EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Biologist Adrian Wolf searches the ground for something camouflaged in the dry prairie grass. Then he spots it: a baby streaked horned lark.

Wolf’s hands tremble as he puts a tiny silver identification band on its leg.

“I have an endangered species little life in my hand,” he says, and then places the bird back in its nest.

Only about 2,000 streaked horned larks are left on the planet. Wolf is trying to prevent the native Northwest songbirds from going extinct. But that’s not an easy task considering the dangers nearby.

Hanford is the nation’s largest nuclear cleanup site, with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste sitting in old, leaky underground tanks just a few hours upriver from Portland. After more than 20 years and $19 billion dollars, not a drop of waste has been treated.

WATCH: Battle Ready - The Digital Documentary

The timber industry labor shortage during WWII was very real. Many able-bodied men left the woods to fight in the war and still others felt the pull of wartime manufacturing jobs in cities like Seattle, Tacoma and Portland.

Loggers were exempted from the draft because the United States needed lumber for the war effort. But that didn’t solve the labor shortage.

Like in other war-time industries across the country, women joined the workforce.

“Women do start working the timber industry in the 1940s, particularly in plywood mills,” said UO historian Steven Beda.

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The Navy has just been granted permits by the U.S. Forest Service to expand electromagnetic warfare training over Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

Now the Navy is cleared to drive trucks out into the Olympic National Forest, armed with electromagnetic signaling technology. Then growler jets will take off from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and fly overhead, searching for the signal trucks from the air. It's essentially a military training game of hide-and-go-seek. The trucks simulate cell towers and other communications behind enemy lines that the Navy wants to scramble.

The Canadian government approved a crude-oil pipeline project that is much larger than the one generating protests in North Dakota and could bring a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic to the Salish Sea.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the Kinder-Morgan Transmountain pipeline expansion project. The pipeline currently brings crude from Alberta’s oil sands region to the coast of British Columbia.

Now the company is approved to more than double the pipeline’s capacity.

While many Oregonians spent the Thanksgiving holiday eating large meals with their families, some drove hundreds of miles to feed the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters in North Dakota.

A group of 12 leaders of color, led by Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon Executive Director Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, drove three car loads of supplies to activists who oppose the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

Tribal members there say the fossil fuel project threatens to contaminate the local water supply, and have demonstrated for months against it.

For more than half a century, dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have been taken for granted as a permanent part of the landscape. The four dams on the lower Snake River provide hydropower and navigation to the West Coast’s most inland port -- in Lewiston, Idaho. They’ve also proven detrimental to threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

Now, a longstanding debate — removing or altering the four lower Snake River dams — is back at the forefront of a discussion on how to protect fish while still doing what’s best for all interests along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

In this town of 1,200 people in the southwest corner of Oregon, neighborhoods end where stacks of sprinkler-soaked logs begin.

The town is surrounded by four sawmills in the heart of timber country.

Here in Douglas County, where about half of the land is owned by the federal government, Donald Trump won 64 percent of the county's vote in this year’s presidential election. Trump’s victory has this community and others in the Northwest Timber Belt cheering and hoping better times are ahead.

People who eat fish from Washington state waters will be protected by a combination of new federal and state pollution rules.

That’s the outcome of a decision the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled Tuesday.

The announcement could end years of wrangling over how much to restrict municipal and industrial water pollution. Indian tribes have been especially critical of what they considered lax standards for how much fish can be safely consumed.

Sara Thompson from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission called the decision an important first step.

Conservationists and fishing groups worry their voices aren’t being heard during public hearings about the future of southeastern Washington's Snake River dams.

A federal judge ordered agencies to to consider all options on the table when it comes to protecting threatened and endangered salmon that -- including a hard look at removing or altering the four dams on the lower Snake River.

The Oregon Board of Forestry is proposing to increase the number of shade trees left standing beside streams after logging on private forests. The proposed rules are designed to improve habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout in the western part of the state.

The idea is to get these streams into compliance with the state’s own rules about protecting cold water for these species of fish.

Activists with the Portland Climate Action Coalition are putting the finishing touches on an old school bus they purchased and renovated to serve as a shelter and medical facility for oil pipeline protesters at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

Testing has found elevated lead levels in the tap water at 14 homes in the Portland metropolitan area.

Officials say the lead isn’t coming from the city’s water supply system, but rather from old plumbing inside individual homes.

The tests took place last month in 112 “high-risk” homes, known to have lead solder in their plumbing.

Oregon voters had plenty of other measures to vote on aside from Measure 97. And they approved nearly all of them. Here's a rundown:

Oregon Measure 94 was going down. It would have allowed state judges to serve past age 75. The Constitutional Amendment repeals the state's mandatory retirement age for judges in Oregon.

Steve McMinn ducks into the hollow of an old maple tree and tears a chunk of wood from its insides. It’s not easy to find the perfect tree.

“Sometimes your fingers can tell you more than your eyes,” he said. “It has to be a straight tree, a fairly large tree, a tree that didn’t grow too quickly nor too slowly.”

It also has to be flexible enough to vibrate, pleasing to the eyes and ears, and strong enough to hold a musical instrument together.

When it comes to the amount of trash produced, Oregon is moving in the wrong direction. A new report Monday from the Department of Environmental Quality shows households are producing more solid waste, but recycling and composting less of it.

In a year that has broken record after high-temperature record, politicians in Washington state are saying a vote for them is a vote for the climate. Two initiatives on the ballot claim to be major advances in fighting climate change. KUOW fact-checks the initiative claims.

Environmental activists have lined up in support of Sound Transit 3, the ballot measure (officially known as Prop. 1) that would double the size of the region's light-rail system and make other transit improvements.

Supporters call it the most important vote you can cast for the global climate.

It’s the deep-bellied growl that stops them.

The researchers are just approaching the grizzly bear when he begins expressing his displeasure. Grizzly No. 1225 had been smart enough to avoid a huge, metal box trap. But not the leg snare next to it.

Northwest oil train opponents are celebrating after a county in the Columbia River Gorge rejected a track-expansion request from Union Pacific Railroad.

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