EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Winds from the north and northeast have carried wildfire smoke from British Columbia over Washington and Oregon.

“We didn’t expect it to go that far so quickly,” says Ranil Dhammapala, with the Washington State Department of Ecology. “It’s pretty much blanketed the whole state.”

And forecasts predict smoke will keep coming and continue to blanket Washington and Oregon throughout the weekend. In eastern Washington, the winds will shift and bring smoke from Montana. And, in western Washington and Oregon, the winds will bring back smoke that’s drifted over the Pacific.

Two fish ladders at the spillway weren’t built properly, and so they’re useless for giving fish passage to the waters above the dam.

“It’s just really, really violent high hydraulics, and they can’t make it up it — under any conditions,” Thomas said.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency Wednesday as wildfire danger increased across the state.

Rising temperatures, high winds and dry conditions are likely to persist through at least the remainder of the week, creating a high chance of wildfires spreading across Oregon.

"As Oregon faces a near record-breaking heatwave, the threat of wildfires increases," Brown said in a statement.

Red flag warnings were issued across the state this week, as temperatures in the Willamette Valley crested 100 degrees in many places.

A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey finds that the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats can be spread much more readily than previously thought.

Ellie and Emma are toddlers. They spend a lot of time with their dad Tim Billo in Seward Park, a fragment of old-growth forest on the edge of Lake Washington. Billo’s a lecturer at the University of Washington’s College of the Environment.

The grove Billo and his daughters are exploring today used to have sword ferns that had grown taller than Ellie and Emma. But, now, the ground is bare and dusty. There are no plants growing beneath the towering trees.

This is the final story in a three-part series on the wildlife refuges of the Klamath Basin and water in the arid West. Read part one and part two.

Wyden Bill Encourages Outdoor Recreation On Public Lands

Jul 26, 2017

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden introduced a bill Wednesday that aims to simplify the permitting process for outdoor recreation on public lands.

The Oregon Democrat says getting outdoors often requires obtaining permits, parking passes and camping fees that can be confusing, complicated and time-consuming.

He wants to cut the red tape around access to public lands to encourage outdoor recreation, giving an economic boost to surrounding communities.

Next week, the Portland City Council is set to choose a plan for a new drinking water treatment facility.

The Portland Water Bureau has to pick one of two technologies — filtration or ultraviolet light treatment — to kill a small parasite, cryptosporidium, in the Bull Run reservoirs that provide drinking water to the city and its suburbs.

But on Tuesday, a key watchdog group that monitors spending at the Portland Water Bureau said it will ask the City Council to slow its decision.

A 22,000-acre wildfire is burning in southeastern Oregon’s Vale district near Highway 95. The fire started Monday after lightning struck grassland in the fire-prone area.

The Bowden Fire is growing within the burn scar of the 2012 Long Draw fire and is 0 percent contained, as of Tuesday afternoon.

Officials have warned of lightning season for weeks and fear squeezed resources could prove a problem if human-caused fires pick up as well.

This is the second story in a three-part series on the wildlife refuges of the Klamath Basin and water in the arid West. Read part one here.

A line of binoculars point upwards at a ridge on the edge of Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. There’s an owl’s nest in a small cave about 150 feet up, and Charlotte Kisling has her scope trained.

This is the first story in a three-part series on the wildlife refuges of the Klamath Basin and water in the arid West. Read Part two here.

Driving around Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is like being on bird safari. Guides today are refuge manager Greg Austin and biologist John Vradenburg.

Washington Lawmakers Leave Enviros Feeling Shorted

Jul 21, 2017

Washington’s legislative session, the longest in state history, did not deliver the money environmentalists wanted for toxic cleanup, oil transportation safety, or natural resources.

Going into the session, the Environmental Priorities Coalition — made up of more than twenty Washington environmental groups — had placed a priority on getting the state to spend more on environmental protection.

Chris Wolf and his colleagues at Oregon State University had a question. They wanted to figure out which is worse: chopping down an acre of woods in a forest that’s already been disturbed or chopping down an acre of woods in a forest previously untouched by humans.

Going into the study, he said, “we were more concerned about forest loss in areas that had already experienced a great deal of forest loss.”

Wolf and his team hypothesized that cutting down a last little patch of remaining forest would have disastrous effects for biodiversity.

Forestry Asks Landowners For Help Avoiding Eclipse Wildfires

Jul 21, 2017

Oregon’s Department of Forestry is asking land owners in several districts around the state to help ensure the agency is prepared to respond to wildfires as the solar eclipse approaches.

Land owners in several districts in the path of totality were sent letters from the Department of Forestry earlier this month asking residents to plan ahead. Fire responders warn of the challenges that might arise with an estimated 1 million visitors coming to the state to witness the eclipse.

What's the best way to ensure the return of salmon and steelhead to something like their historic numbers in the Columbia and Snake rivers? It’s been a hotly debated question for more than 20 years. And it's getting a renewed look with a controversial option on the table:

Removing the four lower Snake River dams.

Opponents of expanding the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon say the move was rushed through with little public notice. Supporters point to a series of well-attended public meetings and a comment period in which more than 5,000 written comments were received.

But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s visit to the monument last weekend showed that the community divide over the monument is far from resolved.

Terrestrial is KUOW’s podcast exploring the choices we make in a world we have changed. Subscribe to the show. And join the Facebook group.

Why would a fourth-generation rancher who doesn't put much trust in the government choose to work with federal agencies to restore salmon runs on her property?

Federal and state agencies are investigating a string of wildfires in southeastern Oregon with a potential link to military training exercises.

Seven small fires ignited across state and federal lands on July 11, all attributed to human activity — a suspicious pattern that indicates they could be connected, according to federal officials.

In August, Oregon will be the first state in the continental U.S. in the path of a total solar eclipse. The rare celestial event is attracting crowds of first-time eclipse viewers as well as seasoned eclipse-chasers, also called “umbraphiles.”

Biologist Mark Buktenica scours the shoreline of Crater Lake. He scans white sun-bleached rocks, takes a step, flips a rock.

Scan, step, flip.

Downed flying ants coat the surface of the water. A lizard hunts nearby. Small grey-green toads, about the size of a quarter, hop out of his way.

Scan, step, flip.

“Good candidate, perfect rock, but no salamanders,” he mumbles under his breath.

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