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.

PORTLAND -- New threats and a legal settlement prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal today to list West Coast populations of fisher as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The fisher, an elusive cousin of the mink, otter and weasel, was first driven into scarcity by fur trappers and loggers in the late 1800s. Today it's getting poisoned by marijuana growers.

Wyoming Offers Northwest Tribal Leaders A Free Trip To Coal Country

Oct 7, 2014

Treaty fishing rights give Northwest tribes extra clout when it comes to the future of proposed coal terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound.

That's not lost on the governor of Wyoming, a big proponent of coal exports.

Gov. Matt Mead is inviting Northwest tribal leaders on an all-expenses-paid trip to coal country in Northeastern Wyoming, according to an email obtained by EarthFix.

The governor's invitation went out to tribes in Oregon and Washington, including the Umatilla, Yakama, Swinomish and the Lummi.

Stealing Fish To Study Seabirds

Oct 6, 2014

SEATTLE -- Seabird populations in Puget Sound have declined since the 1970s and scientists believe pollution is partially to blame.

But how do you prove that? Study what the seabirds are eating. A new paper published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin found that seabirds in Puget Sound are eating fish that are two to four times more contaminated than fish on Washington's outer coast.

Bats May Mistake Wind Turbines For Trees, Study Warns

Oct 3, 2014

An unprecedented number of bats are being killed by wind turbine blades. A new report has found bats may be mistaking wind turbines for trees.

Bats are often looking for a place to roost when the moon is bright and winds are low. That’s when the conditions can be the deadliest for bats flying near wind turbines.

AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File

“Sobering” is how Washington Governor Jay Inslee summed up a draft report about the risks of increased oil transport through the state.  In the report, the State Department of Ecology describes an unprecedented growth in this local transport, from virtually no trains carrying crude oil in 2011 to 714 million gallons in 2013.

Oil Spill Task Force Braces For More Crude By Rail

Oct 2, 2014

A regional oil spill task force met in Portland Wednesday to discuss the risks of crude oil traveling by rail.

The Pacific States British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force coordinates oil spill response plans among five U.S. states and B.C. A lot of its members have noticed the same worrisome trend: more crude oil is traveling by rail cars instead of arriving on ships, and many agencies aren't prepared for oil spills along rail lines.

PORTLAND -- Inside the operating room at the Portland Audubon Society Wildlife Care Center, head veterinarian Deb Sheaffer is carefully inserting a syringe into the shoulder of an injured red-tail hawk.

The hawk was brought in with a broken wing after it was hit by a car. And as with most raptors brought into the center, Sheaffer and her colleagues want to test it for lead poisoning.

“It’s a very simple blood draw.” Sheaffer said. “It takes one drop of blood, and we run it through a machine, and it takes about three minutes and we get a result back.”

Federal land managers in Idaho project minimal environmental damage from allowing a predator hunting derby to take place in the north-eastern part of the state.

This stunning picture is making the rounds on the Internet today:

It was released by NOAA's Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals and shows an estimated 35,000 walrus "hauling out" on an Alaskan beach.

This is not normally how you would find them. The animals would normally be spread out on the sea ice, but, as you see in the picture, this year the ice has all melted.

Elliott State Forest Management Decisions Near

Oct 1, 2014

ASHLAND, Ore. -- When the State of Oregon agreed last spring to sell three tracts of the Elliott State Forest to timber companies, conservation groups mobilized in opposition.

Now people will have an opportunity to speak to the decision-makers in person at a special meeting of the State Land Board in Coos Bay.

Wednesday, Oct. 8

3-6 p.m.

1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay

A long-awaited tidal energy project in Puget Sound has come to halt. The project was set to generate electricity and connect it to the grid – the first project of its kind in the world. But it just got too expensive.

The Snohomish County Public Utility District had hoped to install two underwater turbines in Admiralty Inlet near Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island. The pilot turbines would have generated enough power for about 200 homes and stayed in the water up to five years.

ASHLAND, Ore. -- It’s difficult to use water when there’s no water flowing. Or so discovered a UK-based mining company this week when Oregon regulators denied one of the many permits required before development of a nickel mine can get underway in Southern Oregon.

The Red Flat Nickel Corporation wants to use water from a creek in the Kalmiopsis Roadless Area in Southwest Oregon for exploratory drilling. It proposed to siphon off 10 gallons per minute from a small creek.

It may be difficult to eat our way out of the invasive species problem, but it can be satisfying to try.

Mercergov.org Photo

Mercer Island schools reopened Tuesday as officials said the city’s water supply was safe again after increased chlorination over the weekend. But they advised residents to first run cold water from every tap in their homes for five minutes, starting on the highest floor.

Flickr Photo/Dan Nguyen (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks to state climatologist Nick Bond about an upcoming research trip he and other scientists are making to Fairbanks, Alaska, where they will be utilizing a NOAA P-3 research aircraft to take direct measurements of the extra heat coming out of areas of open ocean to compare against areas that are frozen. 

Reynolds also speaks with Ursula Rakova from the group Tulele Peisa, a community group of Tulun and Carterets islanders who’s land is already affected by rising seas.

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