Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Microsoft is helping to preserve forests at the foot of Mount Rainier by investing in the potential of trees and restored forests to soak up carbon pollution. The value of absorbed greenhouse gas emissions will be set through California's cap-and-trade exchange and the income used to grow the asset, through new plantings and road removals.

Waugsberg / Wikimedia Creative Commons

Imagine what your Thanksgiving table would look like without any food that is pollinated by bees.  

It’s a challenge issued by the group Environment Washington, which is highlighting the issue with a campaign called “No Bees, No Food.”

Canvassers for the group say if bees die off, then turkey, rolls and potatoes are all  that would be left on the table. Dairy products would be endangered. And you can forget about vegetables or traditional pies.

Ben Brooks / Flickr

Washington state’s worst-ever wildfire season took center stage once again in Washington, D.C.

Two local fire officials testified before the U.S. Senate’s Energy & Natural Resources Committee Tuesday, appealing to lawmakers for more funding for fire suppression and preparedness.

Gordon Werner via Creative Commons / Flickr

King County has signed into law a climate action plan that many local environmentalists are applauding as one of the boldest in the United States. How communities will meet their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a big question, as representatives get ready for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris next month.

A photographer from Wenatchee, Washington, has made a revealing discovery at the scene of a remote and long-abandoned fire lookout: a pile of very old firewood.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Even if you don’t like getting your feet wet, the recent heavy rains are still something to celebrate.

Over the past two weeks, there has been so much coming down that the water supply is almost back to normal in all three of the Puget Sound’s major cities.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The University of Washington held its first annual symposium on environmental law last week. The idea is to choose a topic and examine how it fits into current and future regulations. This year’s focus—ocean acidification. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Kids packed a courtroom in Seattle on Tuesday to hear oral arguments in a case about their future. Eight young teenagers are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state Department of Ecology. They want to force action on climate change.

“It just feels like there’s not enough people who care about, like, animals and other things that can’t talk for themselves – babies who haven’t been born yet, people from the future, basically,” said 13-year-old Lara Fain.

Oregon Department of Transportation

For many people, solar power is out of reach, because it is too expensive or because they don’t have a good place to put panels.  But there is a new option for residents in Tacoma.

Tacoma Power is launching a community venture for customers who want to invest in solar energy without buying their own equipment.

Ted S. Warren / AP

It has been 25 years since the federal government passed the Pollution Prevention Act. The 1990 law is credited with reducing industrial waste by as much as 60 percent since it was enacted, by getting companies and governments to look upstream at what goes into the manufacturing process and stopping pollution at the source.

The summer’s early snowmelt, record temperatures and drought in the Northwest killed young hatchery fish and adult fish returning to spawn. And federal experts are expecting 2016 to be even worse for fish.

Vladimir / Flickr via Compfight

A small non-profit in the San Juan Islands has taken the lead in an international campaign to protect the Salish Sea from adverse effects of shipping.

Currently, proposals for 14 new or upgraded export facilities for fossil fuels in British Columbia and five in northwestern Washington could dramatically increase shipping traffic through local waters.

Photo by David Ellifrit/ / Center for Whale Research

Keep your eyes peeled for killer whales. The orca pods that spend the summer in the San Juan Islands are expected to show up in Puget Sound any moment now. That’s according to the Orca Network, which tracks the killer whales via a network of volunteer spotters.

Reese Semanko via AP

Local environmentalists are celebrating the Obama administration’s announcement that it is canceling upcoming auctions for drilling rights in the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

The Interior Department also announced it has denied requests for extensions of Arctic leases currently held by Shell and Statoil.

Elaine Thomson / AP Photo

It has been about a year and a half since the tragic mudslide in Oso that killed 43 people.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell saw the site of the slide for the first time on Thursday. She was home in the Northwest highlighting the need for more disaster preparedness. 

JPellgen / Flickr

Facing pressure from federal regulators, Governor Jay Inslee has directed state officials to take another stab at updating clean water rules, tied partly to how much fish people eat.

Ted S. Warren / AP

More than 150 groups in Washington state have come together to form the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy. It’s an effort to fight climate change that some are calling “historic in scope.” The consortium has announced plans to put a statewide carbon-capping initiative before voters in 2016. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

A five-month-long quest to swim the entire length of Seattle’s Green-Duwamish River has come to a successful end. Mark Powell, Washington Environmental Council’s Puget Sound Program Director, says it gave him new perspective on the river that runs through the industrial heart of the city. 

Jeannie Stafford / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Interior Department says the greater sage grouse does not need federal protections across its 11-state Western range after some limits were put on energy development and other activities.

Tuesday's announcement signals that the Obama administration believes it has struck a balance to save the widespread, ground-dwelling birds from extinction without crippling the West's economy. It follows a costly conservation effort, and could help defuse a potential political liability for Democrats heading into the 2016 election.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The administration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee has officially begun crafting new rules to cap greenhouse gas pollution from large industrial sources. Inslee is flexing his executive powers to bypass the state legislature, which has repeatedly chosen not to put a price on carbon.


When Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in the Seattle area tomorrow, one of his first stops will be a forum focusing specifically on clean technology and economic development.  Five U.S. governors are also expected to attend, along with six Chinese governors and other officials. 

On the agenda will be the question of what can be done with emerging clean energy technologies to add not just to commerce but also to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause air pollution and contribute to climate change.

Steve Wagner

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says two salamanders in Oregon and Washington may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection. The findings on Tuesday about the Cascade torrent salamander and Columbia torrent salamander mean the agency will initiate full status reviews for the species to see if they warrant protection.

Don Ryan / AP

The devastating wildfires in eastern Washington and California this year are pointing to the need for new policies. More focus on managing fire and less on suppression is what is needed, according to a panel of scientists, including one from the University of Washington.

Paula Wissel

Replacing aging bridges and re-paving major arterials are two things a Seattle levy on this year’s ballot promises to do.  Seattle Proposition 1 would put $930 million into transportation projects over the next 9 years.  It's a replacement, of sorts, for Seattle's Bridging the Gap levy, which is expiring. However, the new property tax measure will cost homeowners more than the old one did.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is making good on its promise to put forward a clean water rule for Washington, in case the state doesn’t come up with its own plan in time.

At issue is how much fish the government says is safe to eat, if it’s caught in polluted water. 

Firefighters hose the edge of a controlled fire.
Elaine Thompson / AP

Firefighters are starting to get a handle on two giant wildfires burning in northcentral Washington.

The largest wildfire in state history, the Okanogan Complex, has now grown to 231 square miles but as Wednesday morning it was 45 percent contained.

The Okanogan Complex is being managed as part of one big fire including the 146-square-mile Chelan Complex. The Chelan Complex was 55 percent contained as of Wednesday morning.

The Chelan and Okanogan Complex fires total more than 230,000 acres. Both fires still threaten more than 8,000 homes.

Unhealthy smoke continued to blanket large parts of central and eastern Washington state and north Idaho Wednesday. Some workers in north central Washington were sent home because the dense smoke was rated downright “hazardous.”

AP Images

This summer’s extreme drought is becoming increasingly deadly for fish in the northwest.

The state department of Fish and Wildlife had already lost about one and a half million juvenile fish in overheated rivers and streams in Washington at the end of July, due to this summer’s historically warm temperatures and low water levels.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Mount Rainier is famous as the most glaciated peak in  the contiguous United States. But the massive flows of ice and snow that cover the mountain are retreating rapidly, likely more rapidly than ever in the record warmth of this summer.

Participants in the 2015 "Climate Boot Camp" put on by the Northwest Climate Science Center gathered this week in Mount Rainier National Park to learn more about the dynamics behind this phenomenon.