Environment

KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer left the Port of Seattle for Alaska on the morning of June 15, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Brian Gregory

Protesters in kayaks dogged Royal Dutch Shell’s huge oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer as it sailed out of Seattle’s Elliott Bay early Monday on a long voyage to the Arctic Ocean.

Dozens used kayaks to form lines in front of the 300-foot-tall rig as it left under heavy Coast Guard escort.

On a former landfill site in Northeast Portland, a white rot fungus has taken hold – and that's a good thing. It's a mushroom known for its ability to clean up water pollution.

Marine Toxin Closes Washington Crab Season

Jun 12, 2015

Washington fishery managers say they are in “uncharted territory” following the closure of a major ocean fishery off the state’s southern coast.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it was closing the recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries after samples of crab revealed unsafe levels of a harmful, naturally occurring marine toxin called domoic acid that has already shut down razor clam fisheries in both Oregon and Washington.

All signs are pointing to a strong El Niño developing by this fall according to an update from the National Weather Service Thursday.

Nobody really likes to be graded. Especially when you don't get an A.

Some organic farmers are protesting a new grading system for produce and flowers that's coming into force at Whole Foods. They say it devalues the organic label and could become an "existential threat."

On a hillside in southeastern Washington, bunch grasses ripple in the wind. A storm is forming off in the distance, and crickets chirp nearby.

It’s here where botanist Mark Darrach has found three rare flowers previously unknown to science. That’s a lot. He said many botanists are lucky to find one in their career.

“It’s a unique plant community that hasn’t been recognized until just a couple years ago when we stumbled across these and started scratching our heads, like ‘Where did this come from? We’ve never seen this before,” Darrach said.

Twenty minutes before the San Diego Tuna Harbor Dockside Market was set to open, the line was 75 people deep and starting to curl past the pier. The crowd here last Saturday didn't come for the local sand dabs or trap-caught black cod. They were bargain hunters looking to score freshly caught, whole Pacific bluefin tuna for the unbelievably low price of only $2.99 a pound.

That's less per pound for this fish — a delicacy prized for its fatty flesh, whose numbers are rapidly dwindling — than the cost of sliced turkey meat at a supermarket deli.

There's a serious problem in the American economy: Big corporations are doing well, but real household income for average Americans has been falling over the past decade — down 9 percent, according to census data.

"That's not good for America," says Harvard economist Michael Porter. "That's not good for America's standard of living. That's not good for our ultimate vitality as a nation."

The issue of forest policy is once again heating up in the Northwest. On Tuesday federal officials presented their latest assessment of the Northwest Forest Plan, which covers more than 2 million acres of federal land in Washington, Oregon and California.

Q: Can you remind us what the Northwest Forest Plan is?

Two technicians balance on a floating fish trap about the size of a double bed. They dip nets into the water and scoop out small fish and mats of vegetation. The fish are carefully placed in five-gallon buckets and the weed is casually tossed back into to river.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife techs are recording their catch from shallow side channel of the middle Klamath River. They're observing variety, inspecting the fish for signs of trouble, and packing up hatchery for disease testing at a lab.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.
Courtesy of Nicole Lux

Ross Reynolds interviews journalist Emma Marris about her recent essay in Orion magazine about human intervention to save endangered species in wilderness areas.

Marris explores the example of  Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park where seeds, grown from cones for two years at the Dorena Genetic Resource Center near Cottage Grove, Oregon, are being planted to preserve dying whitebark pine trees.

Selling seeds and pesticides used to be a sleepy, slow-moving business. That was, until about 20 years ago, when the chemical company Monsanto introduced genetically modified crops and started buying up seed companies. Ever since, companies in this industry have been maneuvering like hungry fish in a pond, occasionally dining on pieces of each other, hoping to survive through size and speed.

Nelida Martinez, one of the farmers growing their businesses at Viva Farms, a farm incubator project
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

  Strawberries, beware. Blueberries and raspberries are ripening early this year.

A warm winter has given way to a hot spring, which means berries are ripening early this year in the Pacific Northwest. That’s great for some growers in the short term – and the rest of us hankering for juicy fruit – but it’s also created competition among farmers.

A new federal recovery plan for Snake River sockeye salmon recognizes progress in rebuilding a species that nearly vanished in the 1990s.

It calls for moving into a new phase of recovery for Idaho's iconic fish – beyond preventing extinction.

The giant Pacific octopus can change colors when disturbed or excited.
Courtesy of Janna Nichols

Imagine for a moment a sentient being that’s radically unlike a human: No bones, numerous limbs that can “taste” you, a slimy body that can squirt through small holes, a mysterious intelligence. This is not science fiction. This is the giant Pacific octopus, one of the many secrets of Puget Sound.

Writer Sy Montgomery made it a personal goal to get as close as she could to one of these large cephalopods for a new book, "The Soul Of An Octopus."

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