EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Capturing Valhalla: OPB's Toughest Shoot

Jan 30, 2016

In the summer of 2015, OPB’s Oregon Field Guide and a team of highly skilled canyoneers embarked on a journey to explore Valhalla — an uncharted gorge hidden in the Oregon wilderness.

The expedition was a dream come true for crewmembers who have spent their lives working in and exploring the outdoors. It would prove to be the most challenging project in Oregon Field Guide’s 27-year history.

Descending Into Uncharted Territory

Jan 30, 2016

For most of the crew, a nearly 100-foot waterfall crashing down moss- and fern-covered rock was an awe-striking symbol of the journey ahead. The previously uncharted falls boomed through their bodies; the echo carried far past their sight and off into the mysterious canyon.

Discovering Oregon's Secret Canyon

Jan 30, 2016

The forest is a lush green, tangled with downed logs and whips of vine maple. Mike Malone calls out to the hikers behind him.

“Watch out, there’s devil's club right here,” he says, pointing to the spiny shrub near his path.

Malone and his companions are pushing their way through miles of rough terrain. It is a tossup if the forest is preferable to the icy cold stream. But crossing through both are necessary to get to Valhalla.

Park officials are partially crediting the record number of Crater Lake National Park visitors last year with a low snowpack that opened roads and facilities earlier.

The Bulletin reports a news release from the park shows visitation up 13.5 percent compared to 2014, at 664,000 visitors in 2015.

The park has been closely tracking visitors for 25 years.

Last winter's low snowpack allowed the park's roads and facilities to open earlier in the spring.

It might be the best classroom assignment professor Loren Davis’ students will ever get.

On Friday, Davis directed his anthropology students to dig through a pile of soil excavated from the school’s football field, where workers recently discovered the remains of an ancient mammoth.

They spent the afternoon searching for extinct animal bones and fragments and learning how to identify them.

Anthropology student Annie-Rose Eaton said it's the first time she's done any excavating.

One of the most distinctive sounds in mountainous regions of the Northwest is the territorial honk of the American pika. Their call kind of sounds like a duck accidentally ate a dog’s squeaky toy.

Climate change has long been considered a threat to the small mammal.

“We’ve long suspected that the American pika… vulnerable to changing climate. So we wanted to dig in to learn more about what kinds of factors were pushing them towards extinction,” says National Park Service Ecologist Tom Rodhouse, co-author of the study.

Low Oil Prices Hurting Northwest Oil Terminals

Jan 29, 2016

With plans for new oil terminals still pending throughout the Pacific Northwest, low oil prices are hampering operations at existing crude-by-rail operations in the region.

Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife officials are debating whether to close the only Columbia River sturgeon fishery below Bonneville Dam to protect the fish until the population rebounds.

CORVALLIS -- An expansion project at Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium has uncovered ancient mammoth bones under the football field's end zone.

Construction crews digging in the north end zone Monday found a 4-foot-long femur bone that experts have confirmed came from a mammoth, a prehistoric species that went extinct at least 10,000 years ago.

Further exploration with the help of archaeologists revealed thousands of bone fragments from several extinct mammals including bison and some kind of camel or horse.

2 Oregon Rivers Named Scenic Waterways

Jan 27, 2016

Two Oregon rivers are being designated as scenic waterways.

Gov. Kate Brown announced that the new status is being assigned to portions of the Chetco in southwest Oregon and the Molalla, a tributary of the Willamette.

Oregon has 19 scenic waterways. This is the first time a river has been added to the list since 1988.

Voters passed a law in 1970 to protect scenic waterways for fish, wildlife, recreation and for their scenic, cultural and natural values.

Oregon’s previous scenic waterway designations are on

Clackamas River

Nestucca River

This story was updated at 6 p.m. PST

The City of Seattle is suing Monsanto for manufacturing a cancer-causing chemical that's contaminating the city's Duwamish Waterway.

Monsanto was the sole producer of the chemicals PCBs from the 1930s through the ‘70s. They were used globally to make coolants, paints, lubricants and for other industrial purposes. PCBs also served a fire protection and safety protection for the electrical and other industries, according to the company.

California is beginning its analysis of how three Klamath River hydroelectric dams are affecting water quality.

The state is in the middle of a series of scoping meetings, providing the public its first official chance to weigh in since the Klamath Basin Water Agreements fell apart at the end of December.

Will The Oregon Occupation Ruin Bird Habitat?

Jan 26, 2016

The employees of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have not been able to go back to their desks ever since the armed occupation started earlier this month.

They’ve been able to do much of their work off-site, but some important stuff is being left undone.

That includes the effort to eradicate an invasive fish from the refuge’s waters.

The common carp arrived in the refuge in the 1920s and multiplied like mad, crowding out native species and severely messing up the habitat.

1 Rancher Says He'll Ignore His Grazing Contract

Jan 23, 2016

A rancher from New Mexico signed a letter Saturday telling the federal government he will no longer honor his grazing contract.

Armed occupiers at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge had hoped more ranchers would step forward. But Adrian Sewell, who owns 160 acres in New Mexico, was the only one.

He bought his ranch four years ago for about $1 million. It included grazing rights to 33,000 acres of public land.

Sewell said his grazing contract allows for 140 head of cattle, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service is restricting him to 85.

Marijuana growers in the Northwest are going to use a lot of electricity in the next 20 years, enough to power up to 200,000 homes, according to a recent forecast.

That’s because a lighting module to grow four marijuana plants takes as much energy as 29 refrigerators.

After some hesitation, Washington utilities are now rewarding marijuana growers for reducing their energy use.

Washington state ends public comment Friday on a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has taken public comment on the Vancouver Energy Project since November when it released its draft environmental impact statement.

The project is a joint venture backed by oil company Tesoro Corp. and logistics firm Savage Industries.

The agency is taking comments on its website until 11:59 p.m. Friday.

Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that paves the way for a partial closure of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant in Montana.

In the face of mounting environmental regulations, Puget Sound Energy wants to develop a plan to close two of Colstrip's four coal units – a move that could reduce the amount of coal-produced electricity used by Washington consumers.

The Washington utility is one of six owners of the overall plant, but co-owns units 1 and 2 with just one other company, Talen Energy.

If you'd like to comment on any of the topics in this show, please get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter, send an email to thinkoutloud@opb.org, or call us during the noon hour at 1-888-665-5865.

Occupiers Shout Down Environmental Protesters At Malheur Refuge

Jan 16, 2016

Editor's note: The raw audio of the confrontation between occupiers and protesters contains sensitive material.

Candy Henderson is in the middle of treatment for breast cancer. She said she's still sore from a recent surgery that removed part of her breast and lymph nodes. In a few weeks, she will start radiation treatment at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The story of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge starts with women’s hats - elaborate feathered hats that were part of a fashion craze that was sweeping Europe and the United States in the late 1800s.

The hats were audacious, colorful and sometimes included more than just feathers – picture heads, wings and whole stuffed birds sitting astride the fancy lady’s head.

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