EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

The next time you’re shopping for beer in Oregon, take a close look at the bottle. A select few will be thicker and heavier than usual with the word "refillable" stamped into the glass.

Thousands of refillable bottles from seven craft breweries are popping up on store shelves across the state as part of an effort to bring back a more sustainable way of drinking beer.

At Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, bottling machines are filling a long line of shiny brown refillable beer bottles with a new pale ale.

Another long, hot wildfire season is underway in the Pacific Northwest. A long list of fires has burned this summer across the region, torching native plants as they spread across the dry land.

Once the fires are extinguished, another threat lingers: The burned landscapes provide an opportunity for invasive species to thrive, forcing out essential native plants.

Lamprey populations across the Pacific Northwest have fallen in the past half century. An Oregon State University estimate says they are at 5 to 10 percent of their numbers half a century ago. Conservation officials and Native American tribes say this is troubling because of lampreys’ importance to the ecosystem. Now an effort is underway to monitor the numbers of these eel-like fish in southern coastal Oregon, to help researchers learn about their migration patterns and challenges.

Deep within a coastal rainforest, a series of waterfalls known as Devil’s Staircase tumbles haphazardly.

Tucked between the Umpqua and Smith rivers two hours southwest of Eugene, the forest surrounding Devil’s Staircase is studded with red cedars, Douglas firs and western hemlocks.

"It’s an absolutely unique and extraordinary place," said U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio. The Devil’s Staircase is in the Democrat’s Southwest Oregon district.

California decided to protect the rare Humboldt marten Thursday under the state Endangered Species Act.  The mink-like animal only exists in four isolated populations near the coastline running along Southern Oregon and Northern California.

The California Fish and Game Commission voted Thursday to list the rare Humboldt marten as endangered.

Tierra Curry is a scientist with the Center For Biological Diversity, a group that petitioned for greater protections.

The Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge is the largest undeveloped stretch of the Willamette River floodplain below Willamette Falls. It's 175 acres of prime habitat.

But for nearly a century, a small culvert has blocked young salmon from swimming into this sanctuary in the heart of Southeast Portland.

An arm of Oregon's Tourism Commission wants to warm tourists up to the idea of vacation in Oregon despite a summer of cold feet over wildfires in the West, driving a sizable revenue loss to the state's tourism industry last year, leaders say.

Oregon Settles Lawsuit Over Stormwater Pollution

Aug 20, 2018

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality has settled a lawsuit that environmental groups filed over the state’s regulation of stormwater pollution.

When it rains, water runs over industrial sites and collects toxics like copper, lead and zinc, which then wash into rivers and streams. This kind of pollution has become a major source of contaminants across the country.

Over the past 30 years of capturing stories for "Oregon Field Guide," we’re used to packing camera gear into remote locations. But on this expedition our goal was different than we’ve ever done before: to capture the solar eclipse — a fleeting moment when the moon crosses the sun, turning day to night for two minutes.

We knew it would hit the Oregon coast first, whisking over the entire state of Oregon in a mere nine minutes. But we didn't know exactly what to expect. The last time a total solar eclipse crossed the entire United States was 1918.

After cutting down trees in a section of forest, logging crews can do their local bees a favor by sticking around to clear the debris and flatten the ground.

A recent study from Oregon State University suggests that removing timber harvest residue — also known as “slash” — could help wild bee populations thrive in the wake of a clearcut logging operation.

Oregonians will have the chance to weigh in on proposed new smoke management rules that could ease the way for more controlled burns aimed at reducing the threat of major wildfires.

State regulators will hold public hearings in five cities often affected by smoke from wildfires.

Under the proposals, there would no longer be a strict ban against allowing controlled burns projected to cause visible smoke in nearby communities. Instead, these prescribed fires would have to remain under certain state and federal clean-air standards.

It’s not unusual for toxic algal blooms to close a lake or pond. And in recent years, these algae have been contaminating another type of swimming spot: the Willamette River. In early August, the Oregon Health Authority advised Portland residents to keep themselves and their pets out of the water in certain areas.

Chris Hopkins moved to Pine Forest for the trees. He was drawn to the hilly, forested community in Washington’s Methow Valley, and decided to build a cabin there in the 1990s, "before we really knew about fire danger," he said.

How To Prepare Your Home For Wildfire

Aug 15, 2018

Homes built on the edge of forests and grasslands are especially vulnerable to wildfires. Development in this zone — known as the wildland-urban interface — is the fastest-growing land use type in the lower 48 states.

The sunrise over the Portland metro area Tuesday morning revealed an orange orb behind a haze of smoke from wildfires burning across British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, prompting the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to issue air quality advisories for swaths of western Oregon.

It's the latest consequence of yet another year of devastating wildfires.

Give Jason Holmberg 10,000 zebra photos and he’ll find the specific individual zebra you’re looking for, no problem.

"It could take two minutes," he said.

Scientists have taken an unprecedented step to save one of the Salish Sea’s 75 endangered orcas: They tried to feed her in the wild.

Onboard a Lummi Nation police boat off San Juan Island, biologists dropped eight Chinook salmon, one by one, into a plastic tube off the boat’s stern on Sunday. The tube disgorged each thrashing fish into the path of the emaciated young killer whale known as J50.

The dinner delivery by boat was a test run for a new way of medicating one of the ocean’s top predators.

A warm and dry spring often means large numbers of yellow jacket wasps. Their population usually peaks in late summer. Most are seeking water or defending their nests which may be in the ground or suspended in trees or houses.

OSU entomologist Gail Langellotto warns against going after yellow jackets, especially with pressurized chemical pesticides. Bees could be affected, or people can blast themselves, accidentally. It’s just better to wait.

UPDATE (Aug. 13, 7:40 a.m. PT) — People in the Columbia River Gorge near Mosier were told Saturday to evacuate due to a wildfire that started Friday night around Memaloose State Park. The evacuations remained in place as of Sunday morning.

No one was home at a house deep in the woods of Josephine County, Oregon. The people who live here had evacuated days ago along with hundreds of their neighbors. As flames from the Taylor Creek Fire got closer and closer, the firefighters showed up.

They came to prepare for the worst so that if the wind picked up, they’d be ready to dash down the driveway and save this house, even if the forest burned around it.