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.

Oregon’s bottle deposit system is recycling more containers than ever before despite major disruptions in global recycling markets.

Last year, Oregon recycled 90 percent of the beverage containers covered by its bottle deposit system. The rate has jumped from 64 percent just two years ago and the total number of bottles recycled reached an all-time high of 2 billion in 2018.

A new proposal from the Trump administration could dramatically change the way the government cleans up radioactive tank waste at the Hanford Nucl

I watched a sea lion die last summer. The large animal was emaciated, its spine and ribs visible below its fur. Its hind limbs were immobile as it dragged itself from the shore to the water. Once in the harbor, without the use of its rear flippers, the sea lion struggled to stay afloat. It sank, resurfaced and sank again.

I called a hotline, but it was too late. The animal never came back up.

As people move into Central Oregon in droves, they’re driving up the odds wildfire will strike populated areas.

It’s a problem Deschutes County is trying to address through zoning changes. This week, county commissioners approved a designation to require fire-resistant, low density construction on the west side of Bend.

The idea is to put a long, carefully planned buffer between one of Oregon’s fastest growing cities and the pine forest routinely burning around it.

About half the salmon swimming up the Columbia River come from hatcheries — most of which are raised to be caught by fishermen. The rest are wild. And many of those salmon are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

For years, Oregon and Washington have been searching for the best way to catch more hatchery fish while letting the wild fish return unharmed to their spawning grounds. Now, one group says they've found it.

The gas and diesel you use to fuel your car are some of the biggest sources of greenhouse gasses and air pollution in Washington. Some lawmakers want to change that.

They kicked off a debate Tuesday that would require lower carbon fuels  — and could cost you more.

After a decade, House Bill 1110 could reduce Washington vehicles' carbon pollution to 10 percent below 2017 levels. It would continue to reduce emissions to 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035.

For the last 35 years, the snowpack in the West’s mountains has resisted the impacts of global warming. But that could soon change, according to a new study out of Oregon State University.

The partial government shutdown is elevating the threat of wildfires in the West. That’s  the contention of a dozen Democratic U.S. senators, including Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Washington’s Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has started killing sea lions below Willamette Falls to protect a fragile run of winter steelhead.

The Northwest is getting closer to the end of its long goodbye to coal-fired power. The region’s first coal plant will turn off its burners in just under two years.

So what will replace all that power? The answer is complicated.

A new federal report shows the amount of coal burned for power has fallen to its lowest point in almost 40 years. That’s because natural gas is cheap, renewable energy is growing and coal plants are shutting down.

Ranchers, hunters and wolf conservation advocates have been in talks with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife over an update to the rules governing the protection and management of the state's wolf population, including when and how wolves can be killed.

The city of Vancouver has been fined $60,000 after raw sewage was accidentally released into the Columbia River in 2017.

The discharged sewage from Vancouver’s Westside Wastewater Treatment Plant happened during two separate spills in September and October of 2017, according to a penalty report released Friday.

The Washington State Department of Ecology said in total nearly 600,000 gallons of raw and partially treated sewage was dumped into the Columbia River.

UPDATE (Jan. 4, 2 p.m. PT) — The Humboldt marten is in line to get new protections in Oregon.

State fish and wildlife officials signed a court settlement Wednesday that calls for new rule-making to ban trapping of this imperiled, mink-like mammal.

The Humboldt marten’s numbers have plummeted and it was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the 1990s.

If it were up to David H. Johnson, he’d be out of the burrow-making business.

Instead, he stands on a wind-swept prairie, shovel in hand. He wipes the sweat from his brow and surveys the sagebrush as it stretches across the rolling hills. His eyes scan for any flutter of small feathers.

He doesn’t see anything and keeps digging in the loose sand. This wide-open stretch of sage and sand and shrubs was once riddled with burrows. For millennia, animals like badgers and prairie dogs pockmarked the Columbia River plateau with burrows.

Rosalinda Guillen sat at the kitchen table in her childhood home and wrinkled her nose.

“Hey, this water stinks,” Guillen said.

Guillen and her brother Martin Yanez have been in this house since 1968. Their parents were farmworkers who came to Zillah to harvest crops like asparagus and apples. But the Yakima Valley of their youth is not like they remember.

“The water was so cold so refreshing. So what happened?” Guillen asked.

An end-of-year report from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shows the state’s recycling rate in 2017 was 42.8 percent, slightly better than the previous year.

Doubling of the bottle deposit to 10 cents was a booster for Oregon's recycling race. But recycling had setbacks too, including the closure of local paper mills that bought recycled paper and China deciding to cut off recycling imports from the United States.

You know the end is near when a business starts selling off its shelves, clothes racks and displays — and that’s what’s been happening for the past couple weeks at the Ashland Outdoor Store.

The store has been around for about 25 years and word of its impending closure has spread quickly through this town of about 20,000 people at the base of the Cascade-Siskiyou Mountains.

After months of wrangling, congressional negotiators have reached agreement on a bill that would protect several popular scenic areas in Oregon.

The package — which the Senate is expected to vote on next month — contains long-sought protections for several rivers and backcountry regions. It covers parts of the Molalla and Chetco rivers, as well as several Rogue River tributaries. And it covers the Devil’s Staircase, a largely untouched wildland area in a southern Oregon coastal rainforest.

A troubled mega-dairy in the Columbia Basin is now on the auction block. The sale of Lost Valley Farm comes after more than a year’s worth of pollution complaints and scrutiny by regulators.

Lost Valley Farm — just off Interstate 84 near Boardman, Oregon — promised to be one of the state’s largest and most sustainable dairies. It quickly fell short on those promises.

How Thick Forests Can Reduce Snowpack

Dec 19, 2018

Much of the Willamette Valley’s water arrives in the winter as snow in the forested Cascade mountains. New research shows that the ways we manage those forests can influence how much water flows into rivers during the spring and summer melt.

After years of struggling to figure out what to do with the Elliott State Forest, Oregon officials now have a proposal they like. Members of the State Land Board voted Tuesday to start work on a plan to transfer the 80,000-acre forest near Coos Bay to Oregon State University.

The university’s idea is to create the “Elliott State Research Forest.”

OSU President Ed Ray told Land Board members that the university’s “unmatched” experts would be available to assist with the Elliott regardless of who was tapped to own the forest.

A new agreement aims to help more young salmon make their way past dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The agreement, released Tuesday, spells out new strategies for spilling more water over the dams — and sending less water through power-generating turbines — each spring. It signals a reprieve to the yearslong legal skirmishes that have been playing out in federal courts over how best to save salmon and steelhead from extinction.

    

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has decided not to send his top deputy to attend meetings in his place, following advice from the state's Department of Justice

The Oregon Land Board will be discussing the options for public ownership of the Elliott State Forest at its meeting in Salem on Tuesday.

Last year, the board voted to keep the 82,500-acre forest in public ownership rather than sell it into private hands.

On Easter Sunday of 2017, the five Perez children were hunting for Easter eggs in their backyard when they smelled something unusual.

“Plasticky and rotten eggs,” their dad, Eric Perez, recalled.

Julie Madison-Jamil didn’t expect she’d need a cooler just for hauling dead birds to necropsies.

In 2016, she and her husband Daanish moved into a fixer-upper lot outside Oregon City with dreams of a small organic egg and vegetable farm. They filled the property with bantam chickens, silkies, sweetgrass turkeys and Guinea fowl.

Since then, they have unexpectedly lost dozens of birds to ailments including liver damage and cancer. The necropsies have not solved the mystery, but Madison-Jamil thinks she has.

A federal judge has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite its pollution cleanup plans for Oregon rivers.

U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernández rejected water quality standards that were submitted to the EPA by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Federal fishery managers are increasing the catch limits for several West Coast species that were overfished and severely restricted for years.

Surveys show depleted populations of yellow eye and bocaccio rockfish, cow cod and ocean perch — all classified as groundfish — are rebounding decades ahead of schedule.

Congress passed a new Farm Bill on Wednesday that also contains several provisions aimed at reducing the severity of Western wildfires. And that left the Oregon delegation divided along familiar battle lines.

Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican who represents fire-prone eastern Oregon, criticized Democrats in the Senate for blocking provisions that would have eased environmental rules on logging.

The Trump administration wants to reduce restrictions for greater sage grouse across seven states. For the imperiled birds in Oregon, that means fewer grazing restrictions in some specific habitat. The decision has rankled conservation and hunting groups and been supported by ranchers.

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