Environment

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

Mayor McGinn's photostream / flickr.com

When it comes to fuel efficiency, Northwest drivers are apparently motivated more by their wallets rather than a desire to be green.

A poll commissioned by Seattle based PEMCO Insurance finds 83 percent of drivers here save fuel mainly because they want to save money. Only 14 percent said they saved fuel primarily to cut down on pollution and carbon emissions.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

NEWPORT, Ore. – A fleet of federal research ships is moving from Seattle to the Oregon coast. This weekend, state and local leaders in Newport are celebrating the transition with festivities. The state of Oregon kicked in nearly $20 million to help Newport lure the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific operation center from its long-time home.

From the Yaquina Bay Bridge, a huge bridge over the harbor, you can get a good view of the new NOAA pier. It can hold up to a half-dozen ocean-going ships.

Courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

This year's prolonged wet weather is having the side effect of re-invigorating a noxious weed. The Northwest is seeing a comeback of tansy ragwort, a toxic species of sunflower that farmers thought they had vanquished years ago.

NEWPORT, Ore. – Advocates of banning plastic grocery bags are taking their cause to smaller cities. An effort to ban the bags statewide failed in both the Oregon and Washington legislatures this year.

Now, supporters are making their case to city councils across the Northwest.

Aleph1 / Flickr

WARRENTON, Ore. – Perhaps you've had salmon, tuna or swordfish for dinner recently. Or maybe it's on the menu tonight. Every big fish that lands on your plate got that big by eating lots and lots of little fish.

If you don't have abundant small fish in the ocean, you won't have the big fish. That's why some scientists, fishery managers and advocacy groups are paying more attention to the small prey in the sea.

Some environmental group now also want tighter regulation, and that's making fishermen nervous.

WSDOT / flickr.com

It's become an autumn tradition: the annual survey of bicyclists and pedestrians in Washington. For the fourth year in a row, volunteers are needed to help the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Cascade Bicycle Club take a statistical snapshot of the number of people who get around by walking and biking.

courtesy of Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife

RICHLAND, Wash. –Wild life officials and park managers are refining a better strategy to keep aggressive mountain goats at bay, but steering clear of goats is a good first step.

A hiker was gored to death by a big mountain goat in the Olympic National Park last fall. And just recently, Wenatchee National Forest rangers fielded multiple complaints about an aggressive goat in the hills near Ellensburg.

Northwest News Network

Scientists are experimenting with 1,800-year-old glass to better understand how nuclear waste storage will hold up for millennia to come.

Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife

The recent ups and downs of wolf de-listing have split environmentalists over strategy. This week, a handful of conservation groups filed an appeal in San Francisco to return wolves to the endangered species list. But other groups feel the battle won't be won in the courts.

ABERDEEN, Wash. – A biodiesel plant at Aberdeen is operating 24 hours a day, producing fuel using canola oil from Canada.

The Daily World of Aberdeen reports the 4-year-old Imperium Renewables has recovered from struggles the past couple of years thanks to markets in Oregon and Canada driven by environmental standards.

Northwest business, fishing and food industry leaders are asking for a new approach to salmon policy. From Richland, Courtney Flatt has more.

A group of one thousand businesses is using a ruling recently issued by federal judge James Redden to call for a new look at salmon policy.

In a news conference, business owners and fishermen say they hope to bring key regional stakeholders to the table to restore all salmon runs to the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Spokane outdoor retailer Paul Fish says a healthy environment goes hand-in-hand with a healthy economy.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A north Idaho man could face fines and prison time for shooting a grizzly bear on his property. The animal is considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act and federal law allows people to kill grizzlies only in certain situations.

A short-line railroad is taking a hard look at opening a coal shipping terminal at the Port of Grays Harbor. This is the third location proposed by different developers in western Washington. It would export Rocky Mountain coal to Asia.

The corporate parent of the Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad proposes to redevelop a public port terminal in Hoquiam. The railroad anticipates coal exports would be its main business.

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Scientists have identified an orange-colored gunk that appeared along the shore of a remote Alaska village as millions of microscopic eggs.

By Stephanie Bower / Courtesy Seattle City Light

As interest in solar power gains momentum, Seattle City Light is marketing a new program to make it more widely available. 

Community Solar gives people who can’t install solar panels on their own homes the chance to reap the rewards of a cash investment in solar power.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

From carousels to picnic shelters and libraries, solar power is becoming more commonplace in Seattle.

City Light says it has seen big growth in customer demand for alternative energy over the past decade – and small solar is one of the biggest draws. 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Ethanol may soon have more uses than just as a fuel additive. Researchers have accidentally discovered an easier, more environmentally friendly biofuel catalyst.

Researchers hope a new catalyst called isobutene will lead to more ways to use ethanol –- from making rubber to solvents to aviation fuel.

Idaho Fish and Game

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington ranchers would get full compensation for confirmed wolf kills of their livestock under a new state wolf management plan. That proposal got its first public airing in Olympia Thursday.

Just as in neighboring Oregon, ranchers are uneasy about how the payments will work in reality.

Federal Judge James Redden this afternoon struck down the federal government’s plan for managing salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Scientists have confirmed what many suspected about this year’s weather. It was the coldest spring on record for Washington and one of the cloudiest. 

In the last ten years, the federal government and rural landowners have spent increasing sums of money thinning spindly trees and removing underbrush. The aim is to reduce risk from wildfire.

A new study by the Forest Service finds that tree stands need to be "intensively" thinned for that strategy to be effective.

Study co-author David Peterson of the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Seattle says a dense tinderbox forest before thinning could have more than a 1,000 trees per acre.

Courtesy of Woodland Park Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo’s 17-year-old grizzly bear brothers Keema and Denali can be watched live online 24/7 through the zoo’s partnership with Ustream, an internet live streaming service.

(You can also watch the video inside)

Adrian Wolf

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Wildlife biologists are employing a little trickery to stop the downward spiral of a rare grassland bird in Western Washington. On Friday, biologists took eggs from healthier larks in Oregon and swapping them into western Washington nests, hoping the lark mothers don't notice.

Photo courtesy Dept. of Energy

The nation needs a new agency to site a federal nuclear waste dump. That's the recommendation issued Friday by a presidential commission.

The congressionally-chartered agency would decide where to store radioactive waste that's now sitting in aging underground tanks in southeast Washington.

The Northwest could end up keeping Hanford’s nuclear waste for 100 years or more under a recommendation issued Friday by a presidential commission. President Obama appointed the Blue Ribbon Commission to look into the question of where to store the nation’s worst nuclear waste.

The new report says one option may be to store the waste at regional centers for more than 100 years while the country looks for a suitable permanent repository. That concerns Susan Leckband, who chairs a board that advises managers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

SALMON, Idaho - The Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted Thursday for a plan that sets hunting and trapping season for the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf. The state hopes sportsmen will help keep the wolf population in check.

But critics object to Idaho allowing hunters to use traps for the first time since the wolves were reintroduced.

YAKIMA, Wash. — Washington state has filed another lawsuit to compel the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume consideration of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

Yathin / Flickr

A program to save the western pond turtle in Washington has helped the wild population in the state grow from about 150 20 years ago to about 1,500 today.

Courtesy of San Juan Islands National Conservation Area

The San Juan Islands are known for pristine natural beauty that includes a national wildlife refuge and several remote state parks.  

But they also contain about 1,000 acres of federally owned land that has been largely forgotten by authorities. Some islanders fear it might be sold off to developers.

Associated Press

Government officials in Ottawa are getting heat for apparently muzzling a scientist whose study discovered that a viral infection – which has been referred to as "salmon leukemia" – may be the cause of salmon stocks crashing off Canada’s west coast.

The Vancouver Sun reported that the Privy Council Office, which supports the Prime Minister’s Office, stopped the study’s lead scientist “from talking about one of the most significant discoveries to come out of a federal fisheries lab in years.”

The Canadian government told the Postmedia News, which wrote the story, that scientist Kristi Miller has not been permitted to talk about her work because she is expected to testify later this summer before a commission looking into the decline of the Frazer River sockeye salmon.

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