Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

The Oregon Senate voted Tuesday to extend the state's low-carbon fuel program despite objections from Republicans that the plan is tainted by the ethics scandal embroiling Gov. John Kitzhaber and first lady Cylvia Hayes.

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, noted early in a three-hour debate over the bill that the low-carbon fuel program was called out specifically in a subpoena federal investigators issued to the state Friday regarding Kitzhaber and Hayes, his fiancee.

Feb. 17, 2015 is a happy day for biologists Brian Bangs and Paul Sheerer. Today the Oregon chub, a tiny minnow that exists only in the Willamette Valley, is the first fish species to be officially taken off the endangered species list.

Never heard of it?

“The Oregon chub is kind of an underdog. Not very many people know what they are. Actually, a lot of biologists don’t know what they are,” says Sheerer, who works for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “They only grow to be about three inches long.”

Downy woodpecker, dark-eyed junco, tufted titmouse. These are just a few of the most popular birds to have been sighted in last year’s Great Backyard Bird Count, when in 2014, bird enthusiasts from 135 countries participated in counting over 4,000 species.

Monday is the final day of the annual count. It’s a chance for researchers at Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab to harness the power of nearly 100,000 citizen scientists over a 4-day period.

The Environmental Protection Agency has waded into the discussion about the proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon.

The federal agency wants assurances the Jordan Cove terminal and associated pipeline won’t harm streams and wetlands in Southern Oregon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it’s spent about $300 million to help restore and conserve more than 4 million acres of sage grouse habitat, according to a report the department issued Thursday.

Jes Burns/EarthFix

Middle school students in Coos Bay have embarked on a seagoing adventure. They're building a boat that will be launched this spring at the equator and set adrift on the Pacific Ocean currents.

An Oregon Senate bill introduced Tuesday would tighten rules for aerial pesticide spraying on forest land and overhaul how the state responds to complaints of drift and exposure.

The bill has been in the works since 2013, when 16 Curry County residents filed complaints with the state that they became ill after an herbicide application. Dubbed The Public Health and Water Resources Protection Act, the bill would:

Cougars Reported Near Bend, Sunriver

Feb 9, 2015

Several mountain lion sightings have been reported in Sunriver in the past month.The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife killed a cougar after it was spotted in the heart of Bend last month.

ODFW says there's never been an attack on a human by a wild cougar in Oregon. But the population is growing, and the agency takes measures when the big cats appear in urban areas. Last month, wildlife advocates criticized cougar managers for euthanizing a mountain lion found in a Bend neighborhood.

Trains carrying mass loads of heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sands have begun moving through the Northwest, creating the potential for an oil spill in parts of Oregon and Washington where environmental agencies have no response plans or equipment in place.

Union Pacific now moves between seven and 10 of these mile-long trains of Canadian crude per month through Northwest states, according to railroad spokesman Aaron Hunt. They can carry more than a million gallons of oil.

Giant dunes reach up to 500 feet tall and rolling hills of open sand seem to stretch to the horizon in a 50-mile long sandbox known as the Oregon Dunes National Recreational area.

It's a popular destination for adrenaline junkies whose off-road vehicles buzz up and down the dunes of Oregon's south coast.

But the dunes are in trouble. Invasive vegetation is quickly closing in, and as open areas shrink, fights over how people use the sand have been intensifying.

Gearhart Elk Herd

Feb 5, 2015

For more than a decade, a herd of elk has been hanging out in and around the up-scale coastal town of Gearhart, browsing the golf course and even taking refreshing dips in the surf. But as the herd is growing, so are concerns about safety and property destruction. We talk to the locals and wildlife experts about why the elk come here, whether they're a nuisance or an opportunity.

MORE INFORMATION

Howard Shippey's Footage of Elk Swimming

Chris Hickey lives on three acres in Washougal, Washington with his wife, son and two massive dogs.

“We get salmon and steelhead up here in the creek. It’s one of the cool things about the house," Hickey said while walking across a metal footbridge above the fast moving water.

The creek is surrounded by a bamboo grove so thick the leaves practically block out the sky.

SEATTLE -- A federal agency says a Puget Sound tribe has not made a convincing enough case to to halt the permitting process for the largest proposed coal export facility in the country.

Southern Oregon communities along a proposed natural gas pipeline route are looking for creative ways to stop the project. Douglas and Coos County residents hope a Community Bill of Rights will give them a legal avenue to assert local control.

The pipeline for the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas export terminal in Coos Bay would run through the property of Stacey McLaughlin. She doesn’t want it there. And speaking out before government officials has been less than satisfying.

“It feels like a waste of my time,” she said.

Legislation Would Mandate Bigger Crews On Oil Trains

Feb 3, 2015

A growing number of oil trains rolling through Washington has emergency responders and rail workers calling for bigger crews on board to better protect human health and the environment.

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WINTHROP, Wash. -- Snow blankets the landscape in north central Washington. What you can’t see is the scorched earth left from last summer’s Carlton Complex fire.

Even through the snow, Susan Prichard, a fire ecologist for the University of Washington, can see the damage. She can also see signs of recovery in the bitterbrush and aspen trees.

Tracking salmon as they move past Columbia River dams just got a little easier. Scientists are using a new tag so small that researchers can inject it with a syringe into the fishes' bellies.

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Army Corps of Engineers have been working with tags since 2001. This newest version is the smallest yet, about the size of two grains of rice. The older tags are three times heavier.

Oregon Bill Would Eliminate Coal-Fired Power By 2025

Feb 2, 2015

A bill in the Oregon Legislature this session would require electric companies to stop delivering coal-fired power to Oregon customers by 2025.

The replacement power would have to come from sources that are 90 percent cleaner than coal plants.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) and Sen. Chris Edwards (D-Eugene), targets coal-fired power coming into Oregon from out of state. Oregon's only coal-fired power plant in Boardman is scheduled to be retired in 2020.

Federal regulators say Oregon is not doing enough to protect water quality in coastal areas. A ruling Friday on the state’s coastal nonpoint pollution control could end up costing the state millions.

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