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 North Cascades of Washington used to be home to thousands of grizzly bears. Their numbers have dwindled to only a handful over the past century, mainly after over-hunting for fur in the late 1800s.

Now, the federal government is asking for the public's input on its plans to boost grizzly bear numbers in Washington’s North Cascades.

Thousands of people are expected to start long distance treks on the Pacific Crest Trail this year.

Grizzly bear
Flickr Photo/Proggie (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks with Chris Morgan, founder of Western Wildlife Outreach, about a proposed plan to reintroduce grizzly bears into the North Cascades.

President Obama has vetoed the KeystoneXL Pipeline, but as more oil moves through the Northwest by rail, one Republican state senator says a pipeline through Washington state could be a solution.

Rep. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane has introduced legislation that would provide $250,000 to study a possible oil pipeline through Washington state.

The pipeline would move oil from the middle of the country to refineries and terminals on the Washington coast.

New Orca Baby Spotted Off Washington Coast

Feb 26, 2015

When a family of killer whales swam near a small research vessel off the Washington coast this week, the scientists on board were excited by the large number of endangered orcas that they saw. Their excitement grew when they spotted an orange-tint in the water.

A baby calf.

“We saw it again this morning swimming with its mother,” Brad Hanson, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Thursday. “It’s probably just a few days old.”

Larry Downing/Reuters

President Barack Obama this week made good on his longstanding promise to veto a bill mandating the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the US. But the action is far from the end of the Keystone story.

A New System To Keep Troops Cool And Use Less Diesel

Feb 26, 2015

Keeping cool may soon take a lot less energy. Northwest researchers have developed a new air cooling system that could be used in cars, buildings and on the Navy’s front lines.

The new air chilling system designed by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could soon be helping to keep troops and cargo cool while they’re at sea.

Japanese Fish Found Alive In Oregon Waters

Feb 25, 2015

Oregon scientists are trying to figure out how a fish, native to Japan, was pulled out of a crab pot on the Oregon coast - alive.

"I've been thinking about it ever since I heard about it," says John Chapman, an invasive species expert at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

He says there's only a handful of ways the striped knifejaw could make it here: in the ballast water of a ship; someone could have dumped their aquarium into the ocean; or the fish survived under debris washed out to sea after the Japanese tsunami.

Protesters of the Keystone Pipeline in San Francisco, Calif., in November 2013.
Flickr Photo/Enviros (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Vaughn Palmer, columnist for the Vancouver Sun, about the news from Canada, including Canada's response over President Obama's veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline and terrorist threats to Canadian malls.

An Idaho lawmaker and farmer said the state should press the federal government to establish a national labeling system for genetically engineered foods -- before states create their own.

Updated at 4:04 p.m. ET

The White House has notified the Senate that President Obama has, as promised, vetoed congressional legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project.

"Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest," Obama said in the notification to the Senate.

Northwest Faces Greater Risks From Acidifying Waters

Feb 24, 2015

The Pacific Northwest faces a higher risk of economic harm from ocean acidification than other parts of the country, according to a new study released Monday.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found a "potent combination" of risk factors along the coasts of Oregon and Washington. The region has cold ocean water that absorbs carbon dioxide more readily than warmer water, and it has upwelling ocean currents that bring corrosive water to the surface.

Ross Reynolds talks with University of Waterloo professor Daniel Scott about how climate change could affect the winter tourism industry.

Bluebird skies, warming temperatures, and snow-free terrain might have you itching to hike your favorite trail.

But be prepared to encounter a "closed trail" sign. Several Northwest hiking routes are off-limits to humans this time of year. That's because the region’s migrant mule deer still need a few months to themselves.

“Giving them a little bit of space and a little consideration can be helpful to ensure that we have healthy deer populations,” said David Volsen, a district wildlife biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

It’s no secret lead exposure is dangerous. Even low levels can affect a child’s brain.

It’s also no secret that airports are one of the last remaining sources of airborne lead in the U.S.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attests to both these facts.

And yet, the EPA has yet to declare an “endangerment finding” for leaded aviation fuel. That means it hasn’t said whether those emissions pose enough of a threat to public health or welfare to trigger the long and complex process of regulating them.

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