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.

Green Crab Invaders Show Up in Puget Sound

Sep 6, 2016

Sean McDonald’s heart sank when he got the text last week.

“I was shocked and dismayed,” said the University of Washington shellfish and crab expert, “I was really hoping that we’d have more time.”

Citizen scientists volunteering with the Washington Sea Grant had found an adult male green crab on a routine sampling trip to San Juan Island’s Westcott Bay.

Canvas bags may have a worse effect on the environment than plastic ones.
Flickr Photo/Karin Beil (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/5R6Qsb

Bill Radke speaks with Noah Dillon, author of a recent Atlantic article about the perils of owning (and not using) canvas grocery totes.

When the iconic sandstone formation known as "the duckbill" collapsed, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department wasn't suspicious.

Erosion happens. Rocks fall. The stretch of cliff where the formation was located, in Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, was so unstable it was fenced off to keep visitors away. There seemed to be no mystery: The 7- by 10-foot pedestal on the coast probably collapsed on its own.

Then a man named David Kalas said it wasn't time and weather that brought down the rock. It was vandals.

And he had video.

New rules are taking effect in Washington that require railroads to prove their readiness for an oil train spill.

The rules, adopted this week, will require railroads to file plans informing the state Department of Ecology of the steps they will take if an oil train derails and spills. The state then reviews those plans and puts railroads through drills to test their preparedness.

Spill planning was a longtime gap in oil train safety.

Railroads in Washington must now meet the same planning requirements as other forms of oil transport such as pipelines and ships.

The Washington Department of Ecology issued a $444,000 fine Thursday to Total Reclaim, the state’s largest electronic waste recycler.

Gil Aegerter

Emily Fox talks with Seattle Times reporter Sandi Doughton about a new study that finds a drastic decline in African elephants. The Great Elephant Census was funded by Paul Allen's company Vulcan.

Members of eight Washington tribes took lessons they learned last spring with them to North Dakota last week, where the Standing Rock Sioux are opposing the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Grizzly sow and cubs near Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone National Park.
Flickr Photo/Yellowstone National Park (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/sTZsC2

In 1972 a young man named Harry Walker was killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The subsequent wrongful death trial focused on whether the National Park Service had done enough to prevent human interaction with bears.

The story puzzled and fascinated former park ranger Jordan Fisher Smith. In it he found myriad questions of what it means to manage nature.

In Idaho, a wildfire has burned nearly 250 square miles of forest and is growing quickly. About 157,000 acres are currently on fire in Boise National Forest in the western part of the state, northeast of Boise.

The blaze, known as the Pioneer Fire, has been burning for several weeks, but hot, dry weather this week caused the wildfire to get much larger.

Scott Graf of Boise State Public Radio reports for NPR's Newscast Unit:

The Federal Highway Administration has granted Oregon $2.1 million for the state’s pay-per-mile tax program. The pilot OReGO program started in 2015 and now includes more than 1,200 vehicles.

"We received funding to expand our technology options and to develop new ones potentially, including a manual option that we would need if we were to go to a fully mandated statewide program," said Michelle Godfrey, an Oregon Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

Crook County is the latest in rural Oregon to consider a natural resource plan that outlines policies on things like timber harvest, wildlife and fire management.

Crook County leaders voted 2-1 Tuesday to reject the natural resource plan submitted by a local political action committee.

Mount Rainier National Park.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Bill Radke speaks with Bruce Barcott about the character of Mount Rainier and the place it takes in the lives of people who live around Puget Sound. Barcott is the author of "Measure of a Mountain: Beauty and Terror on Mount Rainier." 

KUOW has profiled all three of the national parks in Washington to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. You can also hear our conversations about Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park

Serious algae outbreaks have hit more than 20 states this summer. Organisms are shutting down beaches in Florida, sickening swimmers in Utah and threatening ecosystems in California.

The blooms are a normal part of summer, but the frequency, size and toxicity this year are worse than ever.

And water managers are rattled.

"Everyone's on edge with the cyanobacteria," says Bev Anderson, a scientist with the California Water Resources Control Board.

Emails reporting outbreaks of cyanobacteria — or blue-green algae — fill Anderson's inbox every morning.

Relations between federal land managers and residents of the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon have long been strained by disputes over the Bureau of Land Management’s forest plans.

With another large forestry project now under consideration, I went on a field trip with BLM staff and Applegate residents to look at the proposed Nedsbar timber sale on Bald Mountain.

Kristi Mastrofini, a field manager in the Medford, Oregon, office of the Bureau of Land Management, points the group toward our destination.

This November, Washington voters must decide how to vote on the nation’s first ever carbon tax. Initiative 732 would increase taxes on fossil fuel consumption to fight climate change, but cut business and sales taxes.


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