Environment

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

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

A 22-foot-long totem pole carved by members of the Lummi Nation is making its way from Bellingham, traveling 5,000 miles across the U.S. and Canada. The colorful sculpture is the focal point for a tribal journey meant to unify native people with their allies in the fight against increased fossil fuel exports.

On a recent stop in Seattle, supporters filled the steps of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, as tribal members burned sage, drummed and chanted in a traditional smudging ceremony.

Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to kill an entire wolf pack in the northeast corner of the state. The decision comes after at least 12 cattle were killed in the area.

Mark Musick / King Conservation District

Communities around Puget Sound have invested about $150 million over the past two decades to clean up the water and improve habitat for endangered salmon. Yet we continue to lose ground when it comes to a crucial part of that environment. King County watershed managers recently hosted a guided boat tour to spread the word about the importance of restoration work in recovering the so-called ‘nearshore.’                                         

Debbie Miller / USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

August is the peak time of year to find aggressive wood-boring insects that lay their eggs beneath tree bark. Early detection can prevent pests from laying waste to forests and urban tree canopy. That’s why state agencies are asking residents to check their yards for harmful pests this month.

The USDA has dubbed August national Tree Check Month and they’re asking people to take ten minutes to look for signs of trouble.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Seattle’s Seward Park is located in one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse zip codes. It’s also home to one of the city’s chapters of the Audubon Society and is part of the national conservation organization’s push to build a constituency that is “as diverse as nature.”  So what’s Seward Park Audubon’s summer camp like? KPLU environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp met with Audubon Center Director Joey Manson to learn more.

Aaron Barna / USFWS - Pacific Region

When the marbled murrelet was first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1992, so little was known about the elusive sea bird that the state postponed finalizing its long-term habitat conservation plan, opting instead for interim strategies until more scientific research could inform the best strategies.

YouTube

The Pacific Northwest is known as a Mecca for bird watchers. Diverse habitats offer shelter for hundreds of species throughout the state. In summer, urban parks offer viewing of everything from osprey and bald eagles to chickadees and warblers, hummingbirds, owls and woodpeckers.

Buried below the ice sheet that covers most of Greenland, there's an abandoned U.S. Army base. Camp Century had trucks, tunnels, even a nuclear reactor. Advertised as a research station, it was also a test site for deploying nuclear missiles.

One year ago — on Aug. 5, 2015 — an EPA crew at the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado accidentally unleashed 3 million gallons of orange water filled with mercury and arsenic.

The toxic spill flowed into the Animas River, eventually running into New Mexico's San Juan River and into Lake Powell. So far, disaster response and water quality monitoring have cost the EPA about $29 million — and the problem isn't over yet.

Joshua trees are weird. They've got shaggy bark, twisted branches and needle-like leaves.

"It's something that you don't even imagine could live on Earth and here it is," says Cameron Barrows, standing right beneath one. "It's something very alien."

They stretch across the dusty valley of Joshua Tree National Park.

"It's like a Dr. Seuss book," Barrows says.

How A 'Sperm Bank' Is Saving Honey Bees

Aug 1, 2016
Brandon Hopkins / Washington State University

Think of it as a sperm bank for honey bees. That is essentially what you’ll find at Washington State University’s apiary lab. There’s even a “fertility clinic” where researchers artificially inseminate the queens.

If all that sounds like sticky business, try explaining it to a customs agent at the airport.  

C. Brown/COASST

Marine scientists are on alert as hundreds of seabirds have been washing up dead on local beaches.  Since May, the bodies of more than 300 rhinoceros auklets have been collected around the eastern side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  

Washington’s Protection Island Wildlife Refuge, near Port Townsend, is home to one of the world’s largest known colonies of the puffin-like bird, which is named for its unique appearance.

courtesy Mark Durall

There’s just one week left for the public to comment on preferred alternatives for completion of the missing link in Seattle’s Burke Gilman Trail. The nearly 20-mile trail extends from Ballard to Bothell and is one of the region’s most popular bike routes.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Boats will soon be forbidden from releasing sewage anywhere in Puget Sound if the state Department of Ecology has its way. The agency is seeking federal protection, asking the EPA to declare the Sound a “no discharge zone” for vessel sewage.  

The government of Peru has declared a state of emergency in the southern Andes after brutally low temperatures killed tens of thousands of alpacas, according to The Associated Press.

The government is promising $3 million in relief to farmers in the region, who live at or around 15,000 feet above sea level and raise the animals, relying on money from selling their lightweight wool.

If you think it's been hot this year, you're right. The latest temperature numbers from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the first six months of 2016 were the hottest on record around the planet.

Ted S. Warren, File / AP Photo

The Tesoro oil refinery in Anacortes is among six in the nation that will receive new equipment to reduce toxic air pollution. It’s part of a $425 million settlement for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.  The U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the deal in Seattle, calling it the largest settlement to date of its kind.

Kenneth Balcomb III / Center for Whale Research

Whale watchers say they finally spotted some orcas off the Washington coast late last week. But experts say it’s still an alarmingly bad year for sightings of resident killer whales, which have been late to arrive and are showing up in much smaller numbers than usual.

In northern New York state, logger Greg Hemmerich and his crew are clearing out an old pasture at the edge of a forest.

"There's a lot of balsam, lot of spruce, thorn apple trees," Hemmerich says. "Ninety percent of this lot is low-grade wood."

In other words, it's no good for furniture or paper or sawmills. But he'll make $80,000 to run the wood through a chipper and truck the chips to a nearby biomass plant.

"Everybody said that green power was supposed to be the wave of the future," Hemmerich says. "So I went full in."

Elaine Thompson / AP Images

It’s been about two months since permits were denied for the development of the controversial Gateway Pacific coal export terminal north of Bellingham.

Now the Whatcom County Council is under fire for considering a measure that would restrict new developments for handling of fossil fuels at the site.

file photo / AP Images

Opponents of plans to ship crude oil by rail and barge through Grays Harbor in Southwest Washington will rally in Hoquiam on Friday. They say the risks far outweigh the benefits of the proposal.

The rally was organized by the Quinault Indian Nation and will begin on the water with a flotilla of traditional tribal canoes as well as kayaks and fishing vessels.

The tribe’s president, Fawn Sharp, says they’ll also march to Hoquiam’s City Hall and host an open mic to voice their opposition for bringing oil trains to the area.

A massive bloom of blue-green algae has hit four southern Florida counties, blanketing beaches in foul-smelling muck and raising health and environmental concerns.

The condition of watersheds in Washington state continues to decline. That’s according to the the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. The organization delivered the news to the National Congress of American Indians Wednesday.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Sea-Tac International is the fastest growing airport in North America -- and the first in the U. S. to receive certification as “Salmon Safe.” The designation recognizes work to improve water quality that goes above and beyond federal requirements.

Just west of Sea-Tac’s third runway, down the hill from a steep retaining wall, environmental specialist Josh Feigen stands in the underbrush at the edge of Miller Creek. In 2012, he says the port replaced a cement-box culvert here with woody debris, boulders and gravel to restore more than a mile of shady habitat for salmon.

Every five years, a team convenes to evaluate long-term water supply and demand for the Columbia River Basin. For eastern Washington, the water supply will increase, but not when demand is highest.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Washington is about to get the second highest gas tax in the nation — an increase of 4.9 cents kicks in on July 1 that will push the state surcharge to 49.4 cents per gallon – making it second only to Pennsylvania.

The hike is the final installment of a nearly 12 cent increase, part of a package called Connecting Washington, approved by the state legislature last year.  

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

People who work at businesses in downtown Bellevue may soon be asked to take the stairs more often and to remember to power down their computers at night.

The city has launched a new energy efficiency program called Urban Smart Bellevue that aims to make it a leader in energy efficiency – largely through simple changes in workplace behavior.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Roughly 40 percent of the nation’s coal production comes from public lands. Yet it’s been more than 30 years since the federal government did a formal review of the program.

Now, they’re calling on the public to provide feedback and ideas for reform. A hearing on the issue takes place in downtown Seattle on Tuesday.

courtesy Forterra

The Seattle-based environmental organization Forterra (formerly known as Cascade Land Conservancy) is getting into the urban land-banking business. Now, in addition to purchasing undeveloped open space, it’s buying property in Northwest cities, with plans to hold parcels until they can be developed as affordable housing. 

Climate change is a global issue. But for Betty Barkha, it's personal.

The 25-year-old grew up in the city of Lautoka in Fiji, a couple of minutes from the Pacific, amid the fish markets and flocks of tourists roasting on the beach.

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