Environment | KNKX

Environment

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

Ways to Connect

Elaine Thompson / File / AP Photo

The state’s Orca Recovery Task Force will deliver its final recommendations to Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday. Among the controversial items on the list is a last-minute proposal for a temporary ban on whale watching tours near the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife suggested it as an alternative to a no-go zone west of San Juan Island. It’s proposed to last three to five years.  

But some whale-watch companies are concerned it would create false impressions about their industry.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

Anyone living in the Puget Sound region has likely seen stories about prescription and illegal drugs polluting local waterways. Scientists have found traces of opioids and other pharmaceuticals in shellfish – and they're believed to also harm salmon and other fish.

Yet the Food and Drug Administration continues to advise people to safely dispose of many leftover meds by flushing them down the toilet.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Dozens of youth climate activists and their supporters rallied outside the federal courthouse in Seattle on Monday. Their demonstration was one of more than 70 such gatherings planned around the country, in support of the 21 young plaintiffs in a landmark case against the U.S. government.   

Elaine Thompson / File / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee’s Orca Recovery Task Force now has 35 items on its revised draft of recommendations to help Puget Sound’s endangered killer whales.  

Members have been meeting since May and are getting ready to finalize their report. But they’re still accepting comments until midnight Monday, and they want people to get involved.  

Ted S. Warren / file / AP Photo

One of the big decisions Washington voters face this election lies in Initiative 1631, which asks voters to impose a fee on carbon emissions. That’s the air pollution that comes from fossil fuels used in industry and transportation.

Rachel La Corte / AP Photo

Olympia’s Capitol Lake was designed to be an ornamental reflecting pool to compliment the dome of the legislature. But the lake is in trouble.  A $4-million dollar study of options to fix it is underway.

Public comments on what should be included in the study will be heard Monday at a meeting in Olympia.

Ed Ronco

Inside the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, the crowd had questions: Will there be jobs? What will the housing look like? Can I still get down to the beach? What about traffic in the area?

The redevelopment of Bellingham’s waterfront brings a lot of unknowns. What is clear, though, is that change is happening at the foot of the city’s downtown, where heavy industry once sat for more than a century.

Northwest Indian College

 


 

Communities in the Salish Sea basin are working to clean up pollution and better understand how to foster a sustainable environment. It requires data collection and lab work. But it also requires a connection to the cultures of the many nations that touch the Salish Sea.

 

John Scurlock / Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

This week in Whatcom County, officials are staging an emergency response drill to test and increase their preparednesss in the event that Mount Baker blows its top.

That might seem unlikely, but Baker is considered an active volcano. In fact, it has the second most thermally active crater in the Cascade range.

Nicholas K. Geranios / AP Photo

Gov. Jay Inslee has received a letter from the region’s leading killer whale scientists, calling for the removal of four dams on the Lower Snake river.

NOAA Fisheries under NMFS research permit #19091.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s orca recovery task force has issued a draft report with possible recommendations. It's 53 pages long and contains about 50 detailed potential actions.

The public is invited to comment as the task force works to narrow their list before submitting it to the state Legislature.

Andrew Selsky / AP Photo

State and federal agencies are working to build their capacity for the use of prescribed fire to manage forests.  

That process began Sunday in Cle Elum as participants in a training exchange gathered for exercises that will continue over the next two weeks. They include intentionally set fires on up to 930 acres in central and eastern Washington.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Monday is the deadline for comments on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act. Conservation advocates gathered Wednesday at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo to voice their concerns. They say the federal law is under attack and that the proposed changes would gut it.  

Ed Ronco

People who love nature love to be in the wilderness. The problem is if too many nature-lovers visit one location, it's no longer wild. This conundrum is more likely to happen in the areas around a major population center like Seattle. 

ANDREW REDING / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS

The conservation strategy for an enigmatic sea bird could chart the future of our state-owned forests.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Washington Department of Natural Resources are taking comments on the latest set of management options. All aim to balance logging revenue with steps to save the marbled murrelet.

Bellamy Pailthorp

There's one coal-fired power plant left in Washington state. But it won't be burning coal for much longer: It's scheduled to shut down or to switch to natural gas by 2025.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Communities concerned about marine health in Washington and British Columbia will take part Saturday in a Salish Sea Day of Action.   

Jackie Johnston, File / AP Photo

California made headlines this week as Governor Jerry Brown signed a pledge to get all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Clean energy advocates in Washington State say we can do it here too.

Katy Foster / NOAA Fisheries, under permit 18786-03.

Experts say they’re preparing a plan to capture and treat a sick, critically endangered orca if there is no way to save it in the wild.  They're preparing to rescue the animal known as J-50 if she separates from her family or gets stranded while alive.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

There’s a push to restore tidelands and wetlands all over the country. It’s widely acknowledged that these more natural landscapes provide big benefits to water quality and wildlife.

But, what if following this trend would mean eliminating a manmade feature that’s become integral to a community -- and is a signature feature of the state capitol?  That’s the debate heating up in Olympia, where the fate of Capitol Lake hangs in the balance. A $4-million dollar process to study the options for its future has just begun.

In 2013, the U.S. Forest Service was looking for someone to reduce wildfire risk and rehabilitate a stand of overgrown trees on the Colville National Forest in northeastern Washington.

Colville-based Vaagen Brothers Lumber submitted the one and only proposal to take on the ‘A to Z’ project. It’s called A to Z because what the company accepted responsibility for was everything – from start to finish. That includes a lengthy and federally required environmental analysis, public comment and the actual work.

Wildfire activity in the American West is likely to get worse in coming years. A new study out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences points to the lack of precipitation in the summer as the major driving factor when it comes to increasing fire severity.

U.S. Forest Service / file photo

Wildfires know no boundaries. They jump from public to private land, from national forests to state parks. And local communities are often the best experts on which forested areas should be managed first to tame the risk of their spread. That’s the word from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has announced a new, collaborative approach for managing wildfire risk.

Fires across the region have blanketed the Northwest in smoke. Blazes in California and British Columbia are also adding to the thick, reddish-gray haze.  

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Beyond the Frame – To Be Native is the name of a series of exhibits around the region, honoring the 150th birthday of Seattle photographer Edward S. Curtis.

Curtis is a controversial figure. He sought to document Native American cultures, based on the belief that they would soon vanish. 

After carrying her deceased baby for at least 17 days and 1,000 miles, an orca mother has shown signs of returning to normal.

She was seen Saturday with fellow members of her pod, chasing a school of salmon. She is no longer carrying her baby, and she looks healthy. "Her tour of grief is now over and her behavior is remarkably frisky," according to a statement on the Center for Whale Research's website.

Katy Foster / NOAA Fisheries, permit #18786.

An international team of whale researchers has administered an emergency shot of antibiotics to an endangered, wild killer whale.

The highly unusual move took place near San Juan Island on Thursday during an observation session that lasted about six hours.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Encouraging more inclusiveness so that people of color can better enjoy public lands is a topic that’s been in the news a lot in recent years.

One person behind that message is local journalist and photographer Glenn Nelson. He’s a former writer for The Seattle Times and the founder of a nonprofit advocacy web site called The Trail Posse.

Associated Press

Two orca stories have been prominent in news in recent days: An endangered orca is still clinging to her dead calf more than two weeks after it died. And scientists are considering intervening to help a different young orca, known as J-50, which they fear is sick and near death. 

Pages