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Earthfix

Three top elected officials in Oregon are now embroiled in a messy political struggle over whether to privatize an 82,500-acre state forest near Coos Bay.

The infighting among Gov. Kate Brown, Treasurer Tobias Read and Secretary of State Dennis Richardson — the three members of the State Land Board — is highly unusual in a state dominated by Democratic officials who tend to prize cooperation over confrontation.

President Trump on Tuesday issued an executive order that will start to rollback clean water rules. In the Northwest, environmentalists say that could be bad news for threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead. Farm and industry groups are lauding the order.

Advocates say the rule protects countless headwater streams and wetlands in the Pacific Northwest; if ununprotected they could eventually be developed with roads, housing, or more logging operations.

Cowlitz County has approved a key permit for a controversial methanol plant proposed on the Columbia River in the port city of Kalama.

The county’s hearing examiner Mark Scheibmeir concluded on Monday that the $1.8 billion project may proceed – provided developer NW Innovation Works complies with a long list of shoreline development permit conditions that require environmental and safety protections.

A track for vehicles was recently discovered illegally crossing the boundary into Oregon's Eagle Cap Wilderness, despite the Wilderness Act's prohibition against motorized access to such protected areas.

America’s energy future is often cast as a battle that pits fossil fuels such as coal and gas against wind, solar and other renewable energy sources. But in the Pacific Northwest, we've already slashed greenhouse gas emissions — and saved big bucks — with a clean energy source that often doesn't even get mentioned in policy debates.

Dan Cunningham is installing an adjustable metal frame, covered in red fabric, in the open front door at a house in Ashland, Oregon.

A lawsuit filed Thursday by salmon advocates aims to reverse a trend of high summer water temperatures on the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

The groups are asking the U.S. District Court in Seattle to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a warm water pollution standard for the rivers. The standard, called the “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL), sets limits on how high the water temperature can rise and still meet water quality requirements.

The EPA released a draft plan in 2003, but it was never finalized.

Steve Hinton has a pretty unusual mindset when it comes to his job.

“I try to think like a fish,” he says.

That’s a crucial part of Hinton’s job as the director of habitat restoration for the Swinomish Tribal Community and the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe. He spends a lot of his time trying to figure out how salmon will respond to obstacles in their way as they return from the Puget Sound, up the Skagit River, into little creeks and streams to spawn. One of the problems they encounter are road culverts.

Washington Grizzly Bear Public Meetings Kick Off

Feb 21, 2017

More than 100 people turned out Monday during a public meeting in Cle Elum to voice their opinions on reintroducing grizzly bears to the North Cascades. It was the first of eight meetings to be held across Washington.

What Happened To Mount Hood's Glacier Caves?

Feb 21, 2017

Beginning in 2011, a team of explorers led by Brent McGregor, Eduardo “Eddy” Cartaya and Scott Linn began exploring a system of spectacular glacier caves on Mount Hood. Over the next few years they photographed and surveyed more than 7,000 feet of sub-glacial passages, earning the caves the distinction of being the largest glacier cave system in the lower 48 states.

By 2016, the caves were gone.

Honey Bees May Be Harmed By Crop-Protecting Fungicides

Feb 21, 2017

You know those nasty brown spots that can ruin an otherwise perfectly delicious apple? Those spots--and other problems, like blossom blight and yellow leaves — are often caused by fungi. Apple growers usually fight back with fungicides — but, it turns out, those fungicides could be hurting honey bees.

“The long-standing assumption is that fungicides won’t be toxic to insects,” says May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

A Blob In The Ocean Means More Ozone In The Air

Feb 21, 2017

Remember the warm weather we had in 2014 and 2015? University of Washington professor Dan Jaffe says that was caused by a meteorological phenomenon known as "The Blob."

“The Blob was a region of really unusual warm water that was sitting off the coast of Washington and Oregon,” he explains.

That blob had a surprising effect: it increased air pollution across the West.

Sea Turtle Stranded Along Oregon Coast Dies

Feb 13, 2017

A sea turtle that washed up on Oregon’s beaches over the weekend has died.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium reported Monday the loggerhead turtle was stunned by cold waters, and succumbed to its injuries.

Loggerhead turtles are relatively rare to see on Oregon shores, with the last one to arriving here Christmas Eve 2007. It also died after just a single day of treatment.

About 16 pregnant ewes lounge beneath a lone tree on a ranch in north-central Washington's Methow Valley. They stand up, shaking snow from their heavy wool as Kate Haven and I walk closer.

Her two sheepdogs notice us from about a football field away. They recognize Haven, but not me — prompting them to start barking out of a sense of duty to protect their flock.

In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Orrick ordered more water releases from dams on the Klamath River to flush out parasites causing deadly disease outbreaks in salmon.

In recent drought years, scientists have found extremely high rates of a disease caused by an intestinal parasite known as Ceratanova shasta in salmon populations protected under the Endangered Species Act.

This is the first part in our series on wildlife and lead ammunition. Read part two here.

California condors can nest in cliff-side caves or large burnt-out trees. That’s exactly what the coastal bluffs and forests around Redwood National Park offer.

The massive birds once lived around the park just south of the Oregon-California border. They held a place of high esteem for the Yurok Tribe.

In a new report, the Oregon Global Warming Commission says the state isn't expected to come within striking distance of its 2020 or 2050 goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The commission says the latest numbers show "a perilous reversal" in the downward trend of emissions from cars and trucks over the past few years. In short, people are driving more – and in bigger vehicles.

Irrigators from Southern Oregon and Northern California are in federal court this week. They’re arguing the U.S. government owes them millions of dollars in compensation for water shut-offs 16 years ago.

A major drought in 2001 made water in the Klamath Basin scarce. Federal regulators cut off irrigation to hundreds of farms to ensure there was enough water in the rivers for endangered salmon and other fish.

The farmers say the irrigation water is property that was taken without compensation. This is prohibited by Constitution’s 5th Amendment.

Video: This Is What Trump's EPA Looks Like So Far

Jan 30, 2017

Since taking office, on Jan. 20 President Donald Trump's administration has done a lot to shake things up at the Environmental Protection Agency. His nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, could be up for a confirmation vote as soon as Wednesday.

Get caught up on the big picture in 100 seconds with this explainer video by OPB's John Rosman and KCTS/EarthFix's Ken Christensen.

Colin Curwen-McAdams opens the door to his greenhouse in Mt. Vernon, Washington, and a rush of warm air hits our faces.

“Basically, it’s summer all year long here,” he jokes.

This is the greenhouse where Curwen-McAdams, a PhD student at Washington State University, and WSU professor Steven Jones developed a new species, which they call Salish Blue. It’s a cross between wheat and its wild cousin, wheat grass. Their goal was to make something that’s like wheat but grows back year after year.

Democrats in the Washington Legislature are looking to bolster the state’s oil spill prevention efforts.

An expansion of a Kinder Morgan oil pipeline through British Columbia is expected to increase oil tanker traffic in Washington’s Salish Sea sevenfold. Meanwhile, Washington’s Department of Ecology estimates a shortfall of $4 million in its oil spill prevention program.

White House advisor and former Washington state Sen. Don Benton is part of the team implementing the president’s agenda at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Benton was sworn in as senior advisor Saturday, he said. The job is a temporary position, but could be extended. During the campaign, Benton served as Trump’s campaign chairman in Washington.

Biologist Shaun Clements stands in the winter mist in a coastal Oregon forest. He’s holding a small vial of clear liquid.

“We should be safe mixing it now, right?” he asks his colleague Kevin Weitemier above the sound of a rushing stream a few feet away.

Weitemier brings a second vial, full of stream water. In deliberate, seeming choreographed movements, usually associated with ritual, they pour the liquid back and forth between the small containers to mix -- two, then three times — never spilling a drop.

Clements looks down at the clock. It’s 12:29 pm.

Operators of the biggest dam in the Northwest will now have to reduce oil spills that pollute the Columbia River. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation settled a lawsuit Thursday with the environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper.

Three Oregon conservation groups say a new plan to manage National Wildlife Refuges in the Klamath Basin doesn’t do enough to protect habitat. The groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Medford to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider additional options.

The perfect day for an outdoor wedding or a baseball game? That’s a “mild day,” says Sarah Kapnick, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“I like to call mild weather days the ‘Goldilocks days,’” she says. “They’re not too hot. They’re not too cold. They’re just right.”

Kapnick is one of the co-authors of a study published Wednesday that has good news for picnickers and hikers in the Pacific Northwest: As climate change advances, we’ll have more mild weather.

Invasive Species Add Up To Big Losses For Washington

Jan 17, 2017

Invasive species could cost the state of Washington $1.3 billion a year if left unchecked, a new study found.

In mid-November, thousands of people took to the streets in cities across the nation, including Portland and Seattle, to express their unhappiness with Donald Trump's election.

Protesters gathered in the central Oregon city of Bend, too. But their numbers were much smaller.

Bend TV station KTVZ reported that a couple of hundred marchers sang and carried signs.

The timber industry thinks it may able to reverse President Barack Obama's expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Southern Oregon.

The president's decision to add 48,000 acres to the 65,000-acre national monument was praised by environmentalists and Oregon's two senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.

But a timber industry trade group argued that Obama misused his power under the 1906 Antiquities Act.

New research shows Dungeness crab fisheries could suffer as the Pacific Ocean grows more acidic.

Increasing acidification from carbon pollution will drive down food supplies for crab, according to new scientific modeling from the University of Washington and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In a tiny island laboratory in the Northwesternmost corner of Washington, one marine biologist is on a mission: scan every known fish species in the world.

It’s a painstaking and smelly task, but one that promises to fundamentally change the way scientists and educators look at marine anatomy.

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