EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

This is a guest post by Claire Schoen, a producer, documentary filmmaker, and the creator of a new podcast called Stepping Up.

Grannies and kids, evangelicals and clowns, they are figuring out new ways to act – and act out – about the biggest crisis of our times.

A preliminary investigation indicates the Ana Fire burning near Summer Lake, Oregon, was sparked by a group of people shooting tannerite exploding targets on private property, the Herald and News reports

Fire officials and law enforcement held a meeting Tuesday night for residents affected by the fire, which has since destroyed a cabin and an outbuilding.

How Is Pollution Connected To Race And Inequality? | Terrestrial

Jul 11, 2017

This the fifth episode of Ashley Ahearn's new podcast, terrestrial: exploring the choices we make in a world we have changed.

Wildfires burning in Oregon and Washington Monday are not as serious as fires in other parts of the West. Still, the Ana Fire in Oregon and the Dry Creek Fire in Washington are slowing traffic and prompting some pre-evacuation notices.

Drivers on the main route between Bend and Lakeview should expect delays of up to two hours, but Oregon Highway 31 has reopened to traffic. Hundreds of firefighters are in the area battling the Ana wildfire, which is burning largely out of control over more than 3000 acres of grass, sage brush, and juniper.

Oregon’s Sitka Center for Art and Ecology expanded this week, with the acquisition of a Lincoln County property called Grass Mountain.

The Sitka Center, located near the town of Otis, has offered artist residencies and workshops in bookbinding, fiber arts and more since 1970. Director Ben Shockey says that the original campus is currently operating at full capacity, hosting up to 20 artists-in-residence and serving about 1,000 workshop participants each year.

A new bill in Congress would make sure Washington's four lower Snake River dams stay standing. It’s push back against a recent court order to find “a new approach” to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

That approach could include removing or altering the dams.

That's not something Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, thinks would be good for the Northwest. Newhouse introduced the legislation, along with four other Northwest representatives.

Oregon state lawmakers want to use $100 million in state bonds to help keep the Elliott State Forest in public hands.

Oregon legislators released their list Monday of projects to bond in the next two years. Money for the Elliott State Forest is the most controversial item.

The 82,500-acre Southern Oregon forest is supposed to be used to raise money for education, but revenue from timber harvests has dropped in recent years. State leaders had planned to sell the forest to a private timber company and a partnering Native-American tribe. But environmentalists objected.

The deadline to reach a decision on a controversial oil terminal planned for Vancouver has been pushed back again. The Washington state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, or EFSEC, filed an extension that will give it until Aug. 31 to make a recommendation to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

The extension is the sixth time the state energy board has pushed the deadline for a recommendation.

An oil train bill was pulled from the Oregon House floor and returned to committee Friday over concerns about language that would make secret railroad spill contingency plans and financial responsibility documents.

The House voted 31-26 to return the bill to the Joint Committee On Ways and Means.

Counting Mountain Goats on Mount St. Helens

Jun 30, 2017

Prior to the eruption of Mount St. Helens, few people realized there were mountain goats living in the area. While that population was likely wiped out by the blast, anecdotal sightings of these high-climbing, sure-footed animals began to crop up in the 1990s. Over the years, U.S. Forest Service biologist Mitch Wainwright heard more reports of mountain goat sightings, prompting him to put together the first official mountain goat survey in 2014.

A lot can happen in seven years. Just ask Jim Thayer, who spent nearly that long searching for the perfect hiking route from Portland to the Oregon Coast. Thayer, an avid hiker, wanted an accessible trail through the Coastal Range that avoided highways and stayed on public land. After years of trekking through forests and creeks, he’s finally found it.

The secret to Thayer’s coastal trail? What he calls the “Blue Gate Rule.” Many logging roads along the route have blue gates, meaning they’re open to the public for recreational use.

Many Oregonians dream of throwing their belongings in a backpack, getting off the grid and hitting the trail. But what if you love the wilderness but don’t want to carry a heavy pack to experience it? For Monica Drost, the answer was simple: Llamas.

“We couldn’t carry the heavy packs that we needed to carry anymore,” says Drost about her and her hiking friends. So we researched about llamas carrying all our gear.

Chad Brown Helps Kids (And Himself) By Fly-Fishing

Jun 30, 2017

Yeah I ran away from a salmon,” laughs Brown. “How about that?

Though that was Brown’s first experience with a salmon, it was far from his last. Thanks in part to a friendship he struck up that day with Chou, Brown discovered a passion for fly-fishing. And as someone who struggles with PTSD, he found healing there as well.

PacifiCorp Looks To Expand Wind Energy As Coal Plants Retire

Jun 29, 2017

PacifiCorp is moving forward with a 20-year plan that reduces its use of coal-fired power while expanding investments in wind energy.

The utility, which serves customers in six Western states, has proposed spending $3.5 billion on a plan to add 1,100 megawatts of new wind energy — mostly in Wyoming — as well as a new transmission line.

The plan will also re-power wind turbines in the Columbia River Gorge by adding bigger turbine blades and upgrading equipment inside the turbines to increase their energy output by an average of 20 percent.

Study: Orcas Lose Two-Thirds Of Their Pregnancies

Jun 29, 2017

Two-thirds of all detectable orca pregnancies have ended in miscarriages over the past seven years, a new study shows.

To figure out if orcas were pregnant, the researchers trained dogs to find orca scat and then tested the scat’s hormone levels. What they found was sobering.

“Of those that we confirmed were pregnant, 31 percent of the pregnancies are successful. So 69 percent were lost,” said Sam Wasser, a University of Washington professor and study author.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is in search of a new way to pay for Gov. Kate Brown's clean air initiative, after lawmakers did not pass its primary funding mechanism.

Brown’s Cleaner Air Oregon initiative aims to create more stringent air toxics regulations based on what’s safe for human health. Those would be similar to what states like California and Washington already have.

House Bill 2269 would have funded that work by increasing the permit fees paid by polluters. Lawmakers abandoned the idea after opposition from industry groups.

If the world does nothing to limit carbon emissions, the US economy will suffer — but, according to a new study published Thursday in Science, the Pacific Northwest might actually benefit.

Fourteen states — including Oregon and Washington — are threatening to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Air Act.

In a letter to the EPA sent Thursday, the group argues Director Scott Pruitt broke the law when he ordered his agency to halt part of the rule-making process for regulating methane and other air pollution from oil and gas facilities.

For the second time since 2015, the Oregon Legislature has stripped language out of a bill that would have increased the state’s regulation of oil trains.

Oregon has the weakest regulations among West Coast states.

A year after a Union Pacific oil train derailed and caught fire in the Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, lawmakers are advancing to the House and Senate floors House Bill 2131, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland.

This spring has been strange in Oregon’s Lane County.

“It rained every day. I’m exaggerating, but only by two days,” said farmer Jason Hunton.

As Mother Nature reared her ugly head, Hunton had to sit and watch his fields. Hunton farms organic and conventional land in Junction City, Oregon.