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.

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.

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.

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