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Earthfix

Choice Of Scott Pruitt To Run EPA Frustrates Some Oregonians

Dec 9, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has ruffled some feathers in Oregon.

He’s sued the EPA for everything from the Clean Power Plan to the Clean Water Act.

But Pruitt’s assertion that it was states, and not the EPA, that were intended to be the nation's foremost environmental regulators, has antagonized Frank Potter.

He’s now retired and living in Portland. But Potter worked for Congress in the 1970s and helped draft the National Environmental Policy Act.

Eastern Washington lawmaker Cathy McMorris Rodgers is emerging as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead natural resources policy as interior secretary.

Several news organizations, including the Associated Press and The New York Times reported this development Friday, based on information from unnamed sources.

Such an appointment would ensure that a Washington state resident remains at the helm of the Interior Department, which includes the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

An environmental group filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Washington state of failing to control water pollution along the coast and Puget Sound.

Portland-based Northwest Environmental Advocates is asking a U.S. district court to force two federal agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – to cut funding to the state as a form of punishment.

Castle Peak is so hidden from view that you can’t see it from any highway.

But it just might be the most important mountain in Idaho. Castle Peak and the surrounding Boulder-White Cloud Mountains have stirred up fights over mining, recreation and conservation — fights that have changed the course of political careers, including that of a self-described "Democratic lumberjack from North Idaho" named Cecil Andrus who became governor after taking a stand over the future of this rugged, mineral-rich wilderness.

Federal land managers are getting their scientific ducks in a row before updating the most important forest management plan in the Northwest.

The Northwest Forest Plan covers 24 million acres of public land run by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management. It went into effect 22 years ago.

“Since that time, there’s been a wealth of new science, a tremendous focus on new issues,” says Tom Spies of USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station in Corvallis.

Sunday's victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its battle against an oil pipeline in North Dakota is big news for a tribal member living in the Pacific Northwest.

Ace Baker is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux who lives with his family on the Swinomish Reservation near La Conner, Washington. Baker spent about three weeks participating in protests.

He said it was "hard to believe" the news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied the easements for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be build beneath the Missouri River. Construction has stopped.

The Olympic Peninsula was Charles Nelson’s best medicine.

The Army veteran had served during 1990s conflicts in Somalia and Kuwait before returning home to Seattle. Nelson couldn’t cope with daily life as a civilian. Something as common as an unexpected car-door slam gave him a shiver of fear. Doctors diagnosed him with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

He joined a group of veterans who took weekly hikes deep into the rainforest.

“It was better therapy for me than anything else I’ve really been through,” Nelson said.

Life At A Post-War Nuclear Weapons Factory

Dec 1, 2016

Seth Ellingsworth figured he was set for life. He was 22 and had just landed a coveted factory job in the company town he’d grown up in.

“I thought it was the greatest thing ever,” he said. “The place where people in the area worked that did well, I got a job there. I was really proud that I was a part of it.”

Now, at 35, Ellingsworth spends most days beset by tremors, struggling for oxygen, frequently confined to the ground floor of his home in Richland, Washington. It’s just outside his former place of work: the Hanford Nuclear Site.

The Plane That Won A War And Polluted A River

Dec 1, 2016

This is a condensed version of a story originally published Sept. 29, 2015. Read the complete story here.

There's an old photograph in my father’s office that I’ve always wondered about. In it my grandfather and nine other young airmen stand in front of their B-17 plane, shoulders squared, smiling for the camera. They were probably in England at the time, getting ready to fly bombing raids over Germany in 1943.

Paul Fishman spots a rusty chunk of metal jutting out of the riverbank on Portland’s South Waterfront.

“Ah-ha!" he said. “Here’s a piece of ship’s hull."

The piece came from a World War II ship – one of the few signs of the post-war industry that used to be here.

During World War II, the site was one of several Willamette River shipyards devoted to building military vessels. But when victory made all those warships obsolete, this stretch of the waterfront became the scrapyard where many of those ships were torn apart.

Growing up, Paul Skirvin milked a lot of cows.

“Dad went and borrowed the money,” he says. “And before we was through milking cows, we was milking about 60 head.”

This was outside of Portland in the 1930s and '40s. Skirvin was too young to fight in World War II. Soon after it ended he received a quick lesson in economics when he and his brother were hired to log off their neighbor’s land.

“We milked those cows all month and about the same as we’d make in a week logging.” he says.

The timber industry labor shortage during WWII was very real. Many able-bodied men left the woods to fight in the war and still others felt the pull of wartime manufacturing jobs in cities like Seattle, Tacoma and Portland.

Loggers were exempted from the draft because the United States needed lumber for the war effort. But that didn’t solve the labor shortage.

Like in other war-time industries across the country, women joined the workforce.

“Women do start working the timber industry in the 1940s, particularly in plywood mills,” said UO historian Steven Beda.

The Navy has just been granted permits by the U.S. Forest Service to expand electromagnetic warfare training over Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

Now the Navy is cleared to drive trucks out into the Olympic National Forest, armed with electromagnetic signaling technology. Then growler jets will take off from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and fly overhead, searching for the signal trucks from the air. It's essentially a military training game of hide-and-go-seek. The trucks simulate cell towers and other communications behind enemy lines that the Navy wants to scramble.

The Canadian government approved a crude-oil pipeline project that is much larger than the one generating protests in North Dakota and could bring a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic to the Salish Sea.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the Kinder-Morgan Transmountain pipeline expansion project. The pipeline currently brings crude from Alberta’s oil sands region to the coast of British Columbia.

Now the company is approved to more than double the pipeline’s capacity.

For more than half a century, dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have been taken for granted as a permanent part of the landscape. The four dams on the lower Snake River provide hydropower and navigation to the West Coast’s most inland port -- in Lewiston, Idaho. They’ve also proven detrimental to threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

Now, a longstanding debate — removing or altering the four lower Snake River dams — is back at the forefront of a discussion on how to protect fish while still doing what’s best for all interests along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

In this town of 1,200 people in the southwest corner of Oregon, neighborhoods end where stacks of sprinkler-soaked logs begin.

The town is surrounded by four sawmills in the heart of timber country.

Here in Douglas County, where about half of the land is owned by the federal government, Donald Trump won 64 percent of the county's vote in this year’s presidential election. Trump’s victory has this community and others in the Northwest Timber Belt cheering and hoping better times are ahead.

People who eat fish from Washington state waters will be protected by a combination of new federal and state pollution rules.

That’s the outcome of a decision the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled Tuesday.

The announcement could end years of wrangling over how much to restrict municipal and industrial water pollution. Indian tribes have been especially critical of what they considered lax standards for how much fish can be safely consumed.

Sara Thompson from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission called the decision an important first step.

Conservationists and fishing groups worry their voices aren’t being heard during public hearings about the future of southeastern Washington's Snake River dams.

A federal judge ordered agencies to to consider all options on the table when it comes to protecting threatened and endangered salmon that -- including a hard look at removing or altering the four dams on the lower Snake River.

The Oregon Board of Forestry is proposing to increase the number of shade trees left standing beside streams after logging on private forests. The proposed rules are designed to improve habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout in the western part of the state.

The idea is to get these streams into compliance with the state’s own rules about protecting cold water for these species of fish.

Activists with the Portland Climate Action Coalition are putting the finishing touches on an old school bus they purchased and renovated to serve as a shelter and medical facility for oil pipeline protesters at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

When it comes to the amount of trash produced, Oregon is moving in the wrong direction. A new report Monday from the Department of Environmental Quality shows households are producing more solid waste, but recycling and composting less of it.

It’s the deep-bellied growl that stops them.

The researchers are just approaching the grizzly bear when he begins expressing his displeasure. Grizzly No. 1225 had been smart enough to avoid a huge, metal box trap. But not the leg snare next to it.

Northwest oil train opponents are celebrating after a county in the Columbia River Gorge rejected a track-expansion request from Union Pacific Railroad.

This is the third story in a three-part series. Read part one and part two.

In 2011, a bill creating a new tax on birdseed to fund wildlife conservation had widespread support, including the governor’s. It failed.

Five years ago this week, a wolf known as OR-7 began a long journey across Oregon. He traveled some 1,200 miles, including a stint in northern California, before settling in southern Oregon.

Some biologists thought OR-7 would forever remain a wandering bachelor and never pair up. But he found a mate in 2014, and the two have produced pups for the past three years in a row.

Michelle Dennehy with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says much has changed for wolves since OR-7 was born in 2009 in eastern Oregon.

This is the second story in a three-part series. Read part one and part three.

DRY RIVER CANYON, Ore. — In the middle of the night, at the edge of a Central Oregon canyon, a man in a jumpsuit sent mating calls into the darkness.

This is the first story in a three-part series. Read part one and part two.

For wildlife in Oregon, the best way to stay alive is to make sure someone wants to kill you.

Several hundred supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe staged a protest at the Army Corps of Engineers building in downtown Portland.

A plan to build an oil pipeline across land and rivers important to the Standing Rock Sioux has sparked one of the largest, most diverse tribal protest movements in decades. Last week, more than 100 protesters were arrested at their encampment in North Dakota.

In Portland on Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered in solidarity, carrying signs that declared "Water is Life" and "No Dakota Access Pipeline."

Several hundred supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe staged a protest at the Army Corps of Engineers building in downtown Portland.

A plan to build an oil pipeline across land and rivers important to the Standing Rock Sioux has sparked one of the largest, most diverse tribal protest movements in decades. Last week, more than 100 protesters were arrested at their encampment in North Dakota.

In Portland on Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered in solidarity, carrying signs that declared "Water is Life" and "No Dakota Access Pipeline."

Agreement Reached To Help Oregon's Spotted Frog

Oct 28, 2016

The Upper Deschutes River and the Oregon spotted frogs that live there will see higher water flows under an interim deal reached Friday between environmental groups, irrigation districts and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The agreement comes after conservation groups filed suit.

“This is the first of many steps to restore a natural flow regime in the Deschutes,” said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity in a release.

The Center and WaterWatch of Oregon were parties to the agreement.

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