EarthFix

News Fixed on the Environment.

EarthFix is a public media partnership of KLCC, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Idaho Public Television, KCTS9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Jefferson Public Radio, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

It’s September, so the hops harvest is in full swing in Washington’s Yakima Valley. At the Carpenter family’s farm in Granger, workers are making their way between rows of trellises, pulling down vines and feeding them into a sorting machine.

The Carpenter family has been growing hops in the Yakima Valley since the 1860s. Brad Carpenter, who helms the operation these days, said farmers in this dry valley depend on one thing: water.

What You Need To Know About Portland Clean Energy Measure 26-201

Sep 20, 2018

This November, Portland voters will decide whether the city should tax certain businesses to create a clean energy fund.

The measure is referred to as the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Initiative — or the Portland Gross Receipts Tax, depending on who you ask.

Proponents of Measure 26-201, which will formally show up on ballots as the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Initiative, say the city needs money to fund clean energy projects if it's serious about meeting its clean energy goals.

By John Stang/Crosscut

Abe Garza of Richland worked around Hanford underground radioactive waste tanks for 34 years.

The 67-year-old former instrument technician has lived through many different safety cultures.

Respirators are not needed with the protective clothes, workers were told. Then, respirators must be worn. No, respirators are not needed. Back and forth. Back and forth.   

Wildlife officials are still searching for cougars near the area where hiker Diana Bober was fatally attacked.

They haven't seen any signs since Friday, when the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spotted a female cougar on a trail camera near where Bober's backpack was found. By the end of the day, they had tracked the animal with hounds, treed and killed it.

To understand what climate change is doing to the Pacific Ocean scientists need data.

Lots of it.

Traditionally, data has been expensive to secure because it involves large equipment and ocean voyages. But the miniaturization of technology and some clever new machines mean scientists are now getting lots of data — sometimes delivered via phone to the comfort of an office chair.

A good example can be found on the deck of the Forerunner, a small Clatsop Community College research vessel that sails out of Astoria. 

At 9:30 Friday morning, a cougar passed in front of a trail camera near the location that hiker Diana Bober lost her life.

The team of wildlife officials and dogs searching for a mountain lion thought to have killed Bober was quickly dispatched to the area. By 3 p.m., the hounds had treed the mountain lion and officials killed it, according to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife press release.

But it may not be the correct cougar.

When toxins from algae made Salem’s drinking water potentially hazardous earlier this year, the city was unprepared to deal with both the public relations fallout from the breach and the more concrete matter of helping citizens access clean water.

The search continued Friday for the cougar thought to have killed hiker Diana Bober in the forests near Mount Hood. Her death is considered the first to result from an attack by a wild mountain lion in the state. It has led the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to close 14 trails and 29,000 acres of national forest so the hunters can search unimpeded.

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.

The search will begin Thursday morning for the cougar that killed a hiker near Mount Hood. It is the first confirmed fatal attack by a wild mountain lion in the state. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to use mules and dogs to search for the mountain lion.

But the terrain is rugged, and the search will be slow, said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Brian Wolfer.

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.

Copyright 2018 EarthFix. To see more, visit EarthFix.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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