environment

Scientists and crew prepping the Healy for a voyage to the North Pole
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

The Shell Oil rig that left Elliott Bay last week isn't the only big vessel heading to the Arctic from Seattle. A Coast Guard icebreaker heads to Alaska on Wednesday. The Seattle-based ship will help a multinational team of scientists explore pollution at the North Pole.

Climate change has fueled competition at the top of the world, where shipping and resource extraction are becoming feasible for the first time. With a tiny fleet of icebreakers (the Coast Guard has just two in operation), the U.S. lags behind other nations. At last count, Russia has 41 icebreakers.

KUOW's John Ryan reports.

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Members with the U.S. Forest Service's Lassen Interagency Hotshot crew stationed at Susanville, Calif., observe an Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter approach a landing zone June 30, 2013, over Palmer, Alaska.
Flickr Photo/U.S. Department of Defense (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Alaska Public Radio reporter Alexandra Guttierez about the challenges of fighting fires in Alaska.

The federal government's new rules aimed at preventing explosive oil train derailments are sparking a backlash from all sides.

The railroads, oil producers and shippers say some of the new safety requirements are unproven and too costly, yet some safety advocates and environmental groups say the regulations aren't strict enough and still leave too many people at risk.

Chandra LeGue and David Calahan are facing a bit of a problem. They’re at the Sundown Trailhead near Southern Oregon's Applegate Valley. And they’re standing in the middle of a cloud.

Normally hiking in foggy weather isn’t a big deal. But on this day LeGue wanted it to be clear so the Google Trekker apparatus she’s carrying on her back can photograph the trail.

Pope Francis today issued a sweeping 184-page papal letter, writing that climate change is a global problem with far reaching environmental and social consequences — especially for the poor. He blamed apathy and greed and called on developing countries to limit the use of nonrenewable energy and to assist poorer nations.

A crow dives on a researcher during a trial. Crows recognize people who have scared them or wronged them for years.
Courtesy Keith Brust

Professor John Marzluff’s phone is ringing more than usual, which means it’s crow dive-bombing season in Seattle.

“Every time I go out into my backyard there's a crow out there that's squawking at me and chasing me down,” said a man who called in about his experience to KUOW.

This is a California sea lion on Long Beach, Washington, apparently experiencing seizures from domoic acid poisoning in May 2015.
DAN AYRES/WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The West Coast is experiencing the largest bloom of toxic algae in more than a decade, prompting wide-ranging closures of commercial crab and shellfish harvesting.

It’s also causing some very weird behavior in marine wildlife.

West Coast Fish Species Recovers Decades Ahead Of Schedule

Jun 16, 2015

Fishery managers say two valuable West Coast groundfish have recovered ahead of schedule: canary rockfish and petrale sole.

That's good news for the fishing industry. The fleet has been restricted from catching healthy stocks of fish that swim alongside these protected species at the bottom of the ocean.

For more than a decade, canary rockfish have been what's considered a "choke" species. That is, protecting them choked off fishing access to other valuable species like Dover sole and black cod.

A virus is being blamed for killing millions of West Coast sea stars, but it's unclear why the disease is hitting so hard.
Katie Campbell

A couple of years ago, divers in Puget Sound began to notice something odd: Starfish were disappearing.

The sea creatures would get sores and then melt into piles of mush. Sea star wasting syndrome is a gruesome disease and it spread to starfish all along the West Coast. Scientists still don't know a lot about it.

More than half of Oregon’s counties are now officially in a state of drought – 19 of them, at last count, compared to nine last year.

To get a sense of how drought is affecting agriculture in the state, OPB’s "All Things Considered" host Kate Davidson spoke with Jim Johnson, land use and water planning coordinator for the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Johnson said the effects of drought are already visible, ranging from an earlier start to the irrigation season to farmers moving high value crops closer to water sources.

Dean Smith, who retired from the NSA, now tracks oil trains. He has gotten more information to the state in one week than oil companies have in three years.
EarthFix/KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

EVERETT, Wash. – Dean Smith, 72, sits in his car by the tracks north of Seattle.

It’s a dark, rainy Tuesday night, and Smith waits for an oil train to come through town. These trains are distinctive: A mile long, they haul 100 or so black, pill-shaped cars that each carry 30,000 gallons of crude oil.

In April this year, on Earth Day, Pope Francis urged everyone to see the world through the eyes of God, as a garden to cultivate.

"May the way people treat the Earth not be guided by greed, manipulation, and exploitation, but rather may it preserve the divine harmony between creatures and creation, also in the service of future generations," he said.

Travel up and down California farm country, the Central Valley, and you hardly hear people lamenting the lack of rain or how dry this past winter was. What you hear, from the agriculture industry and many local and national politicians, are sentiments like those expressed by Rep. Devin Nunes:

"Well, what I always like to say is that this is a man-made drought created by government," the Central Valley Republican says.

An example of animal bridge on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. Washington is building wildlife overpasses over I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass.
Flickr Photo/Jitze Couperus

Ross Reynolds talks with Washington State Department of Transportation project manager Brian White about the new wildlife overpass that connects habitat on either side of I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass. It will be part of a project that also includes underpasses already in place near Gold Creek.

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