Bellamy Pailthorp | KNKX

Bellamy Pailthorp

Environment Reporter

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat from the Seattle offices of KNKX Public Radio News, where she has worked since 1999. She also has a deep interest in indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She holds a Masters in journalism from New York's Columbia University, where she completed the Knight-Bagehot fellowship in business reporting in 2006 mid-career during her stint on KNKX’s Business and Labor Beat from 2000-2012.

From 1989-98 she lived in Berlin, Germany freelancing for NPR and working as a bi-lingual producer for Deutsche Welle TV after receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1989 for a project on theater studies and communist history. She holds a Bachelors’ degree in German language and literature from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. (Yes, she is fluent in German.)

She strives to tell memorable stories about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Character-driven narratives of exploration and innovation excite her. 

Outside work, she practices yoga, walks half marathons with friends, backpacks with her husband and extended family, reads and watches fiction with nieces, enjoys tasting new foods and admiring all kinds of animals -- especially her two house cats, who often remind her she should spend more time sitting on the couch with them.

Ways to Connect

A plastic recycling company worker sorts out plastic bottles collected for processing at Tokyo Petbottle Recycle Co. in Tokyo in June 2019.
Koji Sasahara / The Associated Press file

It looks increasingly likely that Washington will ban Styrofoam, reduce plastic waste and strengthen recycling markets. A bill to that effect is nearly through the Legislature.

The Cushman Powerline Trail is a 6.2 public trail located in Gig Harbor, Wash.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Throughout the central Puget Sound region, wide trails offer the promise of safe and accessible transportation corridors for people who bike or walk. Many are converted railroad right-of-ways, and some connect to high-speed transit. But many stand alone, limiting their utility.

Standup paddleboarders off the coast of Port Townsend, WA in March, 2020.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Spring has sprung, many people are now vaccinated and there’s renewed excitement to get outdoors. The pandemic has again led to a surge in outdoor recreation as people look for safe things to do in the open air.

Patients wait to receive the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, Monday, March 15, 2021, at a Seattle Indian Health Board holds clinic in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

State officials say the increased eligibility for COVID vaccines may not be immediately met with enough appointments. But they’re confident supply will soon match demand, and they want to people to be ready.

Bundled plastic goods, which were separated from paper and metal recyclable materials, are stacked and awaiting processing at EL Harvey & Sons, a waste and recycling company, in Westborough, Mass., on Sept. 6, 2018.
Charles Krupa / The Associated Press file

A law that would respond to the plastic waste crisis in the U.S. is advancing in the state Legislature. It passed the state Senate earlier this month; a hearing in the House appropriations committee is expected this week.

Water moves through a spillway of the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Almota, Washington. It is one of the four dams on the lower Snake River, which advocates have argued should be removed to provide better habitat for Chinook salmon.
Nicholas K. Geranios / The Associated Press

Tribal leaders from Washington and Oregon are calling on Congress and the Biden administration to remove the four dams on the Lower Snake River.

Mussels are fed to an adult Sunflower sea star in the first ever captive breeding program for this critically endangered species, at UW Friday Harbor Labs.  The research is a collaboration with The Nature Conservancy.
Courtesy University of Washington

In December, sunflower sea stars were declared critically endangered by an international union of scientists. This species is the largest and hardest hit among the iconic and colorful starfish that have been devastated by a wasting syndrome.


Environmental justice became part of federal law in 1990. Washington might soon catch up. A proposed state law would infuse the concept into the work of seven key agencies.  

Muckleshoot Tribe’s Health Clinic Manager Jeremy Pangelinan and registered nurse Mikaba Snowden confirm the safe and appropriate transfer of the gifted COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Department of Corrections

Most inmates in the state correctional system have to wait until the end of the month to get a COVID-19 vaccine. But members of the Muckleshoot Tribe who are serving sentences at the Monroe Correctional Complex got their vaccines early.

Jim Watson / Pool via AP

UPDATE, 3:21 pm: the U.S. Senate confirmed Haaland 51-40 in a roll-call vote.

The U.S. Senate will vote on the confirmation of Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico as Secretary of the Interior at 2:30 p.m. Monday. She would be the first Native American named to a U.S. Cabinet position. 

Volunteers from the Salish Sea Chapter of National Federation of Democratic Women collect signatures to recall Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney.
Committee to Recall Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney

UPDATE, 2:30 p.m. Monday: A recall petition against Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney is dead. The campaign needed to turn in 45,000 signatures by the end of business Tuesday. They filed a motion for reconsideration of the deadline, citing the challenges of collecting signatures during the pandemic. That request was denied by Snohomish County Judge Jennifer Langbehn. She said the campaign should have filed their request with the governor or the state of Washington.  The group says they do not have enough signatures to put the measure before voters. The two main issues were Fortney’s refusal to enforce the governor’s stay-at-home orders and his reinstatement of three deputies who were fired by his predecessor.

Retired USGS geologist Brian Atwater on Seattle's Duwamish River at dusk. He often explores the area at low tide looking for signs of geological activity.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Twenty years ago this Sunday, the Nisqually earthquake rattled the region. It registered 6.8 on the Richter scale and shook for 40 seconds. The damage was significant. Bricks flew. It caused cracks in the Capitol dome in Olympia and sealed the fate of Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct as well as many older buildings in Pioneer Square. But it was nowhere near as drastic as some of the other possible geological scenarios that could lead to truly devastating shaking.

Trident Seafoods' Aleutian Falcon caught fire Wednesday night at the Port of Tacoma.
Tacoma Fire Department

A massive fire in the Port of Tacoma late Wednesday took more than 12 hours to contain. No injuries were reported, but Trident Seafoods declared the total loss of its 230-foot processing vessel, the Aleutian Falcon.

Snow covers the ground outside Mercer Island City Hall.
City of Mercer Island

The Mercer Island City Council passed an ordinance to prohibit camping on all public property and direct people experiencing homelessness to shelters in other cities. It expands an existing ban on camping in public parks.

Councilmembers voted 6-1 to adopt the measure Tuesday night, following more than three hours of public testimony. Violating the ordinance will be a misdemeanor offense, subject to fines of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail.

House (or golden) finches gather in winter months to feed on bird feeders and natural forage. Because of this year’s salmonellosis outbreak, WDFW asks Washington residents to remove feeders or clean them daily to prevent the spread.
Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

Washington wildlife officials are urging people to take down their bird feeders, even at this coldest time of year. That’s because of an outbreak of salmonella that is infecting songbirds, especially finches and particularly pine siskins.

A view of Hobuck Beach Resort during the shutdown in Neah Bay. Tourism is currently prohibited under 'Phase 3' health orders from the Makah tribal council. Their hope is to reopen to the public in June.
Courtesy of TJ Green

The Makah Tribe was the first community in the state to shut down because of COVID-19. Now they’re more than halfway through a vaccine rollout and are hoping to reopen this summer. The remote nation in Northwest Washington has remained closed to visitors since mid-March, with a checkpoint on the only road in and out.

The New York City skyline with smokestacks.
Unsplash / Courtesy UW news and information

One of the first actions by President Biden after his inauguration was bringing the U.S. back into the Paris climate agreement. A new study from a researcher at the University of Washington shows people how much more we will have to do, to meet the goals in that accord.

Patrons watch transient orcas on a 12-passenger Maya's Legacy Whale Watching boat, after departing from Friday Harbor.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

New licensing requirements for whale watch boats working in Washington waters take effect March 1. They’re the result of years of work, both from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and from the governor’s southern resident killer whale task force, which recommended the implementation of a licensing system.

But this week, state lawmakers began considering changes that would weaken those rules.

Solar panels gleam in the sunshine on a sunny day in Arlington.
Snohomish County PUD

It’s a small step, but an important one in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously passed a new building code for commercial properties. It requires all new construction to meet much higher standards for energy efficiency.

The Space Needle is seen in view of still standing but now defunct stacks at the Nucor Steel plant in Seattle, seen in 2016. Rates of heart disease and asthma are higher near big polluters such as this plant.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press file

The pressure is on to pass climate bills in Olympia. Attempts to get policies through that limit carbon pollution by putting a price on it have often failed here – including two statewide voter initiatives with broad or bipartisan support.

A replica of the Treaty of Point Elliott, on display at the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve in Tulalip, Wash.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

166 years ago this past Friday, on Jan. 22, 1855, the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed in what is now Mukilteo, Washington. The document is the source of much power for many local tribes today, but it wasn’t always that way. It’s celebrated every year in tribal ceremonies that are open to outsiders.

A nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at a recent clinic.
Urban Indian Health Institute

Many Washington tribes seem to be rolling out COVID-19 vaccines quicker than the state. But there’s also something identified as “vaccine hesitancy” among some indigenous groups.

Coho salmon spawn on the Salmon River in northwestern Oregon.
Bureau of Land Management / Courtesy University of Washington News and Information

Washington’s salmon are “teetering on the brink of extinction,” according to a new report. It says the state must change how it’s responding to climate change and the growing number of people in Washington. 

Rick Bowmer / The Associated Press file

Health officials say fatal overdoses in King County have increased sharply over the last two weeks. The Medical Examiner's Office has identified 42 suspected or confirmed overdoses for the period ending Jan. 9.

Officials say it’s the highest number ever recorded in a two-week period in King County.

In this photo taken Nov. 5, 2014, a researcher measures a dead coho found in Seattle's Longfellow Creek. More than a decade ago, researchers began noticing that adult coho were dying before returning to spawn in urban creeks in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press file

Endangered species in Washington will get a much-needed boost following the settlement of a major lawsuit about runoff and water quality.  

FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2014, file photo, waves break on the remains of a structure as a house that toppled over the eroding Pacific Ocean shoreline of North Cove, Wash., shown in the background. This erosion may be climate-change-driven sea level rise.
Ted S. Warren / AP Photo / file

As state lawmakers gear up for the new legislative session, advocates for environmental justice are urging them to pass the HEAL Act of 2021. The acronym stands for “Healthy Environment for All.” It aims to target state investments into areas that have suffered the worst effects of pollution.

In this May 1, 2013, file photo, an All Electric Bus, a Zero-Emissions Vehicle, produced by China's BYD Co., is parked at the announcement of the opening of an electric bus manufacturing plant in Lancaster, Calif.
Reed Saxon / Associated Press file

As King County Metro expands its fleet of electric buses with a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040 with a zero-emissions fleet, the agency must make important choices about battery size and composition. It’s a puzzle many big transit agencies are working on.

The new bridge span that carries traffic over the Puyallup River between Tacoma and Fife is now called the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge and in Twulshootseed, yabuk’wali, meaning “place of a fight.”
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Author's note: Every once in a while, a milestone anniversary comes around that allows us to learn about or review important historical events. This year, because of the pandemic, the Puyallup tribe did not do much to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a crucial standoff beneath the new structure now known as the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge. That event, and the media coverage it garnered, ultimately led local authorities to live up to the promise of tribal fishing rights, agreed to in the treaties of the 1850s.

I didn’t know much about the Puyallups' role in this until I got a chance to sit down with former chairwoman Ramona Bennett. That interview is one I won’t forget – and I hope the story that it yielded helps all of us remember how recently indigenous people here were hounded for trying to make a living exercising their rights – as well as to recall the power of public attention and media coverage to turn things around.

A juvenile snowy owl begins hunting at dawn amid the blowing snow.A juvenile Snowy Owl begins hunting at dawn amid the blowing snow.
Paul Bannick /

For about a month now, a snowy owl has been spending its daytime hours on several rooftops in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. Prior to that, there were sightings of the iconic bird in West Seattle and Burien.

Janna Nichols / Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy

Seven years ago, a wasting disease began killing sea stars all along the West Coast. The largest and hardest-hit species, the sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides), is now critically endangered, reduced in numbers by some 90 percent. Scientists with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) put it on their “red list” last week. But researchers at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island say there’s reason for hope.