Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

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.

In a dark fish tank at a government-run lab, a bright sea snail scuttles out from its hiding place.

It’s a pinto abalone, and its numbers are dangerously low in Washington state after decades of overharvesting and poaching. This little-known animal is a delicacy, still served in U.S. restaurants; its shell is a source of mother-of-pearl.

There's no good reason for a live, 8-foot sturgeon to be tied by the tail and tethered to the shore of the Columbia River.

Wildlife cops have found this is how poachers steal these giant fish: They keep the sturgeon alive and hidden underwater while they look for black market buyers.

The cops say the high value of caviar is driving poachers to these inventive tactics. They've also found sturgeon carcasses floating in the river with their bellies slit open after poachers harvested their eggs.

The doe wandered across the wrong property. What’s left of her now is a blood stain in a bathtub.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife Trooper Darin Bean finds the deer’s remnants in a backwoods central Oregon home. He had been searching for the man who illegally shot the deer last January and now, months later, missed his court date.

Bean creeps around a dark corner and calls out to see if anybody’s home. He pulls back a yellow-crusted shower curtain and shines a flashlight on the stain.

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will no longer issue advisories against swimming in 11 Oregon reservoirs it manages or otherwise using the water during blue-green algae blooms.

The corps also says it won't test the reservoirs to see if levels of cyanobacteria exceed state health standards.

Corps officials tell the Medford Mail Tribune the public relies too much on advisories to decide whether lakes are safe.

Tesoro Announces Rail Car Upgrades

May 18, 2015

Oil company Tesoro announced Monday it’s upgrading the fleet of tank cars it uses to carry crude oil by rail.

The company moves crude oil by train through the Pacific Northwest to its refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

Officials with the company said it will add 210 “enhanced” tank cars. According to Tesoro executives, the new tank cars exceed federal standards announced earlier this month.

Native American leaders gathered Thursday in Seattle to draw attention to the ongoing battle between tribes from British Columbia and around the Northwest, and the companies that want to export coal and oil to Asia.

Leaders from the Lummi, Spokane, Quinault, Yakama, Tulalip, Northern Cheyenne, Swinomish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nation of British Columbia gathered at the Ballard Locks in Seattle to call on the Army Corps of Engineers to deny permits for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which could be built near the Canadian border.