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

Cori Lichtenberg, library technical assistant at the Kent Library, cleans a computer station on Friday, March 5. She's wiping a chair with a cloth.
Ed Ronco / KNKX

Author Ray Bradbury once said, “Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” 

Now, Washington state is getting nearly $4 million for tribal, public and academic libraries as well as museums that have been hurt during the pandemic. It’s federal funding from the American Rescue Plan set up by the Institute of Museum and Library services.

An architectural rendering of the new high-rise at 303 Battery St.
Sustainable Living Innovations

Buildings are one of the largest and fastest growing sources of climate pollution. In Seattle, they’re responsible for more than a third of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

What to do? Well, on Thursday, local leaders celebrated the groundbreaking of a new building that demonstrates some answers.

If you take a beach walk in springtime around Whidbey or Camano Island, north of Seattle, there's a good chance you could spot a 40-foot-long gray whale, feeding in the shallows just offshore. Or you might just see a fin or part of one's tail bobbing along the waterline.

It's a risky maneuver, done at high tide.

"They roll on their side and they come into water that is sometimes no deeper than they are thick," says Howard Garrett, a co-founder of the Orca Network and the Langley Whale Center on Whidbey Island.

Puyallup Tribe biologist Eric Marks lifts a section of turf that was found in the Puyallup River on May 3, 2021.
Puyallup Tribe of Indians

Electron Hydro is facing a $501,000 fine from the state Department of Ecology – plus new requirements for monitoring water quality near its dam on the Puyallup River.

Gov. Jay Inslee signs three key environmental bills, including the Climate Commitment Act, May 17 at Shoreline Community College.
Office of the Governor

Anger lingers among tribal leaders in Washington after a surprise veto from Gov. Jay Inslee last month. As he signed the cap and trade Climate Commitment Act, the governor struck down new powers for tribes.

Office of the Governor

A chance at winning a $1 million jackpot or a $250,000 prize. Tuition assistance, airline tickets, gaming systems and gift cards. Those are just some of the incentives announced Thursday to entice more Washington residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

April Kowalski and Kendra Mylnechuk Potter meet for the first time since Kendra's birth in the Grove in Portland, OR in August 2016.
Brooke Swaney

They’re known as "the lost birds" – Native children who were adopted out of their tribal communities and placed with white families. Nearly 400 of these adoptions took place from 1958 to 1967 through a federal program called the Indian Adoption Project.

The ripple effects of that history is told in a new documentary about a mother and daughter with ties to the Lummi Nation, as they seek to connect with their Native identity.

Chris Eccles, left, and Celia Nieto, paddle a kayak through a kelp forest in Freshwater Bay, with the Olympic Mountains in the distance, Aug. 31, 2007, west of Port Angeles, Wash., in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Paul Joseph Brown / Associated Press

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in recreational boating, as people look for more ways to get outdoors. In Washington, both sales and registrations of new watercraft went up  in 2020. Authorities also issued thousands of new boater education cards – a trend that has continued this year -- and they believe the lessons learned are keeping more people safe.

King County has issued a public health directive that strongly urges all residents to continue wearing face masks in indoor public settings, whether they are vaccinated or not.
Keith Srakocic / The Associated Press

Don’t get rid of your face masks just yet, even if you’re vaccinated.

King County has issued a public health directive that strongly urges all residents to continue wearing face masks in indoor public settings, whether they are vaccinated or not. It also encourages businesses that serve the public to maintain mask requirements.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX file

Environmental justice will be center stage Monday morning in Seattle’s Duwamish River Valley. That's where Gov. Jay Inslee is signing the so-called “HEAL Act.”

A live green crab, captured Thursday, May 13, on top of several mesh bags of frozen green crabs that were caught over the past few months in Grays Harbor on the Washington coast.
Alex Stote / Courtesy of Washington Sea Grant Crab Team

European green crabs were found in Washington’s inland waters in 2016, prompting extensive monitoring. Now state officials say this destructive invasive species is spreading in several coastal locations. 

They thrive in shallow water and soft sediment, which Washington’s estuaries provide. And over the past two years it seems the populations of green crab are exploding, especially on the coast.

CRC 44 or Dubknuck's fluke seen off of Camano Island in North Puget Sound. Dubnuck was first spotted in south Puget Sound 1991.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Every spring, gray whales migrate up the West Coast on a 12,000-mile round-trip from their calving grounds in Mexico to the Alaskan Arctic, where they feed on tiny crustaceans.

Since early 2019, an unusual mortality event has reduced their population by more than 20 percent. Whales wash up severely emaciated or sometimes suffer from ship strikes or entanglements made worse by lack of food.

But researchers in Washington have identified a small group of gray whales that returns to Puget Sound every year in what seems to be a survival strategy.

Jesse Huggins / Cascadia Research

Another gray whale has died off the Washington coast. The animal was confirmed dead after stranding in the tidal areas of north Port Susan, east of Camano Island.

Members of groups including, Seattle Cruise Control and the Center for Biological Diversity
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

A celebration of Earth Day in honor of the Salish Sea took aim at the Port of Seattle Thursday. Representatives of several groups, including and the Center for Biological Diversity, called attention to the port’s impact on marine life.  

Even as human impacts cause increasing numbers of animal strandings along beaches in Washington and Oregon, there has been a gap in critical care for them. Till now, there was no marine wildlife hospital in either state dedicated to rehabilitating hurt or sick animals.

A line of Teslas charge outside a dealership in Littleton, Colo., on Aug. 23, 2020.
David Zalubowski / The Associated Press file

In less than a decade, all cars and light-duty vehicles sold in Washington will be powered by electricity, not fossil fuels. That’s the goal set within legislation that has passed the state House and Senate. The 2030 timeline is now part of a bill that aims to prepare the state for a zero-emissions transportation future. It’s on its way to Gov. Jay Inslee for signing.

Courtesy of Humanities WA

Washington has a new state poet laureate. Rena Priest officially took the mantle in a ceremony Wednesday evening, hosted at the Lummi Nation, where she is from.

Researchers are monitoring this gray whale after it potentially developed health complications due to a satellite tag being implanted in its body.
NOAA Fisheries

Federal scientists say a gray whale that might have developed complications from a satellite tag appears to be doing OK.

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 plastic foam, 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.