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

A 'rainbow surprise,' as seen on Seattle's waterfront, September 16, 2019.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Fall arrived in the northwest with a September that has been wetter than normal. Now, unusually early cold is expected to hit the region as an early blast of Arctic air heads our way this weekend. It’s expected to bring record low temperatures to parts of the state and snow east of the Cascade mountains. But as it gets colder, the west side will dry out.

In this July 31, 2015 file photo, an orca whale "spyhops," a vertical partial-rise out of the water, in the Salish Sea in the San Juan Islands. Southern Resident orcas are critically endangered, after their numbers have dwindled to 73.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

Editor's note: Gene Johnson of The Associated Press wrote much of the story accompanying this audio.

SEATTLE (AP) — Seventeen states sued the Trump administration Wednesday to block rules weakening the Endangered Species Act, saying the changes would make it tougher to protect wildlife even in the midst of a global extinction crisis.

Erich Hoyt (in the front of the boat, with a camera) during the early days of orca research with the whale known as  Top Notch (A5) in the foreground,  in Johnstone Strait, north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Peter Thomas / Courtesy of Erich Hoyt

Two pods of the scarcely seen Southern Resident orca population showed up in the waters off Seattle within just a few hours of author Erich Hoyt’s return to the Pacific Northwest for his book tour.

Sunset in Seattle, June 8, 2019.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

September is one of those months in the greater Puget Sound region that can be glorious, with sunny blue skies serving as a stunning backdrop for crisp autumn leaves and classic Northwest views of mountains and water.

Not so much this year. It’s been cloudy and cool. And very wet.

Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Srevice

For more than 20 years, mysteries surrounding an endangered seabird have suspended logging activities on about 170,000 acres of state trust lands in Washington.

Now, the state Department of Natural Resources says it’s learned enough about the marbled murrelet to protect its habitat and free up some of the lands that were previously tied up.

Ashley Gross / KNKX

UPDATE, Sept. 20, 6 p.m.: Adds details from strikes in Seattle and Tacoma, as well as audio of a live Q&A with reporter Simone Alicea, who followed a march by Amazon workers, and audio of a live Q&A with environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. 

A glass wall inside the new Burke museum reveals many objects and artifacts that are not part of current exhibits.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

The Burke Museum in Seattle holds more than 16 million objects related to natural and cultural history. At any given time in the past, only a tiny fraction of the collection has been visible to the public.

Soon a much greater percentage of the objects will be visible. After closing its doors to the public more than nine months ago, the Burke has moved into a new building.  

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Lightning lit up skies around the Puget Sound on Thursday night, and another big rainstorm is on its way to Western Washington. But KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says none of the incoming weather systems are likely to outshine the extraordinary display of lightning that hit the region last Saturday night.

Alaska Airlines launched a #fillbeforeyoufly campaign to encourage reduced plastic use. Passengers, boarding a flight to Los Angeles, were gifted stickers and stainless-steel bottles Sept. 12 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Of all the things people do every year, flying causes more greenhouse gas pollution than almost anything. Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is working to shrink that carbon footprint. Its latest move is a campaign to reduce plastic waste on flights.

Industry is ever-present around Commencement Bay in Tacoma. Citizens for a Healthy Bay is among the organizations that are invested in improving and maintaining the health of those waters.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

David Bean remembers when his family didn’t have enough room for all the salmon in their boat. 

“We caught so much fish that we had to call folks to bring their skiffs over,” said Bean, chairman of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. “I remember one, we overflowed that skiff so much to one side it flipped over and we lost one skiff-load of salmon. But we still had three.”

The waters in and around Tacoma have changed since then. Still, efforts made in recent years have spurred progress. 

Washington state ferry
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Washington’s ferry system runs on diesel fuel that causes more air pollution than anything else the state transportation department operates. That’s changing as the state Department of Transportation works to convert two of its Jumbo Mark 2 ferries to hybrid-electric propulsion. And now it has officially launched the first new construction of a hybrid ferry, amid much fanfare.  

A harbor seal named Oscar by locals keeps an eye on people fishing and crabbing hear the Des Moines Marina, Thursday, July 21, 2016.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

One of the biggest issues facing Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident killer whales is a lack of Chinook salmon, their preferred food. A Seattle chef and the PCC Community Markets chain have stopped selling local Chinook, in an effort to help provide more for the orcas.

But fisheries experts say people eating Chinook is not the problem.

Elliott Bay and Mt Rainer as seen from Seattle January 28, 2015, when the effects of 'The Blob' were at full strength.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Despite a summer that has been relatively cool overall, a warm area of surface water has formed off the West Coast. It’s about 3-5 degrees warmer than normal for the eastern Pacific Ocean and covers about 6.5 million square kilometers, from Alaska to Hawaii to California. It has put federal fisheries and marine scientists on alert.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

August is often thought of as the hottest time of the summer in the Pacific Northwest, with searing blue skies and sunshine – ideal for boating or heading to a shady park with a wading pool.

That's especially true of the past two summers, when hotter-than-average temperatures dried out everything and boosted wildfires that spewed smoke into the region.

So, the rapid cool down that started Thursday comes as a bit of a shock.

The 8 million-gallon containment tank is seen from a distance on Tacoma's tideflats at the site of a liquefied natural gas plant currently under construction.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Editor's note: This series originally published May 22. Environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp was in Tacoma on Tuesday covering the latest developments, including an anti-LNG march and a public hearing related to permits for the proposed project. Listen to her coverage on All Things Considered today and Morning Edition tomorrow, and revisit previous coverage (updates at the bottom of this post).

Puget Sound Energy CEO Kimberly Harris wasn’t surprised to receive a call from Gov. Jay Inslee the afternoon of May 8. But she was surprised to hear what he had to say.

Raynell Morris, left, director of the Lummi Nation’s Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office, listens as Lawrence Solomon (second from left), secretary of the Lummi Nation’s Business Council, announces the new name for the Southern Resident orcas.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Earlier this summer, the Lummi Nation came to Seattle and launched a campaign to protect and revitalize the Salish Sea. The tribe is based near Bellingham, at the heart of that body of water, which extends from Puget Sound to Desolation Sound in Canada and out past Vancouver Island into the Pacific Ocean.

Flying goats near Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park in August 2019.
Courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

More than 200 mountain goats so far have been captured and transported from in and around Olympic National Park. Wildlife managers are working to relocate the entire population to native habitat in the North Cascades.

Two barges are moored at the earthen embankment at the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River near Wawawai, Wash., on April 22, 1999. The embankment will be removed if the dam is breached.
JACKIE JOHNSTON / The Associated Press

When salmon and steelhead don't get the cold water they need, it costs them more energy to survive.  Their reproductive success can be diminished and they become more vulnerable to disease.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

A push of marine air from the cold Pacific Ocean that came in Thursday night is bringing morning clouds to the greater Puget Sound region. These low clouds typically burn off by noon, though they can stick around longer.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass expects Friday and Saturday to provide sunny afternoons, with the clouds opening up to blue skies and temperatures in the mid- to upper-70s.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Seattle is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050. Mayor Jenny Durkan has proposed a new tax on oil-powered residential heat to encourage a switch to cleaner electric sources. The city council takes up that proposal in committee Friday.

A cloudy Seattle skyline as seen on June 5.
Time Durkan Photography

Low clouds have lingered over much of the Puget Sound region in recent days, the latest evidence that this summer stands in stark contrast to the hot, smoky, straw-hat weather of the past two years.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says Friday temperatures will only get into the lower 70s. And he says the weekend will be dominated by more of those lower temps, thanks to the presence of an upper level trough.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

As voters fill out their ballots for Tuesday’s primary, they’ll be choosing who will fill four seats on port commissions in the region — two each in Seattle and Tacoma.

Lenticular clouds cap Mount Rainier at dusk as a jet passes by Dec. 31, 2018, as seen from Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

August was off to a warm and sunny start Thursday, with blue skies and nearly perfect summer weather.

But people in the Puget Sound region woke up to as much as a half an inch of rain that fell overnight; on the coast, the precipitation totaled as much as an inch and a half. Temperatures dropped quite a bit, too.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass said a strong front came through and brought along an intense band of showers.

A beachside ceremony during the Paddle to Lummi at Stommish Grounds on Saturday, July 27, 2019, near Bellingham, WA.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Five days of inter-tribal festivities wrapped up over the weekend as the 2019 Paddle to Lummi came to an end. This year, nearly 100 canoes made their way to the shores of the Lummi Nation’s Stommish Grounds near Bellingham, for a celebration of unity and common causes.

In this file photo from 2006, a young girl watches through the glass as a killer whale passes by while swimming in a display tank at SeaWorld in San Diego. That park ended its controversial and long-running killer whale show in January 2017.
Chris Park / The Associated Press (file)

UPDATE: 10:45 p.m.: This story and its headline have been updated to clarify that the lawsuit will be filed by two individual members of the Lummi Nation, not the tribal goverment.

Native American tribes and first nations from around the region are celebrating their annual canoe journey this weekend. Along with songs, stories and dancing, their five-day gathering at the Lummi Nation, near Bellingham, will include the announcement of a lawsuit from two members of the Lummi Nation to ‘repatriate’ a captive orca.

Two girls play in warm and sunny weather at the International Fountain in Seattle on Friday, July 13, 2018.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

With all the bright sun, blue skies and warm temperatures that have dominated Puget Sound weather recently, it’s a little ironic to see showers in the forecast for Saturday. This weekend is the one anyone planning a major outdoor event in the Northwest typically aims for, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

"Cloudy and wet" has been the weather mantra so far this July. But KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass say all that is going to change this weekend.

A pocket beach near Hilton Harbor boat storage provides still-rare public access to Bellingham Bay.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

It’s been more than a dozen years since the Georgia Pacific pulp mill on Bellingham’s waterfront shut down and the local port district took ownership of 137 heavily polluted acres. Residents recently got a chance to tour the central waterfront parcel and learn about a new cleanup plan that they hope will ultimately lead to revitalization.

Lenticular clouds cap Mount Rainier, at dusk as a jet passes by, Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, as seen from Seattle. Lenticular clouds, sometimes called "cap clouds," form over mountain peaks when moisture begins to increase in the upper levels of the atmosphere
Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

Summertime in the northwest can provide a remarkably mellow atmosphere, with lots of clouds, temperatures that hover around 70 degrees and the kind of sprinkles that evaporate on your skin almost as soon as they land. Low clouds often filter the light and you can enjoy the soft focus all around.

That’s the kind of weather people in most of western Washington can look forward to for the next several days.

The growler image issued with the U.S. Navy's record of decision on March 14, 2019.
U.S. Navy/ NAS Whidbey Island

A citizens’ fight against jet noise from the U.S. Navy’s expanding fleet of Growler jets on Whidbey Island is getting help from the state’s top lawyer. Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed suit against the Navy, calling its environmental impact statement and review process inadequate.  

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