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.

Forty centimeters is a long way down when you’re digging a pit in the forest.

“That’s why you never find perpetrators burying a body six feet under – it’s way too much work,” quips Western Oregon University Professor Misty Weitzel to the raucous approval of her sweaty students.

These Western Oregon University students aren’t burying bodies. They’re digging them up. Weitzel assures that the bodies are not human.

“What we have are three domestic pig burials that were placed in the ground 10 years ago,” says Weitzel, who teaches criminal justice.

Authorities have issued a mandatory evacuation order for the 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray in Alberta, where a wildfire has taken hold in the oil sands region. According to officials, it's the largest evacuation order caused by fire in the province's history.

CASCADE LOCKS – Klairice Westley stoops at the edge of a spring in the woods above the Oxbow Fish Hatchery.

"Want to get a drink?" she asks.

She dips a cupped hand into the pool of water and takes a sip.

"Oh, that's good water,"she says. "That's the best."

Westley lives nearby in Cascade Locks and also belongs to the Grand Ronde and Warm Springs tribes. She says drinking from Oxbow Springs is more than a tradition among tribal members – it’s a religious rite.

Environmental Impacts Linked To Columbia River Coal Project

Apr 29, 2016

Coal dust, greenhouse gas emissions, noise and traffic congestion are among the environmental impacts from the proposed coal export terminal in Longview, Washington, according to a draft report released Friday.

Thomas Merton Center dinner honoring Bill McKibben, 11/4/2013
Flickr Photo/Mark Dixon (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/hkccL6

On his recent visit to Seattle, author and environmentalist Bill McKibben apologized for his “life’s work of bumming people out” about climate change. He continued with that sobering work in this talk at Town Hall Seattle, but not without sharing his optimism about the successes and the future of the environmental movement.

The newest apiary inspector at the Maryland Department of Agriculture has four legs, golden fur and a powerful sniffer.

Mack, a 2-year-old yellow Lab, joined the team last fall to help his mom, chief apiary inspector Cybil Preston, inspect beehives for American foulbrood — AFB — a highly contagious bacterial disease that infects honeybee brood and, eventually, kills the colony.

Portland State University, the city of Portland and Multnomah County announced plans Wednesday to spend $125,000 on a two-year study of the city’s toxic air pollution.

Port of Vancouver commissioners signed an amended lease Tuesday with the backers of an oil terminal at the port.

If built, the Vancouver Energy Project could be the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country. The project is a joint venture between Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies. It would move crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota to ports along the West Coast.

The re-negotiated lease gives the project’s backers more time to receive state approval. The oil terminal backers signed the amended lease April 22.

A bus moves into traffic on Delridge Way in West Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

King County Metro plans to increase transit service in the next five years, and it plans to do so without adding more greenhouse gas emissions.

Earth Day got you thinking about how your diet impacts the planet?

The World Resources Institute has news to ease a meat-lover's conscience: In a new report, it says you don't have to bid burgers bye-bye in order to reduce the environmental footprint of what you eat. Cutting back could go a long way, it says.

In the report, the nonprofit calculates the planetary effect of various possible changes in how the world eats.

Old-growth forests in the Northwest have the potential to make the extremes of climate change less damaging for wildlife. New research out of Oregon State University shows complex forests do a surprisingly good job of regulating temperature on the ground – even compared to fully mature tree plantations.

“On a sunny day, if you were sitting underneath them, you’d get a similar amount of shade,” says study co-author Matt Betts, an Ecologist at OSU.

Herrera Beutler Pushes More Oil Train Spill Planning

Apr 22, 2016

Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler has introduced a bill that would help firefighters around the country get grant money for oil train derailment and accident planning.

The bill doesn’t actually call for more dollars. Instead, it would create a higher priority for funding plans in communities where oil trains regularly travel.

UW-Tacoma biologist Aimee Kinney looks for small invertebrates that salmon feed on along a less-degraded patch of heavily walled Alki Beach in West Seattle.
kUOW Photo/John Ryan

In Seattle's King County, property owners have walled off most of the shoreline with concrete bulkheads and other heavy infrastructure.

Along Hood Canal and other rural parts of the sound, the owners of coveted waterfront homes keep building more walls to keep their properties from eroding.

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