Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years.  He got his start in radio at WCAL–FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place beyond the reach of email.

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Alex Brandon / AP Photo

 

A municipal court judge in suburban Seattle has dismissed domestic violence charges against home-grown soccer superstar Hope Solo.

That lifts a cloud over the U.S. national team's goalkeeper as she prepares for the upcoming Women's World Cup.

Greg Watson / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

 

Dredging of the Lower Snake River started Monday after a delay of several weeks due to a court challenge.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lined up two dredges to make up for lost time. The dredges are removing accumulated silt and shoals in the Snake River navigation channel and port berths near the Idaho-Washington border.

Courtesy of Shawn Forry and Justin Lichter

 

A pair of experienced long distance hikers are more than halfway through a full traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail in the dead of winter.

If Californians Shawn Forry and Justin Lichter reach the Mexican border this spring, they'll be the first on record to hike the length of the trail when it's mostly covered in snow.

senseFly Ltd.

Idaho-based startup Advanced Aviation Solutions has become the first company to win federal approval to use drones in farm settings.

The goal is to use small drones to help Northwest farmers grow crops more efficiently.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

Grays Harbor County commissioners approved an emergency declaration for their coastal county Tuesday in the wake of flooding and landslides.

Damage assessment and cleanup is underway in half a dozen river basins around western Washington.

Tom Banse

 

Tow boat captains, wheat exporters and the directors of the farthest inland ports in the Northwest are breathing easier today.

U.S. District Court Judge James Robart Monday rejected an environmental and tribal challenge to dredging of the lower Snake River.

Thompson & Morgan

 

A western Oregon mail order company has begun selling what might become the top conversation starter of Northwest garden parties this summer.

It's a grafted vegetable plant that produces potatoes and tomatoes at the same time.

Sharon Drummond - dolmansaxlil / Flickr

 

A trip across the border to Canada could have an added appeal right now with an exchange rate that has turned quite favorable for Americans.

But this cuts two ways. It might also lead to more Canadians staying home, which could hurt retailers in U.S. border counties.

Tom Banse

 

A coalition in Oregon and the Democratic governor of Washington want to juice sales of electric cars by providing more state incentives.

But some critics say more taxpayer giveaways for those drivers are unnecessary.

Tom Banse

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is making a high-stakes bet that it will prevail in a pending lawsuit over Snake River dredging.

Two million taxpayer dollars could go to waste if environmental challengers succeed in blocking dredging of the West Coast's farthest inland ports.

shakealert.org

 

The new federal budget sent to the president's desk over the weekend includes $5 million for earthquake early warning along the West Coast.

The proposed early warning system can't predict earthquakes; it's designed to give a heads up about strong shaking coming from a distance. It works because electronic signals can travel faster than rumbling over the surface.

Tom Banse

The labor-intensive work of rearing threatened plants and animals for restoration to the wild takes time and patience. In Oregon and Washington, a growing population doing that work is inmates.

Umptanum / Wikimedia

 

The Yakama Nation and neighboring tribes are strongly objecting to a Congressional move to offer public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain, a place tribal members consider sacred.

The mountain lies in the Hanford Reach National Monument near Richland, Washington.

Amazon.com.

 

A new letter from Amazon to the Federal Aviation Administration indicates the e-commerce giant is getting frustrated with the wait for approval to test package delivery drones.

Francois Mori / AP Photo

Judging from holiday advertising, lots of teenagers and grownups will find a drone under the Christmas tree this year. But the increasing affordability and popularity of remotely piloted airplanes and choppers is leading to conflict in Northwest skies.

Matt Cooper / University of Oregon

Any parent of a rambunctious youngster can tell you trouble might be afoot when things go quiet in the playroom. Two independent research initiatives indicate there is a comparable situation with the Cascadia earthquake fault zone.

Captain Chad Naugle / ODOC

 

In a growing number of Northwest prisons, inmates are rearing endangered plants, butterflies, turtles and frogs for release in the wild.

It started just over a decade ago at a minimum security prison near Olympia. Now inmates at four Washington prisons and three in Oregon are raising dozens of different types of plants, insects and animals to use in restoration, many of them rare or endangered.

Washington Employment Security Department

Employers added 5,600 more jobs in Washington state last month. But the statewide unemployment rate as reported by the state Wednesday rose by three-tenths of a point to 6.0 percent. 

AP Photo/AeroVironment

  

Commercial drones are taking to the Northwest skies even though the rules aren't clear. Now the FAA has gotten the first reports of close calls between manned aircraft and small drones in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Tom Banse

Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson says his company wants to nearly double its footprint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

That implies an even stronger challenge than was already in the works to hometown carrier Alaska Airlines.

Dkroetsch / Wikimedia

The Washington governor's office has unveiled draft rules for government use of drones to replace legislation that Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed earlier this year.

Tom Banse

An oceanography institute announced Monday that trace amounts of radioactivity from Japan have been detected off the West Coast.

Radiation experts say the low levels of radioactivity measured do not pose a health threat here.

Tom Banse

Growing populations of wild horses in the inland Northwest are creating headaches for federal land managers. Wild and feral horse herds overrun tribal lands in our region as well.

Tribal range managers have one option that federal agencies don't, which is to send unwanted horses to foreign slaughterhouses. That's helping several Northwest tribes make headway to reduce populations of free-roaming horses, but not without creating some dismay.

Wikimedia

An Oregon chef is asking if you have the guts to celebrate World Tripe Day today.

What is tripe? It's the lining of the cow's stomach.

Matt Bennett, owner of Sybaris Bistro in Albany, Oregon volunteered to promote consumption of beef stomach on behalf of the British-based Tripe Marketing Board.

Tom Banse

More swimmers in the Northwest are trading the comfort of the pool for a workout in open water.

The English call these people "wild swimmers." It seems an appropriate description when you consider the chilly temperature of most Northwest lakes, rivers and bays. And yet the popularity of open-water swimming is rising.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Job growth stalled during September in Oregon and Washington, according to new numbers from the respective state employment departments.

In Washington's case, state labor economist Paul Turek is not too concerned by one month of flat hiring.

Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

Law enforcement groups in Washington state are pushing back against possible limits on police use of drones.

A task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee continued to wrestle Monday about how to regulate small unmanned aircraft.

John Marshall / U.S. Forest Service

The old saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." That was the reaction of a U.S. Forest Service researcher when he rediscovered a trove of landscape panoramas called the Osborne Panoramas.

The photos were taken during the Great Depression at hundreds of fire lookouts in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

The Boeing Co.

Managers at Insitu, a military drone maker headquartered in Bingen, Washington say they see great potential for civil and commercial uses for their best-known aircraft.

But realizing that promise requires the federal government to finalize rules for drones in the national airspace.

Amazon.com.

When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled plans for aerial drone delivery of packages last year, many observers dismissed the concept as science fiction or pie in the sky.

Not at Amazon though. The Seattle-based company has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drones outdoors and is awaiting an answer.

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