EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

America has more than 560 wildlife refuges. Most of them are what youd expect: remote, untrammeled places where humans are visitors. But a small number of wildlife refuges are located in the midst of some of the countrys most densely populated places. They are natural areas carved from urban areas where animals and plants can thrive right next to us. One of the first of these urban fish and wildlife refuges is in the sprawl of suburbia east of Seattle: the Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge...

Oregon Timber Harvest Slips For 2nd Consecutive Year

Jul 25, 2016

Oregons timber harvest dropped 8 percent last year. Before the great recession, Oregon was producing about 4 billion board feet of lumber a year. That dropped after the recession as people stopped building houses. But its been climbing and for the last few years its been above 4 billion board feet again, thanks in part to a strong Chinese economy. But Brandon Kaetzel with the Oregon Department of Forestry, said Chinas economy stumbled in 2015 and the Softwood Lumber Agreement, between the U.S...

This years fire season has had a slow start. The winters thicker snowpack and cooler temperatures this summer have helped keep large fires at bay, said Carol Connolly with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. "Part of the difference is the weather," Connolly explained. "We havent had the hot dry conditions that weve experienced the last few years. We have not had the lightning activity." Although there have been at least 20 large fires in Oregon and Washington, most were human...

Oregon Bottle Deposit Set To Double Next Year

Jul 22, 2016

The bottle deposit rate in Oregon will double next year from 5 to 10 cents. Officials are trying to boost return rates, which have been slowly falling since Oregon became the first state to pass a bottle bill in 1971. The law required a 5-cent deposit on certain drink containers, which is returned when people bring back containers. The results were immediate. Oregon achieved a 90 percent return rate, reducing litter and the number of containers in landfills significantly. But a nickel could...

Friday is the public's last chance to comment on Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's plan to limit carbon pollution from the state's biggest emitters. But with a carbon tax on the November ballot, it won't be voters' last word on the matter. The Department of Ecology drew up the proposed rules putting a cap on carbon emissions. By the close of the comment period Friday for this latest draft, the state had received roughly 3,000 comments. Department officials say they hope to have the rule finalized...

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will accept comments for one more week on permanent rules for the states colored art glass industry. Two major players and three small companies are located in Portland. The two larger companies air emissions have been under scrutiny since large concentrations of heavy metals were found in moss near their operations. DEQ has temporary rules in place . Both the two larger makers Bullseye Glass and Uroboros are working on installing baghouse...

Bend Citizens Debate Climate Change Resolution

Jul 22, 2016

More than 130 people came to the Bend City Council chambers for Thursdays meeting on a proposed climate change resolution. The draft resolution sets goals for carbon emission reductions for City of Bend operations, kick-starts a process to develop community-wide emissions targets and outlines a path to develop a more specific climate plan with benchmarks and policies. Bend is the latest city in Oregon to consider a plan to combat climate change. Portland and Eugene already have city-led...

When a Union Pacific oil train derailed and burst into fire in Mosier, Oregon, in June, the initial damage was in plain view, as dark smoke billowed into the sky. Now OPB has learned about invisible damage: elevated concentrations of benzene and other volatile organic compounds in groundwater near the derailment site. Bob Schwarz, a project manager with Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality, says Mosier's drinking water is not at risk, as the closest groundwater drinking wells are...

Seabirds have been washing up dead on beaches in Washington and British Columbia this summer, and scientists can't say why. Rhinoceros auklets are one of the most common birds in the network of inland waterways shared by Washington and British Columbia. Since May, volunteer "citizen scientists" on the north side of the Olympic Peninsula and across the water in Victoria, British Columbia, have found dozens of the puffin-like birds washed ashore. It's a tiny toll compared to the dieoffs of...

This summer is proving to be a bonanza for whale-watchers. According to The Pacific Whale Watch Association, tourists and researchers are seeing groups of humpback whales in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound nearly every day. Humpbacks were nearly wiped out early in the last century because of whaling. But when hunting was banned in the 1960s they started to come back. Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington, estimates as many as 500 humpbacks now spend the season off Washington and...

House Budget Bill Would Block Owyhee Monument

Jul 19, 2016

The latest Congressional budget bill for the U.S. Department of the Interior includes a provision to block President Obama from designating an Owyhee National Monument in Southeast Oregon. The bill, which passed in the House, includes language essentially banning Interior budget dollars from funding the creation of national monuments by the president. Malheur County is one of several mentioned in the bill. Obama hasnt given any indication whether he has plans for an Owyhee Monument . But the...

Top Northwest officials and a member of President Obamas cabinet will gather Tuesday for the renaming of a wildlife refuge near Olympia in honor of one of the regions best known Native American leaders. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is being renamed in honor of late Nisqually tribal leader Billy Frank Jr. In the 1960s and 70s, Frank helped organize protests, or fish-ins, to advocate for south Puget Sound tribes fishing rights based on the 1854 Medicine Creek Treaty. At the time, the...

Oregon State University and Stanford University developed an energy conservation program which showed that childrens energy-saving behaviors impact their parents own habits. The program, called Girls Learning Environment and Energy, or GLEE, was tested on 30 Girl Scout troops in Northern California, and the results were positive, not only for the children but also for their entire families. Researchers found that the energy-saving behavior the Girl Scouts gained continued for more than seven...

A plan to effectively remove the gray wolf from the federal endangered species list has been successfully added to a larger U.S. House appropriations bill. The House voted to attach the amendment to legislation funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior. Washington Representatives Dan Newhouse and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, as well as Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, supported the measure, which would pull funding for endangered species protections for...

Greg McMillan peered into the Metolius River on a chilly May morning. As he does three times a month, the president of the Deschutes River Alliance dropped a water collection device off the side of his powerboat. The water clarity here is just amazing, McMillan said as he retrieved a sample. He measured temperature, pH and turbidity of the river water. Meanwhile, an osprey flew overhead, clutching a small fish in its talons. Every few minutes, a silvery kokanee flung itself above the surface...

More than a month after a Union Pacific Railroad oil train derailed and caught fire in the Columbia River Gorge, rules are in the works to increase the safety of oil by rail. On the same day the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed rules requiring railroads to improve their spill response planning and transparency, Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden introduced their second bill tackling oil train safety. The senators' first bill sought to encourage the phase-out of old and...

A Portland firefighter and a national guardsman check for bodies in a pile of crumpled cars at the base of a blackened tower. They pull a dummy out of one of the cars one of the few "survivors" of this simulated post-earthquake emergency. They strap the critically injured victim onto a backboard and hook it to a set of dangling ropes. Basically, we have an overpass thats crashed down," said Matthew Silva of Portland Fire & Rescue. "Weve got three vehicles and multiple victims. Theyre trapped...

Court documents show the timber industry is footing the bill for Linn Countys $1.4 billion lawsuit over logging in Oregon state forests. The county is suing the state on the grounds it has failed to maximize revenue from state-owned forestland. The lawsuit claims the state is contractually required to allow more logging on state forestland to ensure funding for counties that deeded the land over to the state more than 70 years ago. In a class action suit, Linn County is seeking $1.4 billion...

'Land Sharing' Opens Private Land To Campers

Jul 10, 2016

Youve heard of car-sharing. Now heres land sharing. A Portland start-up is expanding the share economy concept to private landowners and campers. A new company called LandApart follows the AirBnB model, but for campers. People who want to camp or rent a cabin in a beautiful area can pay a private landowner for access. CEO Ven Gist says the company is in part a response to sometimes-crowded public lands that are often not reservable. "Were basically collaborating with landowners to open up new...

The Oregon Department of Agriculture says it found no evidence of chemical drift after responding to an exposure complaint from a former member of the states Board of Forestry. The agency opened an investigation after Peter Hayes of Washington County forest company Hyla Woods complained he and workers were exposed to weed killer sprayed on a nearby tree farm operated by Stimson Lumber. Vegetation samples on Hyla Woods property taken by state investigators showed no evidence that chemicals had...

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