environment | KUOW News and Information

environment

Mishka the asthmatic otter is doing fine despite the wildfire smoke, the Seattle Aquarium tweeted last week.
Seattle Aquarium

Call it "canary in the smoke-choked city."

While people are struggling with the unhealthy air quality in Seattle, the animals are having similar issues.

This smoke means smaller newborns and more ER visits

Aug 20, 2018
Anastazia Burnett lives with her children in Waterville, outside Wenatchee.
KUOW-EarthFix Photo/Eilis O'Neill

When it comes to wildfires, the people of Wenatchee remember 2012.

The air was so choked with smoke that summer camps were canceled and kids kept inside. Clinics and drug stores ran out of masks.

 J-50 swims with sister J-42 on July 21. NOAA Fisheries photo, permit number 21368.
NOAA Fisheries/Katy Foster

There has been an extraordinary federal-local-tribal effort aimed at nursing the killer whale known as J50 back to health. But is it far enough?

Seattle Times reporter Linda Mapes has been covering the operation, and she told KUOW’s Angela King about it.


The smoke-shrouded Seattle skyline on Tuesday.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Stay inside if you can.

With wildfire smoke billowing into the Seattle area from a number of fronts, that’s the advice of the Puget Sound Clean Agency.

A transient whale is shown on Friday, August 10, 2018, as crews attempt to locate the JPod. (Image taken under the authority of NMFS MMPA/ESA Permit No. 18786-03)
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Kim Malcolm talks with University of Washington fisheries science professor Ray Hilborn about whether boycotting chinook salmon will help the recovery of southern resident killer whales.

Carolyn Beans is a freelance science journalist living in Washington, D.C. She specializes in ecology, evolution and health.

In Washington, D.C., Peter Rabbit regularly challenges me to stop wasting food. On a billboard hovering beyond my local grocery store and on posters on bus stop shelters, he casually chomps on a carrot while leaning on big bold letters: "Better Ate Than Never."

marijuana joint pot
Flickr Photo/Dann Cove (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Washington state is dealing with a lot of weed waste — and we're not talking about the stuff you dig out of  your yard.

Our legal marijuana industry is creating a new waste problem. Seattle journalist Kristen Millares Young covered the story for The Washington Post and spoke to KUOW’s Angela King about it.


Heavy smoke from wildfires is shown on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, outside of Wenatchee.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

If you're a longtime Seattleite, this may seem like one of the worst weeks ever for air pollution.

Air quality experts say ... that's probably true. 


Bellaniy Baltazar, 13, rubs her eyes while swimming on Wednesday, August 15, 2018, at Lakeside Park in Chelan.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The sky is ash gray; the lake is too.

Wenatchee and Chelan, popular summer destinations for middle class Seattleites, look like the end of the world right now. Like sets from the movie “Mad Max,” as smoke from nearby wildfires engulfs the area.

Chris Hopkins moved to Pine Forest for the trees. He was drawn to the hilly, forested community in Washington’s Methow Valley, and decided to build a cabin there in the 1990s, "before we really knew about fire danger," he said.

Forest fire smoke obscures the Space Needle on Tuesday.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

A judge in Seattle has dismissed a lawsuit from a group of children seeking to protect their generation from climate change.

A wildfire burns behind a home on Twisp River Road early Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015 in Twisp, Wash.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Kim Malcolm talks with University of Washington research ecologist Jessica Halofsky about why changing forest management practices could help prevent massive wildfires in the Northwest.

Drone image by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the J50 feeding effort
NOAA Fisheries, under permit # 18786

Scientists have taken an unprecedented step to save one of the Salish Sea’s 75 endangered orcas: They tried to feed her in the wild.

In this photo released by The Eastern Area Incident Management Team, a Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) drops retardant on a wheat field as crews continue to battle a wildfire in eastern Washington state Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018.
Eastern Area IMT via AP

A firefighter is being treated at a Seattle hospital after being burned in wildfire in eastern Washington.

Okanogan County fire officials said Brett Read, 38, was injured Saturday as he attempted to flee an unexpected flare-up of the Grass Valley Fire.

  It was a wild weekend for wildfire in the Northwest.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Northwesterners and people around the world have been inspired by Bill McKibben’s prolific environmental activism. McKibben took some time off from his global warming work recently to write his first novel, “Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance.” He admits he was inspired by one of his heroes, Edward Abbey — so you know things will get weird.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says the entire state of Washington is abnormally dry. In Oregon, nearly 90 percent of the state is facing moderate to severe drought.

“What we’re experiencing is part of what the entire Western United States is experiencing,” Kristin Johnson-Waggoner said. She’s a communications manager with the Water Resources Program in Washington Department of Ecology.

The orca known as J35 swims without her baby off San Juan Island on Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research

A grieving mother orca has finally let her dead calf go, ending her "tour of grief."

Lummi Tribal Chairman Jay Julius loads live chinook salmon onto King County Research Vessel SoundGuardian in Squalicum Harbor on Friday, August 10, 2018. (Image taken under the authority of NMFS MMPA/ESA Permit No. 18786-03)
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

An extraordinary effort to feed a sick, young orca got underway Friday morning in the waters west of Bellingham.

Crews loaded 24 live chinook salmon into tanks aboard King County's Research Vessel SoundGuardian as well as the Lummi Nation police boat at Squalicum Harbor.

Smoke from an approaching wildfire looms over a home near Twisp, Wash., Aug. 19, 2015.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Kim Malcolm talks with University of Washington environmental chemistry professor Dan Jaffe about why air quality in the Pacific Northwest has been getting worse over the last three decades.

Jeff Foster of the Whale Sanctuary Project checks the pole that will be used to collect breath samples during the planned health assessment of J50
John Gussman/NOAA Fisheries

As scientists searched Salish sea waters for the young, emaciated orca known as J50, they spotted her relative, still carrying her dead calf.

The fishing dock on the Lummi reservation. The Lummi refer to the salmon as their relatives.
Grant Hindsley for KUOW

Helping our relatives. That’s what Darrell Hillaire calls the project to offer salmon to the young whale known as J50.


Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C., on August 7.
Brian Gisborne, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

J50 is alive.

The emaciated, 3 1/2-year-old orca had seemingly gone missing over the weekend, leading some biologists to worry that she may have died.

Plans were underway to feed the young whale with live salmon – possibly laced with medicine – or to inject her with antibiotics, in the hopes of saving the youngest orca in this endangered group.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA, confirmed that the young orca was found west of Vancouver at the Port Renfrew near the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Washington grapples with orca recovery plan

Aug 7, 2018
Photo Courtesy of Taylor Shedd of Soundwatch

Bill Radke talks to Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and Dr. Deborah Giles, whale research biologist for the  University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology about a new task force led by Washington's Governor Jay Inslee. The task force hopes to find a way to save orcas from extinction. 

J50 with her podmate J42, taken July 21, 2018.
NOAA FISHERIES/KATY FOSTER

Boat crews were out again on Washington waters Tuesday looking for J50, the starving orca that’s part of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales that frequent the Pacific Northwest.

Protesters call for the removal of dams on the Snake River to help salmon spawn -- and consequently feed Puget Sound orcas. The protest came outside a meeting of the governor's orca task force in Wenatchee on Tuesday.
KUOW photo/Eilis O'Neill

In late July, an orca calf died within half an hour of its birth. The mother carried the dead calf on her head for more than a week.

Now whale scientists and NOAA are weighing trying to feed live Chinook salmon to an emaciated 4-year-old orca or trying to inject her with an antibiotic.

 J-50 swims with sister J-42 on July 21. NOAA Fisheries photo, permit number 21368.
NOAA Fisheries/Katy Foster

The effort to save a sick, starving orca named J50 is a personal mission for Aaron Hillaire and Malcolm Owings of the Lummi Tribe.

“Hundreds and hundreds of years we’ve been around the orcas and it’s family, really,” Hillaire said.


Baby orca J54 swims with its mom, J28, in the waters off San Juan Island this month.
Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research

Laura Blackmore of Puget Sound Partnership speaks with KUOW's Kim Malcolm about the task force kicking off on Tuesday to discuss the overall health of the killer whales local to the Washington state and Canadian coast lines, known as J-Pod. 


“To let fires burn in July and August is ridiculous.” — Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus in the New York Times, Sept. 22, 1988

Rich Fairbanks walks a forest trail through a stretch where two wildfires have burned in the last six years.

The ground is mostly bare, and the tree trunks are striped with black, scorched bark.

Fairbanks has worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a wildland firefighter and as a wilderness advocate. He is thrilled by all this. He points up at the green crowns of the trees with delight.

An emaciated, 4-year-old Pacific Northwest orca is drawing alarm.

NOAA Fisheries spokesman Michael Milstein said feeding live Chinook salmon to the female orca, possibly laced with medication, is being considered.

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