EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Poach Fish, Get Caught, Keep Your License

Jun 2, 2015

Get caught poaching fish one too many times in Northwest waters and you’re likely to lose your sport fishing license.

Do the same under a commercial license, on a much larger scale, and you’ll likely avoid the same fate.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has suspended thousands of recreational fishing licenses since 2003 because of rule violations, according to agency data. It has revoked zero licenses for commercial fishing violations since then. They're almost as uncommon in Oregon.

Following the untimely death of the widely photographed and loved mule deer known as "Buck Norris," a group is hoping to raise enough money to build a memorial in honor of Central Oregon's unofficial mascot.

"He fearlessly roamed the roads and yards around town and made friends across the region," wrote the campaign's creator Cari Lampshire on the GoFundMe page. "Let's give Buck the memorial he deserves for bringing so many of us so much joy and awe over the years."

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, in the Pacific Northwest.

But this is how poachers steal the giant fish: They keep the sturgeon alive and hidden underwater while they look for black-market buyers.

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

5th Earthquake Strikes Off Oregon Coast

Jun 1, 2015

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the Oregon Coast at 1:11 p.m., the fifth quake to hit the area since early Monday morning.

The earthquakes shook about 300 miles off the coast. More could still follow.

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, in the Pacific Northwest.

But this is how poachers steal the giant fish: They keep the sturgeon alive and hidden underwater while they look for black-market buyers.

The Bureau of Land Management released new plans Thursday for managing sage grouse habitat across public lands in Oregon, Idaho and eight other Western states.

Sage grouse populations have been hit hard east of the Cascades: from habitat loss, invasive species, grazing, and wildfires. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has called these threats “a death of one-thousand cuts.”

The agency will decide by this September whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act.

As the sun rises over a remote rye field in northwestern Colorado, about 170 greater sage grouse dance in a distinctive mating display. Males make popping and whooshing sounds and fight to attract the female’s attention.

“All these males that you see out here, less than 10 percent will actually get to breed,” whispers Brian Rutledge, the director of the Audubon Society’s Wyoming office.

Obama Administration Finalizes Clean Water Rule

May 27, 2015

The Obama Administration Wednesday announced a new clean water rule. The Environmental Protection Agency says it will help limit pollution in streams and wetlands.

The rule is meant to clarify uncertainty about who can regulate these smaller waterways and water bodies.

Environmentalists say the new rule will keep drinking water clean. Lauren Goldberg is the staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper. She says this new rule will provide critical protection for clean drinking water and fish habitat.

A man and woman drive a blue pickup to the back of a Chinese restaurant.

A man approaches them with a scale as the woman pulls a bag heavy with clams from the back of the truck.

The transaction is quick and casual, as though they’ve done this before. And they have. But this time, a hidden camera has captured their transaction.

“The whole thing happens in less than four minutes,” says Detective Wendy Willette as she watches the tape.

The push for cleaner fuels in Oregon and Washington has led to proposals that would bring the region more crude oil and a new refinery along the Columbia River.

Riverside Energy, a subsidiary of Houston-based company Waterside Energy Inc., intends to build a refinery to process mostly crude oil and some biofuels that can meet a growing demand for low-carbon fuels in the Portland metro area, according to interviews and documents.

Officials Start Killing Columbia River Cormorants

May 26, 2015

Crews with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services have started killing cormorants on an island in the Columbia River, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Can Carbon Markets Help Oregon's Small Forests?

May 26, 2015

When cancer comes calling, what if owners of small forest plots had another choice but to sell or to cut.

That’s the premise of a pilot program being launched in Washington and Columbia counties of northwest Oregon.

Anchored by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and an $820,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Forest Health/Human Health Initiative envisions what planners call an “A-Tree-M” card for forest owners who are threatened by medical bills but don’t want to cut or sell.

The Future is Now for Three Small Forests In Oregon

May 26, 2015

Some of Oregon’s forest owners are seeking innovative ways to make a living off their land without logging it hard. Oregon’s small forest landowners, those with 10 to 5,000 acres, are responsible for just 15 percent of the timber harvest on average even though they lay claim to 44 percent of the state’s privately owned timberland.

Here is a look at three forests where owners are purposely going light on the land:

Acres: About 1,000 acres in the northern Oregon Coast Range, Hyla Woods is about an hour’s drive west from Portland.

The federal government has been telling Oregon for over a decade that its rules to protect threatened coastal salmon are not up to snuff. Now, the state is faced with a loss of federal dollars unless it gets with the program.

In response, the Oregon Board of Forestry is weighing whether to require timberland owners to leave more trees standing along streams to better protect fish habitat. And that’s got owners of small timber lands especially worried.

The marina at Howard Prairie Lake is high and dry. The docks tilt awkwardly this way and that, stranded on the uneven lake bottom.

“Normally, on a year when the lake is full, we’d most likely have 15 to 16 feet of water above our heads. So, yeah, it’s a little pasture right now,” says Steve Lambert, Program Manager of Jackson County Parks.

Kelly Welker knew Seattle’s Georgetown area was an industrial neighborhood when she moved here nine years ago. The air quality isn’t great. But lately, she says, it’s been getting worse.

“I had never experienced going outside of my house and having my eyes burn within a couple of minutes,” Welker said. “Having my sinuses burn within a couple of minutes.”

The Obama Administration is expected to announce a new clean water rule in the next few days, which has some Northwest farm groups worried what new regulations could mean for their operations.

The rule has also drawn criticism from property rights groups and praise from environmentalists.

Of all the shellfish that sell on the black market, one clam is above the rest -- the geoduck.

Pronounced "gooey-duck," these hefty clams bury themselves in sand where they stay for 100 years, doing little more than stretching their meter-long, fleshy siphons up into the water column to feed on phytoplankton.

In shallows when tides have retreated, people dig up geoduck clams with shovels. In deeper areas, scuba divers spray high-pressure hoses into the seafloor to unearth them.

Governor Declares 8 Additional Counties In Drought Emergencies

May 22, 2015

Gov. Kate Brown declared drought emergencies in eight additional counties around Oregon Friday, bringing the total this year to 15.

She also released a public service announcement launching the hashtag #ORdrought.

“It may look green now, but we are going to experience one of the worst droughts in the history of our state," said Brown in a statement. "Snow pack is at historic lows and severe water shortages are nearly a certainty in many areas.”

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.

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