Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse, KPLU’s and N3’s Regional Correspondent, roves the Northwest to report on broad themes and telling details. His topics run the gamut from business to the environment and human interest. Home base is in Olympia, a legacy of a previously held state government beat from 1991-2003. Although he grew up in Seattle, Tom's radio career began by chance in Minnesota at Carleton College’s student radio station. Tom's memorable moment in public radio: "I am indebted to many people for tips and tutelage, but certainly some of the bluntest -- at times unprintable -- guidance came from NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg. I interned at NPR in 1989 and was privileged to keep Nina's chair warm at the U-S Supreme Court or at the high-octane Iran-Contra trial of Oliver North, wherever she wasn't at the time. Heady stuff for a tenderfoot reporter."

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Tom Banse

It may be difficult to eat our way out of the invasive species problem, but it can be satisfying to try.

Chefs and adventurous diners converged at Zenith Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley near Salem Sunday as more than 200 people paid handsomely to nibble on course after course of invasive species like nutria, dandelion and carp.

The point of this affair was to highlight the range of edible invasive weeds, birds, fish and mammals around us. These invaders are costly to control. They crowd out native plants and animals and can change entire landscapes.

One slogan heard here: "If you can't beat 'em, eat ‘em."

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

In a manner of speaking, millions of dollars of "drug money" are starting to flow into Washington state coffers.

The state's chief economic forecaster updated budget writers Thursday on how much tax money they can expect from recreational marijuana now that the first state licensed stores have opened.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington state’s unemployment rate held steady at 5.6 percent in August — a half-percentage point below the national rate, according to a report released Wednesday by the state’s Employment Security Department.

State labor economist Paul Turek said improving economic conditions bode well for job seekers going into fall.

Jenny Ingram / Flickr

Public health authorities in Washington and Idaho are now investigating at least 79 cases of a serious respiratory illness that affects children.

The widening disease outbreak is suspected — but not confirmed — to be enterovirus D68, a rare strain of the virus.

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries says it can't disclose at this time whose complaint spurred it to open the hockey investigation. The affected teams are the Seattle Thunderbirds, Everett Silvertips, Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs. Their players fall between 16 and 20 years old. Labor and Industries agency spokesman Matthew Erlich says 16 and 17 year olds are covered by child labor laws.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Remotely-monitored video cameras are replacing some human fire lookouts on mountaintops around the Northwest.

A private nonprofit called the Douglas Forest Protective Association was the first in the region to switch to remote camera fire detection. The southwest Oregon-based association deployed its first system in 2007.

King Mountain Tobacco

A federal judge in eastern Washington has ruled a cigarette maker on the Yakama Indian Reservation owes $58 million in unpaid taxes and penalties.

The privately-owned tobacco company has tried, so far unsuccessfully, to assert a treaty right to trade tax free.

The U.S. Treasury Department went after King Mountain Tobacco Company for federal cigarette taxes unpaid since 2009. The cigarette factory is owned by a Yakama tribal member. The company's lawyers and the tribal government insist the reservation-based business is not subject to federal or state taxes.

John Brooks / U.S. Army

The Army Surgeon General Thursday suspended the commander in charge of Army hospitals in 20 western states. 

Brigadier General John Cho led the U.S. Army's Western Regional Medical Command headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. A brief Army statement said Cho was indefinitely suspended due to an issue with the "command climate" in his organization.

Tom Banse

In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English.

So what happens then?

Andrea Berglin

Three young ospreys and a parent are flying free along the Columbia River today after surviving close calls with litter.

One of these ospreys was rescued by BPA linemen last week as it dangled from its nest in a tangle of plastic baling twine near Kennewick, Washington. The other two were pushed out of a different nest near Burbank, Washington, when their mother thrashed about in a wad of derelict fishing net.

AP Photo/Defenders of Wildlife, Ken Curtis

The wolverine is not going on the threatened species list, after all. On Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced federal protected status for the fierce and rare carnivore is unwarranted at this time.

The wolverine is making a slow comeback from the brink of extinction in the Lower 48 states. But shrinking mountain snow packs caused by global warming could reverse those gains.

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.

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