EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

By Ted Alvarez/Crosscut

For the third year in a row and the second time this month, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced plans to kill wolves roaming Ferry County. Since Sept. 4, members of the Old Profanity Territory pack have killed one calf and injured five others on U.S. Forest Service grazing lands.

Wildlife advocates are pushing federal officials to stop using spring-loaded cyanide devices to poison predators in Oregon. They filed a petition Thursday asking for an official rulemaking to ban the practice and remove the devices currently out on the land.

The petitioners call the M-44 devices “cyanide bombs” because when triggered, they shoot a burst of deadly cyanide powder in the air. Federal animal control agency Wildlife Services states it uses M-44s to kill problem coyotes, foxes and feral dogs.

A federal court has upheld an environmental law that protects fish habitat from a certain type of gold mining in Oregon rivers and streams.

 The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the Oregon Legislature and Gov. Kate Brown were within their rights to adopt a ban on suction dredge mining.

Closing A Highway To Save Washington Salmon

Sep 11, 2018

Swauk Creek runs through the dry dirt and the fir and pine trees of the Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest. Right now, it’s no more than a few inches deep and perhaps 5 to 6 feet across. But, in the spring, this creek is 20 feet wide.

By Jason Buch/Crosscut

In the early 1980s, a group of recreational fishermen dropping lines near the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard, Washington, started complaining about a particularly large and wily California sea lion.

The shore anglers had good reason to be annoyed. Each time they hooked a fish, this sea lion would pop up and eat it off their line.

Deaths related to air pollution from wildfires could double by the end of the century, according to newly published research into the links between climate change, wildfires and human health.

UPDATE (9:19 a.m. PT) — Interstate 5 partially reopened to traffic Monday morning as fire officials continue to battle the growing Delta Fire. California’s transit agency says one lane is open in each direction over a 17-mile stretch. The stretch of highway between Redding and Mount Shasta had been closed since Wednesday, Sept. 5. Drivers are warned to expect lengthy delays.



Behind Wildfire Suppression, A Human Toll

Sep 8, 2018

Jay Crawford was face-first against the dirt. Somehow, he was still alive.

He looked around the forest and checked himself over to make sure he really was.

Then he glanced downhill toward his friend John Hammack. Crawford saw brush and the giant trunk of a fallen Douglas fir.

No sign of Hammack.

He shouted. No answer.

On the morning of Aug. 1, 2013, Crawford and Hammack had set out to cut a single Douglas fir tree burning in the woods outside Sisters, Oregon.

Most people probably aren’t thinking about vultures.

“We don’t notice they’re there, but we would notice if they weren’t,” said Travis Koons, animal curator at the Oregon Zoo.

Known for their scavenging tendencies and bald, fleshy heads, vulture species such as California condors are much more than ugly birds, Koons said.

A year ago, the Eagle Creek Fire was spreading quickly through the Columbia River Gorge.

Altogether, it burned nearly 47,000 acres on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia.

You can see how the fire has changed the forest and its popular hiking trails in this  interactive, 360-degree video:

The fire ravaged many popular hiking trails, burning footbridges, toppling trees and creating hazardous landslides.

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A proposal for a $1.1 billion renewable fuels refinery on the Columbia River could be held up by a dispute over land use zoning.

Texas-based Waterside Energy has proposed a facility at Port Westward in Clatskanie, Oregon, that would make renewable diesel for West Coast buyers. Renewable diesel is a replacement for traditional diesel fuel that uses reprocessed animal fats and vegetable oils. Proponents of the fuel tout its lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Oregon Makes Case For Prescribed Fire Smoke

Aug 30, 2018

Oregon is proposing to change how it regulates smoke. The idea is to make it easier to use intentionally set or prescribed fire on public and private land.

Wildfire smoke has increasingly become a point of contention in communities across the Pacific Northwest. For example, Southern Oregon has experienced the worst air quality in the state this summer. There have been around 25 days when the air quality has reached unhealthy levels.

As Portland school officials toured Harriet Tubman Middle School, they marveled at the new science labs and dance studio. Upstairs, with a great view west of the Fremont Bridge and Forest Park, science teacher Paul Bubl was getting ready for students.

Climate change might lead to bigger populations of hungrier insects. This could have serious consequences for grain-growing regions in the Northwest and across the world.

“And, of course, the impacts from these insects will come on top of whatever effect climate change is already having,” says Curtis Deutsch, an earth scientist at the University of Washington. The paper, which Deutsch wrote with an interdisciplinary team of scientists, was published Thursday in the journal Science

We’ve Seen The Future of Meat, And It’s Plants

Aug 29, 2018

Plant-based meats are booming, and companies like Seattle-based Field Roast are redefining an entire food group. But it’s more than a matter of just taste or ethics: Animal-derived proteins carry a larger carbon footprint than their veggie substitutes, so your hamburger choice has real consequences for the environment.

Wolf Pups Born In Oregon's Cascade Mountains

Aug 29, 2018

A new pair of wolves south of Mount Hood has produced at least two pups this year. 

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says it marks the first known wolf reproduction in the northern part of the Cascade Mountains since wolves returned to the state in the 2000s.

A camera on the Warm Springs Reservation first captured images of the wolf pups earlier this month.  

State biologists estimated there were 124 wolves in Oregon in 2017.

Oregon Treasury To Host Sustainable Investing Conference

Aug 29, 2018

The state treasurer is convening a free conference in Portland, exploring the topic of sustainable investing.

The daylong event is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 6. It will focus on how the state and individual Oregonians can account for climate change when making investment decisions.

The agenda includes speakers from the Oregon State Treasury as well as financial giants like Blackrock and Goldman Sachs.

This week a federal judge rejected plans to allow more off-road vehicle trails in the Ochoco National Forest in Eastern Oregon.

The Forest Service proposed 137 miles of designated off-road trails for summer use. But conservation groups argued they would hurt wildlife and ruin popular hunting grounds. The Oregon Hunters Association was among the plaintiffs.

Bill Littlefield is the outgoing president of the Bend chapter of the Hunters Association and an off-road vehicle owner opposed to the trail system.

By Knute Berger/Crosscut

On the banks of the Hoquiam River in southwestern Washington, a mostly sunken vessel lies along a bank at an angle with only its mast and the top of its pilothouse marking its resting place. This stretch of river is a misty, placid working patch of water marked with boats, boatyards and Highway 101 bridges. The derelict we’re looking at is a wooden fishing boat called the Lady Grace, which turned 90 years old this year. Someone wanted to save it, but age caught up.