk.

“What makes this call special is the second part, and the way it sweeps way up and it sort of has that metallic twang sound to it,” she said.

Backers of a liquefied natural gas project in southwest Oregon say they will try again to get federal approval now that the fossil fuel-friendly Trump administration is about to take power.

Last week, regulators effectively denied the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and pipeline application. But the incomingadministration has supporters hoping for a different outcome this time around.

The Canadian-owned Jordan Cove LNG project would transport natural gas to Coos Bay from sources in the Mountain West. It would then liquefy the gas and load it on ships bound for Asia.

Pages