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 hosts and produces the weekly segment, The Weather With Cliff Mass, which airs every Friday. 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

Mount St. Helens, in the foreground, is shown with with Mt. Rainier in the background in 2004, near Longview, Wash. The USGS ranks Mount Rainier as the third most dangerous volcano in the nation, after Kilauea in Hawaii and St. Helens, both active.

Officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior and United States Geological Survey have been touring sites in Mount Rainier National Park this week. They’re looking at five new locations where upgraded monitoring stations will soon enhance detection of lahars. There’s also a proposal to add another 12 lahar monitoring stations in the park, to complete an expansion they say will put detection at Rainier on par with other high-threat volcanoes in the region, such as Mount St. Helens.

In this May 3, 2018 photo, a couple walk their dog near the Kinder Morgan Inc. Westridge oil tanker terminal in Burnaby, BC. The company's Trans Mountain expansion is projected to increase oil tanker traffic here by as much as sevenfold.
Jeremy Hainsworth / The Associated Press (file)

Washington has been stepping up systems to prevent and reduce the risk of oil spills, due in part to the looming expansion of Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline. It could result in as much as a sevenfold increase in the number of oil tankers traveling from Vancouver, B.C., through Puget Sound.

In 2018, the state Legislature passed the Strengthening Oil Transportation Safety Act. Among its requirements, along with a barrel tax on crude oil and updates to contingency plans for oil spills, was the establishment of the Salish Sea Shared Waters forum.

Ron Peltier and Betsey Wittick at Bainbridge Vinyards.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This story originally aired on February 14, 2020.

It started over a few glasses of wine, with friends passing around a smartphone and sharing views of a sketch by late-night comedian Bill Maher.

A car registration tab is shown on a vehicle parked at the Capitol, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Olympia, Wash. The Washington Supreme Court unanimously struck down Tim Eyman's Initiative 976 in a ruling issued Thursday.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press (file)

The Washington Supreme Court unanimously struck down Tim Eyman's Initiative 976 in a ruling issued Thursday. The measure would have steeply discounted the price of car registrations, while gutting transportation budgets statewide.

An image from "Journey of the Freckled Indian" by Alyssa London, with illustrations by Monica Rickert-Bolter and formline drawings by Preston Singletary.
Courtesy of Alyssa London

Monday is Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s an alternative to the federal Columbus Day holiday that many people feel essentially erases Indigenous history.

Seattle, Edmonds and Bainbridge Island are among the communities around the region that have recently opted to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day instead. A Seattle-based nonprofit is launching a new children’s book to mark the occasion.

In this July 31, 2015 photo, one orca whale swims along as another leaps out of the water near a whale watching boat whose passengers happen to be looking the other way in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands, Wash.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Despite the happy news that Puget Sound’s Southern Resident killer whales welcomed two new babies to the J-pod last month, their population remains at risk, with just 74 left in the wild.

A new licensing requirement for commercial whale watch boats is expected to start next year.  It aims to reduce noise and other stress that could be impacting them, by regulating the numbers of boats allowed in proximity of the Southern Residents as well as when and how long the whales can be watched.

AstroTurf in the Puyallup River, near the site of Electron Hydro's dam improvement project.
Courtesy of the Puyallup Tribe

The Puyallup Tribe intends to sue Electron Hydro and its backers over violations of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. The tribe’s 60-day notice, filed in federal court, comes after a whistleblower working at the Pierce County dam site this summer revealed that the company was using artificial turf in the Puyallup River.  

Washington State's Department of Agriculture this week for the first time radio tagged a live Asian giant hornet. Unfortunately, the tag fell off before the glue dried.
Washington State Department of Agriculture

It’s been a busy week for Washington state agriculture officials tracking the potential spread of the Asian giant hornet. Scientists say they found evidence of six new hornets near Blaine, indicating the likelihood that a nest is in the area.  

The invasive species, sometimes called murder hornets, can decimate honeybees and other pollinators, threatening ecosystems and agriculture. Fifteen of them have now been found in Washington since they were first seen here last year.

Turning Basin No. 3 is among the Port of Seattle parks being renamed with the public's help in a campaign that launched this summer.
Courtesy of Port of Seattle

The Port of Seattle owns and operates six public parks along the Duwamish River that many people don’t even know exist. That’s changing as the port engages community in a renaming process meant to help residents reclaim the properties and their heritage.

Smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California creates hazy skies as the sun is seen above the Washington state Capitol, Saturday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2020, in Olympia, Wash. Numerous air quality warnings were in place for most of the West for several days
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Forecasters here are monitoring smoke from California that has the potential to reach Western Washington this week. Easterly winds have revved up and the smoke is accumulating offshore. Some of it is expected to flow north, but how much, exactly when and how it impacts air quality once it arrives are all open questions at this point.

In this 2015 file photo, protesters demand release of the orca whale some call Lolita, who has been in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium for 50 years.
Wilfredo Lee / The Associated Press (file)

Fifty years ago this week, the killer whale some call Lolita arrived at Miami Seaquarium. She was captured at Penn Cove, in the waters off Whidbey Island, in early August 1970, along with dozens of other young orcas.

Sold for about $20,000, she arrived in Miami on Sept. 23, where she received her stage name and has lived ever since, in an 80-by-35-foot tank. Originally named Tokitae by her trainers, she is the last surviving Southern Resident orca in captivity.

A helicopter flies over fires burning on a ridge in Sumner, Wash., Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.
Rachel La Corte / The Associated Press

Another potentially devastating effect of wildfires: increased landslide risk. The state Department of Natural Resources has a team doing rapid response analysis in areas that have recently burned.

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX (file)

Since the onset of the pandemic, food insecurity rates have more than doubled in our state. That’s according to researchers at the University of Washington who have just compiled the results from their first round of a statewide survey. 

It was done this summer in cooperation with Washington State University and Tacoma Community College, as well as partners in local, county and state governments.

AstroTurf seen in the Puyallup River during work done in late July by Electron Hydro.
Courtesy of the Puyallup Tribe

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier says he wants to see the obsolete Electron Dam removed from the Puyallup River. This comes after an employee revealed that the private owner of the dam was illegally using discarded AstroTurf in the river during work on upgrades this summer.

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

A deep red modern span stretches over Pacific Highway on the bridge that links Tacoma to Fife, carrying a steady stream of cars and trucks over the Puyallup River. The bridge and an older portion of it nearby were recently renamed by the City of Tacoma in collaboration with the Puyallup Tribe. It’s now called the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge and in Twulshootseed, yabuk’wali, meaning “place of a fight.”

Fifty years ago today, members of the Puyallup Tribe faced off here with local law enforcement.

Tahmina Martelly, Of World Relief Seattle, gives a tour of the Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden in Kent. Martelly says among the coverted crops grown here by immigrants are these hairy gourd vines.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

A community garden in Kent is in the spotlight as an example of climate action that empowers people who are disproportionally impacted by climate change.

The Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden fills more than an acre on a hillside that used to be an underused parking lot. The church next door donated the land.  

Students work to assemble a young female gray whale as part of a class at Seattle Pacific University.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Inside Seattle Pacific University’s Eaton Hall, a small group of students huddle around the huge skull of a gray whale, whose bones they’ve all been studying intently for two weeks. Then, they take turns drilling into it.

King County Executive Down Constantine unveils the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan at the Paradise Parking Plots Community Garden in Kent on Thursday.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

King County Executive Dow Constantine has unveiled his proposal for the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan. It’s a five-year roadmap that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade. Among the details is a pledge to plant 3 million trees and make buildings and transit greener.

A record population of razor clams has just been counted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

It looks like it could be a wonderful year for razor clam digging. The state’s annual summer survey is done and Coastal Shellfish Manager Dan Ayers says their count of clams at Long Beach came in at 24 million.

AstroTurf in the Puyallup River, near the site of Electron Hydro's dam improvement project.
Courtesy of the Puyallup Tribe

UPDATE, Sept. 14:  Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier says he wants to see the obsolete Electron Dam removed from the Puyallup River. He issued a letter to the head of Electron Hydro, extending the county’s stop-work order because of the AstroTurf and requiring a list of 14 steps to be carried out immediately.

Nurses conduct a COVID-19 test at UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic in March. Skagit County will soon limit its own drive-through testing.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX (file)

Skagit County soon will limit its drive-through testing for COVID-19 to only those who live or work in the county. The change starts in less than a week, on Monday, Aug. 31. County officials say the current model is not sustainable.

More than 400 people who are incarcerated in Washington prisons have tested positive for COVID-19. Two have died. With crowded conditions, family and advocates are pushing for change.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Puget Sound at low tide is a joy well known to many in the region. It’s a formative experience for many children here, overturning rocks to see all the tiny crabs and sea stars that live amidst colorful seaweed, kelp and barnacles.

But few people are as versed in the lesser-known critters that live in the tidal zone as Seattle naturalist Kelly Brenner. She specializes in anything without a backbone. Brenner is the co-founder of an online event called #Invertefest, which challenges anyone who wants to take part to find and help document the lesser-known or less-celebrated creatures in our midst. She also wrote a recent field guide to Seattle, which includes chapters on marine life.  

We waded into the saltwater together during a recent low tide at Constellation Beach, near Alki, so she could show me around — and introduce me to some of her favorite invertebrates.

 screenshot of the 2020 Census Canoe Race, which has Washington Tribes competing to see who can get the highest count.
Courtesy of Pyramid Communications

Tribal communities in Washington are stepping up efforts to make sure they’re accurately counted in the 2020 U.S. Census. Tribes are historically the most undercounted group. The reasons range from a legacy of mistrust in government to the technicalities of how data was collected in the past, before self-reporting was an option; officials tallying based on visual evaluations often overlooked Native Americans.

From left to right: Sweetgrass, lavender and lavender starts are seen growing at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla as part of a new Indigenous medicines program through the Department of Corrections, in partnership with the nonprofit Huy.
Courtesy of Huy

A special plot of land has been set aside at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. It is sacred ground that has been blessed by tribal leaders from the community outside. And it’s been devoted to a work program that allows Indigenous inmates to grow medicinal plants needed in traditional ceremonies, such as sweat lodges.

Soon the Pilchuck River will be redirected to its original channel, after the removal of two dam structures that have held it back for more than 100 years.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

This week, the Pilchuck River will be redirected to its original channel, after the removal of two dam structures that have held it back for more than 100 years. It’s a relatively small project, compared to the monumental dam removals on the Elwha River in 2014 or even this summer’s explosive demolition work on the Nooksack.

But taking down this 10-by-60-foot barrier promises to dramatically improve critical habitat for salmon and steelhead. 

A view of Seattle's ship canal on July 10, 2020.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

The first week of August is generally the hottest time of the year in Washington. This year, people in the Puget Sound region already have experienced some record temperatures, with highs topping 90 degrees for the first time in 2020 on Monday. Olympia reached an eye-popping 98 degrees. Seattle made it to 94.

But a cooling trend that will continue through Monday has started, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass.

Amid nationwide calls to defund the police, Tacoma is calling on the public to show officials how it should be done. The city is facing a bigger deficit than it’s seen in years because of the coronavirus pandemic — more than $67 million, or about 15 percent overall.

It’s also in the midst of trying to transform the city government and its services through comprehensive anti-racism policies.

So, Tacoma officials have invited members of the public to try their hand using an interactive online tool. It’s called Balancing Act.

Washington State Department of Agriculture

Hundreds of people in Washington are contacting state agriculture officials to report suspicious packages they’ve received containing seed packets. The unsolicited shipments, which appear to be sent from China, have popped up in more than two dozen states nationwide.

FILE - In this July 13, 2007 file photo, a worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska.
Al Grillo / The Associated Press (file)

Opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska say the fight to stop it is far from over. Leaders from the United Tribes of Bristol Bay are preparing a challenge after the Army Corps of Engineers released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) on Friday.