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

A federal court will hear oral arguments Monday in Seattle, in a case that pits the United States against the State of Washington. It has to do with who gets to take how much fish.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez has set aside 3 weeks in his calendar to hear issues involved.

Three tribes are mentioned in the current litigation: the Makah, the Quileute and the Quinault Indian Nations. They’re fighting with each other.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

When you start talking with David Kirtley, don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel like you’re in a comic strip.  

Kirtley is the CEO of Redmond-based Helion Energy, and his business plan sounds like fantasy. He says the potential for solving all of our energy problems is contained in what looks like just a drop of water.

Michael Kauffmann

Thousands of people are expected to start long-distance treks on the Pacific Crest Trail this year.

That's inspired in part by the successful movie adaptation of Portland writer Cheryl Strayed's hiking memoir, "Wild." Hollywood’s next hiking movie, “A Walk in the Woods," could spur even more backpacking interest when it's released later this year.

That has Western outdoors enthusiasts backing the build-out of additional long-distance trails, which could offer greater solitude.

Hannah Letinich / Forterra


More than 150 acres along the Puyallup River will be preserved forever as farmland and wildlife habitat. It's the biggest agriculture conservation deal in the history of Pierce County.


The farmland has been in the Matlock family since the mid-1940s. During the height of operation they grew more than one million pounds of berries a year and hired thousands of school children to help bring in the harvest and learn what a day’s work on a farm felt like.


Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The CEO of the Port of Seattle has signed a lease agreement that will allow the Shell Oil Company to base part of its Arctic drilling fleet in West Seattle despite the threat of a lawsuit from a coalition of environmental groups.

Titleist46 / Flickr


Eleven packs of wolves have recolonized northeastern Washington. Now besieged politicians from that area are seriously proposing to relocate some of those protected wolves to western and southwestern Washington where there are none.

Michael Boer / Flickr

Growing numbers of hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Mexico-to-Canada route made increasingly popular by the movie "Wild," have led officials to take steps to alleviate traffic.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association announced on Wednesday a new permitting system that will limit to 50 the number of long-distance hikers heading north each day from San Diego County.

Wallie Funk / AP Photo

A well-known former resident of the Pacific Northwest will be getting special designation from the federal government. Lolita, a killer whale captured from Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, is now a member of an endangered species along with her wild cousins.

Lolita is the last known survivor of the many orcas captured from the Salish Sea in 1970. She has lived since then at the Miami Seaquarium. When Puget Sound orcas were later designated an endangered species, captive whales were excluded.

Wikimedia Commons


Thirty-one wolves were killed in the first six months of Idaho’s new Wolf Depredation Control Board.

Board members Tuesday asked the legislature for another influx of money to go after problem packs in Idaho.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Environmentalists turned out in full force Wednesday to voice their opposition to a Port of Seattle agreement allowing Shell Oil to base its 26-ship Arctic drilling fleet in West Seattle.

A coalition of state and national groups is threatening to sue the Port over its agreement to lease the currently-vacant Terminal 5 to the oil company for up to four years.

Ted S. Warren / AP

Governor Jay Inslee’s plan to put a cap on carbon emissions and make big polluters pay got its first hearing in Olympia today. The bill would charge the state’s top emitters for each ton released, starting in July 2016. 

Elaine Thompson / AP

A proposed law that’s making its way through the state legislature could change the way first responders are mobilized during major emergencies, such as floods and landslides. Because the slide that devastated Oso last March wasn’t a fire, state crews were slow to help local teams.

SDOT / Flickr

The lethal effects of urban runoff that kills some salmon and their prey can be reversed by filtering the water through a common soil mix, according to new research by state and federal scientists.

When it rains or people wash their cars, the water that runs over pavement picks up toxic chemicals such as oils, heavy metals and residue from car emissions. This can go straight into our waterways.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

In the wake of the deadly landslide in Oso, Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that would create a statewide database for geological hazard mapping figures.

Information is an important resource when it comes to preparing for potential hazards such as landslides or earthquakes. 


The incredible size and speed of the Oso landslide that killed 43 people last March has been a source of wonder, even for the most seasoned geologists investigating it.

Now the U.S. Geological Survey has published its first peer-reviewed study of the event. It focuses on the landslide’s high mobility as a major cause of the destruction.

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.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Eating too many fish from Washington state waters can make you sick. That’s the idea behind the updated fish consumption rule that has been formally proposed after two years of heated debate.

The new fish consumption rule will require dischargers to keep local waters clean enough that people can safely eat a serving of fish a day, rather than just one per month. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Small communities can be laboratories for societal change. That was one of the messages as a coalition of cities in King County celebrated commitments they’ve made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Leaders representing more than 60 percent of the county’s population have now signed on to goals outlined by the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration.

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.

Isobel Alexander / courtesy SKMMR.

Yellow tape is warning people away from the pocket beach near the Olympic Sculpture Park on Seattle’s waterfront. But it’s not a crime scene. The beach was closed to protect a young harbor seal that had hauled out. It’s not uncommon this time of year. 

Harbor seal pups are born in the summer and early fall in the Puget Sound region. And after they’re weaned, they’re on their own and particularly vulnerable for about six months. 

Courtesy Wash. Dept of Ecology

Washingtonians have lost some bragging rights.

We still recycle at a rate that’s much higher than the national average, but we’re no longer improving on the amount of recyclables we divert from landfills. The statewide rate went down in the most recent data set, to 49 percent in 2013. 

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.

Courtesy of Eric Warner

Fifteen years ago, Puget Sound salmon were listed under the Endangered Species Act. Despite the billions of dollars spent on recovery since, the results remain mixed. Some runs are seeing record returns while others are facing one of their worst years ever.

To learn more about the challenges of salmon recovery, our Swimming Upstream follows one chinook run from the open ocean to Puget Sound, through the Ballard Locks, past Renton and finally home to native spawning grounds on the Cedar River.

Note: KPLU will air the entire series at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 2, and again at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 3. You can also find the entire series on northwestsalmon.org >>>

Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

After the holiday gift-giving frenzy, many people look to get rid of old electronic devices. Most contain toxic heavy metals such as lead and mercury, so you shouldn’t throw them in the trash. Responsibly disposing of them is free in Washington. And you may even be able to turn an extra gadget into instant cash.

Courtesy of University of Puget Sound

The strings of bright lights that hang all around us during the holidays provide cheer for many people in the depths of winter.

But imagine a time when only the very wealthy could afford them and Christmas trees were lit up with candles. An exhibit at the University of Puget Sound explores the history and the future of electric power. 

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s time to make polluters pay for carbon emissions. He’s proposed a cap-and-trade system that he says will raise a billion dollars a year while helping the state drastically reduce its contribution to global warming. 

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.

Washington Department of Commerce photo

Imagine a future in which a third of our nation’s electricity came from wind power. Activists around the country say that’s possible in the next 15 years. Here in Washington, it would mean getting eight times more electricity from windmills.

That’s according to a new report from Environment Washington, the organization that has been spearheading policies to phase out disposable plastic shopping bags here and all over the country. The group, which is part of a nationwide network, released its report, titled More Wind, Less Warming, in about 20 states simultaneously this week.

Rick McGuire / Courtesy of Washington Wild

Washington stands to get a new national park and thousands of acres of wilderness and wild and scenic river areas if the U.S. Senate approves a massive defense package that has passed the House.

The package, which has a handful of public lands bills tacked on to it, appears headed for passage next week. And in a curious twist, the tragic landslide in Oso seems to have opened the door to a bipartisan solution.