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.

Ways To Connect

Megan Asche

Some scientists are going to great lengths to help the agreeable Western bumblebee make a comeback.

You might not have noticed, but this important pollinator of both flowers and greenhouse crops has nearly disappeared from the landscape. An introduced fungal disease is suspected of decimating populations of the fat and furry Western bumblebee (Bombus occidentalis).

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it's ever been. But there's a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

Michael Dillon / Run For Colin

A 23-year-old Seattle man has smashed the speed record for hiking the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Recent college grad Joe McConaughy crossed into Canada on Sunday — exactly 53 days, six hours and 37 minutes after leaving the Mexican border on the storied trail.

Beth Waterbury / Idaho Fish and Game

Osprey nests are a common sight near rivers, lakes and bays in the Northwest. If you look closely with binoculars, you might notice some of these large raptors like to line their nests with discarded baling twine or fishing line. The problem is it can kill them.

Now wildlife biologists are working with ranchers and at boat ramps to keep the attractive nuisance out of the ospreys' clutches.

Courtney Flatt

Washington State University’s mascot is the cougar, but the university is also home to the nation’s only captive grizzly bear research center. A new study involving those bears yields insights into possible therapies for human obesity and diabetes.

Grizzly bears pile on the fat every autumn. But in their obese state through hibernation, they don’t appear to suffer health consequences like overweight humans do.

A proposed liquefied natural gas terminal near Astoria, Oregon received the U.S. Department of Energy’s blessing Thursday to export to all overseas markets. It's a necessary approval to make the controversial project pencil out, but many hurdles remain.

Anna King

A breakdown in a U.S. State Department computer system that processes foreign worker visas has sowed major worries at some Northwest orchards.

Those farmers are concerned about getting enough pickers for late summer and fall crops.

Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

A divided county council in Pierce County, Washington Tuesday voted to display the motto "In God We Trust" in its chambers, becoming the first jurisdiction in the Northwest to take part in a national campaign to feature the motto.

But the approval came with a twist.

Horemu / Wikimedia Commons

Research geologists have just finished a field trial to test a less invasive way to complete seismic hazard surveys.

The federal scientists attempted to map an earthquake fault under Seattle simply by listening for underground echoes from all the noise we humans create at the surface.

Deep-Sea Research Journal

It's been more than three years since the Fukushima nuclear plant accident resulted in a spill of millions of gallons of radioactive cooling water into the Pacific. Oceanographers projected that it could take until this year for highly diluted traces of that spill in Japan to reach the West Coast of North America.

Radiation experts don't believe there is cause for alarm on our shores, but some coastal residents are stepping forward to pay for seawater testing just to be sure.

Alaska Airlines

The intensifying competition between Alaska Airlines and rival Delta Air Lines in the Western skies does not seem to be hurting the bottom line of either company.

Seattle-based Alaska Air posted a record second quarter profit Thursday, a day after Delta toasted its own high earnings.

But Alaska executives are still showing concern about a flood of new seats on their home turf.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says 1,000 National Guard troops will take a crash course in wildfire fighting so they can be deployed to central Washington fires. A blaze in Okanogan County that the governor calls a “firestorm” has destroyed around 100 homes.

Inslee says the troops are currently in Yakima for annual training.

"We're lucky, because they are on duty and in a place they can be trained. So we are going to bring trainers from the Department of Natural Resources to train them as rapidly as possible to be available — not just now, but for the rest of the summer," he said. 

Bureau of Land Management

The federal Bureau of Land Management plans to capture and remove fewer wild horses from Western rangelands this summer. An agency statement blames budget constraints and already-full holding pens.

Andrew Medichini / AP Photo

Organizers of the next FIFA Women's World Cup hope to leverage the unusually high interest in this year's men's tournament in Brazil to their benefit. Group play and the 2015 World Cup final will take place just across the border in Vancouver, Canada.

Courtesy of Chelan County Emergency Management

Crews battling wildfires in eastern Washington and southeastern Oregon are dealing with sizzling hot temperatures of a heat wave.

Firefighters are gaining ground this weekend despite the wilting heat. Four of the five largest fires are nearly 100 percent contained.

Photo provided by Weyerhaeuser.

A coastal Northwest county is the first to strike back against pricey recreation permits now being required by some large timber companies. The Grays Harbor County commission voted unanimously Monday to take a tax deferral away from private timberland owners that charge for public access.

Washington State Department of Transportation

Washington and Oregon may follow Idaho’s lead in temporarily suspending advertising for bids for some highway projects.

Idaho’s decision is the result of a standoff in Congress over how to replenish the money in the pot for highway construction.  

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs wants to rewrite the rules that determine how a tribe becomes officially recognized in the eyes of the feds. The proposal raises hopes for status and federal benefits among some unrecognized tribes in the West.

The bid to streamline and simplify the process of tribal recognition encourages leaders of native groups and bands currently frozen out of federal programs. But they have to contend with existing tribes who fear having to share territory, resources or casino customers.

AeroVironment / AP Photo

Imagine looking out your window to see a drone hovering outside. That happened earlier this month to a partially-dressed Seattle women who was startled and outraged.

That incident came up Monday as a Washington state task force convened for the first time to develop privacy rules for drones — something Oregon and Idaho have already done. The task force quickly narrowed its focus to use of drones by government agencies.

Kevin Mooney

In what Northwest city is your car most likely to be stolen? According to a new insurance industry report, the answer is Spokane, Washington.

UpstateNYer / Flickr

In a noteworthy decision issued Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the president's power to make recess appointments when the Senate is not in session. 

The unanimous decision held that three appointments President Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 were invalid because the Senate was not technically in recess. The ruling stemmed from a labor dispute in Yakima, Washington.

Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

A federal judge in Portland on Tuesday ordered the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI to come up with new rules for the government's no-fly list. The court found travelers labeled as potential terrorists had been deprived of their constitutional rights to due process.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The unemployment rate in Washington state is holding steady at 6.1 percent, according to the latest numbers released Wednesday by the state Employment Department.

State labor economist Paul Turek says the pace of job gains slowed down in the month of May, but Washington is still on course to record the strongest year of employment growth since the Great Recession.

Courtesy of Port of Seattle

Can two airlines be partners and rivals at the same time? Seattle-based Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines are long-term contractual allies. But now the relationship is being tested.

Photo provided by Weyerhaeuser.

Timber giant Weyerhaeuser is joining the pay-to-play and pay-to-hunt trend. This week, the largest private forestland owner in Washington and Oregon will begin selling seasonal access permits to hunters, horse riders, hikers and other recreators.

The Washington state-based company is not the first to charge access fees. But the breadth and high prices it will charge are generating more push back than before.

Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia just announced it will start accepting bitcoin for hotel bookings. The online travel site is embracing the volatile, virtual currency on what it calls a "test-and-learn" basis.

Effective as of Wednesday, the digital currency will be a payment option, but only for hotel bookings on the company's U.S. site. 

"The Blob" was the title of a 1958 sci-fi horor movie. It's also the nickname Washington state climatologist Nick Bond has given to a large patch of warmer-than-normal seawater off the Pacific Northwest coast.

This blob is unlikely to become the subject of another movie, but it will influence our summer weather.

The FBI is offering rewards up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest of people who have aimed laser pointers at aircraft. Deliberate targeting of aircraft in flight has increased significantly in the last couple of years in the Northwest. 

The $10,000 reward offer is good for the next 90 days. The FBI wants to protect pilots from being temporarily blinded at night by laser pointers aimed playfully or maliciously from the ground. 

NOAA Climate Prediction Center

This summer in the Pacific Northwest will be warmer than average, according to the National Weather Service.

The supercomputers at the Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center have crunched long-term trends to produce an outlook for June, July and August. For most of the Northwest, the forecast gives a strong probability of above-normal temperatures.

Tom Banse

A 70-year-old woman has been criminally charged for allegedly feeding bears at her house on Washington's Long Beach peninsula.

This is believed to be the first time someone has been prosecuted under a relatively new law against feeding large wild carnivores.