EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

A creature that lived 375 million years ago and is thought to have been the first fish to have made the transition to land sported large pelvic bones in addition to its leg-like front fins, new research shows, suggesting that it was a more efficient walker than previously thought.

Tiktaalik roseae, discovered in 2004 on Ellesmere Island in Nunavit, Canada, is a key transitional fossil that links lobe-finned fishes and tetrapods, the first four-limbed vertebrates at the end of the Devonian period.

Oregon Proposes Removing Hatchery Fish From Wild Fish Areas

Jan 14, 2014

Hatchery-reared fish would get the heave ho from certain rivers along the Oregon Coast under the latest strategy to help Oregon's wild salmon and steelhead.

The new management plan proposed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would designate several coastal rivers as "wild fish emphasis areas," while increasing the number of hatchery fish planted in other coastal rivers to expand fishing opportunities in those waters.

Northwest officials receive little information on oil by rail shipments

Jan 9, 2014

Northwesterners are paying attention to the fiery derailments hitting other parts of North America where the oil-by-rail boom is underway.

More and more crude oil is moving across the Northwest by train. But railroad and oil companies are not required to disclose much on shipments or response strategies. That's leaving state officials without information needed to prepare for an oil train mishap.

How many shipments are moving through a given region at any given time? what kind of tanker cars they are in? What are the companies' strategies should a train derail or explode?

In a new paper published in Science, Ripple has worked with a multinational team of a dozen carnivore biologists to make the case that the world’s largest predators are declining just as researchers begin to understand their key ecological effects. The researchers found that 61 percent of the largest land carnivores are threatened with extinction.

EarthFix: What is the main argument that you make in the article that’s coming out in Science?

Oregon Governor Gives Vision For Federal Forest Management

Jan 9, 2014

SALEM, Ore. -- State forestry leaders in Oregon know they alone can't change the way federal forests are managed. But they joined Gov. John Kitzhaber Wednesday in outlining the changes they'd like to see as Congress considers several bills that would change forest management.

The Oregon Board of Forestry voted unanimously on a list of recommendations that include streamlining environmental reviews to allow for more logging in some federal forest areas.

A multinational banking giant is backing away from a proposal to build the West Coast’s biggest coal export project near Bellingham, Washington.

New York-based Goldman Sachs has sold its stock back to the companies proposing to build the Gateway Pacific Terminal. If built it would transfer 48 million tons of Wyoming coal each year from trains to ocean-going vessels bound for Asia.

SEATTLE -- Washington state officials said Tuesday they found lower contamination levels when they tested geoduck clams than those alleged by China when it said geoduck imported from Puget Sound had high levels of arsenic.

China cited its findings in December when it imposed the largest ban on shellfish imports from Northwest waters -- as well as from California and Alaska -- in the region's history.

How A 3-D Printer Helped Preserve A Sabertooth Salmon

Jan 6, 2014

For years, museum conservators and paleontologists have yearned for a way to duplicate fragile fossils without damaging them. Now scientists with the University of Oregon say they have found a way to do just that, with the help of a relatively inexpensive 3-D printer.

They’ve starting by duplicating the skull of a particularly important fossil in their collection: a giant sabertooth salmon fossil discovered near Madras, Ore.

An Oregon lawmaker is looking to restrict household use of four common pesticides that pose risks to bees.

Rep. Jeff Reardon, D-Portland, says given the toxicity of certain pesticides and their track record for killing bees, untrained home gardeners shouldn't be allowed to use them.

Federal Agency Issues Safety Alert For Oil Trains

Jan 2, 2014

SEATTLE -- The alert, issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday, said that the crude oil that is coming out of the Bakken formation of North Dakota poses a “significant risk” because it is more flammable than traditional heavy crude.

Northwest Teams Lead A Growing 'Green Sports' Movement

Jan 2, 2014

Northwest sports teams are leading an effort to use the widespread appeal of basketball, football, baseball and hockey to spread an environmental message.

A group formed by six teams in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., called the Green Sports Alliance set out three years ago to improve the environmental performance of professional sports. The alliance has grown to hundreds of teams across the country that are now competing to see who can be the greenest.

Conservation Group Turns Christmas Trees Into Salmon Habitat

Dec 27, 2013

Before you kick your dying Christmas tree to the curb, consider this: Members of the conservation group Trout Unlimited would love to turn that tree into fish habitat.

On three Saturdays in January, the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited will be collecting Christmas tree donations at two locations in the Portland metropolitan area. Later, they'll place the trees into a side channel of the Necanicum River near Seaside, where they will provide predator protection and food sources for baby coho salmon.

SEATTLE -- Ninety percent of the geoduck harvested in Washington are sold to China and Hong Kong. It's an indicator of how much the Northwest shellfish industry relies on exports to China.

The crushing economic impacts of China's move are hitting locals in Puget Sound hard for the holidays.

Tree Sitters Don’t Buy Logging Designed To Mimic Nature

Dec 23, 2013

MYRTLE CREEK, Ore. -- Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management sold the rights to log a small grove of Douglas firs to a private company called Roseburg Forest Products.

Roseburg bid more than $1 million for the trees, and planned to start logging this fall.

Then the tree sitters showed up.

Wind Tax Credit Set To Expire, Again

Dec 20, 2013

A tax credit that wind energy advocates say is important to sustaining the industry is set to expire Dec. 31. Wind developers say the tax credit is critical to the growing industry. Without it, wind turbine manufacturing can grind to a halt, as it did after the credit expired in 2012.

Penalties Of $2,800 Issued For Wilsonville Bee Deaths

Dec 20, 2013

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has fined pesticide company Collier Arbor Care and four of its employees for the deaths of thousands of bumblebees. The department issued civil penalties and notices of violations to the company for four separate incidents this year.

Federal environmental agencies announced Thursday they may reject Oregon’s approach to keeping coastal waterways clean.

It’s the first time the feds have threatened to disapprove a state’s coastal strategy and withhold federal funds.

John King is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s coastal services center. He says states have to meet 56 different water quality measures.

“Oregon has met most of those. Areas where they still have issues, are related to forest practices, septic systems, and new development,” King says.

SEATTLE – A federal board has ruled that the coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin have to take certain measures to reduce the amount of dust that is escaping from coal train cars.

Map: New Wildfire Data Goes Interactive

Dec 20, 2013

In the decade leading up to 2011, twice as many acres burned in the U.S. compared to the decade before it. The average fire size rose and so did the time to control it.

And the sheer number of large fires -- in this case, fires larger than 1,000 acres -- rose steadily from 257 in 1992 to 857 in 2011.

That’s what you'll see in this interactive map from EarthFix. It's based on new data from the Forest Service that offers one of the most complete looks yet at wildfires in the U.S.

Darigold, EPA Reach Settlement In Chlorine Gas Leak

Dec 18, 2013

One of the Northwest’s biggest dairy producers has agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s after the milk co-op failed to report a chlorine gas release that required medical treatment for a dozen people.

Chlorine gas is highly toxic. It can make your eyes, nose and mouth burn. If you breathe the gas, it can cause respiratory problems or death.