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.

The Japanese Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle.
Flickr Photo/GD Taber (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/8s5xjo

Bill Radke speaks with Seattle Times environment reporter Lynda Mapes about Seattle trees, why they're dying and what that tells us about the state of the environment. 

More than 20 fires were sparked in eastern Oregon over the weekend — mostly in Baker and Malheur counties.

Though only four of those fires were significant in size, said Robyn Broyles with the National Interagency Fire Center, a majority were caused by lightning strikes throughout the Northwest.

"There's quite a bit of lightning that came in to our general area that came up from the southwest and spread northwest coming across Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon," said Broyles. "Essentially a lightning pattern came across the corners of those states."

The Bureau of Land Management on Friday finalized two plans to manage more than 2 million acres of public land in western Oregon. These forests, once owned by the Oregon and California Railroad, have been particularly controversial because counties have traditionally relied on them for logging income to fund local services.

Scientists have answered a burning question central to the charm of sunflowers: Why do young flowers move their blooms to always face the sun over the course of a day?

And then: Once sunflowers reach maturity, why do they stop tracking the sun and only face east?

Bill Radke speaks with KUOW's environmental reporter Ashley Ahearn about the growing debate around oil trains traveling through Washington state and why we are in the crosshairs for even more trains carrying crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. 

Larches are a staple of the North Cascades.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Bill Radke speaks with author Ana Maria Spagna about the natural beauty of the North Cascades National Park in Washington. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service. Spagna has lived and worked in the North Cascades for the past 15 years.  

Nestle’s plans to build a commercial water bottling plant in another Northwest town is stirring up more controversy. Waitsburg, Washington's mayor resigned this week amid accusations of backroom deals and protests of the plan by many area residents.

Nestle wants to build a water bottling plant in the Northwest. It first looked to Cascade Locks, Oregon, but voters in Hood County effectively blocked that plan.

If you live in an apartment complex in the greater Seattle area, you might open your door this summer and find a pair of college students in green polos on your front step. They won’t try to get you to vote, buy their wares or convert you. They just want you to recycle.

Russia is fighting a mysterious anthrax outbreak in a remote corner of Siberia. Dozens of people have been hospitalized; one child has died. The government airlifted some families out because more than 2,000 reindeer have been infected.

Officials don't know exactly how the outbreak started, but the current hypothesis is almost unbelievable: A heat wave has thawed the frozen soil there and with it, a reindeer carcass infected with anthrax decades ago.

Some scientists think this incident could be an example of what climate change may increasingly surface in the tundra.

It's a warm, sunny morning at the Homestead National Monument of America in southeastern Nebraska. A burn crew dressed in yellow and green flame-resistant clothing is about to set a patch of tall-grass prairie on fire — on purpose.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden says Canada is tipping the scales for its lumber companies by undercharging them for publicly-owned timber.

As a result, the Oregon Democrat says, Canadian companies have an unfair advantage over U.S. lumber producers — especially in the Northwest.

But Canadian leaders disagree. The two countries have fought over the issue for decades. They’re currently renegotiating a 2006 agreement that expired last year.

I did a little experiment the other day. I stood outside a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C., with two cartons of large brown eggs. One carton had the words "Non-GMO Project Verified" on it, with a little orange butterfly. It also said cage-free. The other carton had a different label; a green and white circle with the words "USDA Organic." One other crucial difference: the organic carton cost 50 cents more.

I asked shoppers which carton they would buy.

Tuesday’s high winds set two major new fires raging in Washington state. One ripped across grassy eastern Washington flats near Moses Lake and the other up a steep canyon near the Snake River and Pullman.

The Range 12 Fire in southeast Washington has destroyed some of the most sensitive shrub steppe habitat in the nation.

Officials from the Hanford nuclear reservation and Energy Northwest have been meeting with fire managers in southeast Washington state Tuesday. The nearby Range 12 Fire has grown to more than 177,000 acres and high winds are predicted this evening.

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