environment | KUOW News and Information

environment

Orca whale, Tahlequah or J35, carrying her dead calf
Photo courtesy of Michael Weiss, Center for Whale Research

It's now been nine days that a J-pod orca mother has been carrying her dead calf on her head, refusing to let it sink.

Kim Malcolm talks with Dr. Deborah Giles about how individuals can help with the recovery of southern resident killer whales. Giles is a killer whale biologist with the University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology.

Here are three of Giles' suggestions:

Day 9: A small fin of the deceased baby whale follows its mother through Salish waters.
Courtesy of Soundwatch NMFS permit #21114

Marine biologist Taylor Shedd has told The Record that the grieving orca mother — known as Tahlequah or J35 — is carrying her dead calf for a ninth day. The baby's body has started to decompose.

The killer whale delivered her baby on Tuesday last week. Half an hour later, the calf died.

In a clash of protected species, Pacific Northwest members of Congress are coming down in favor of salmon. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday morning to make it easier to kill sea lions who feast on Columbia and Willamette River salmon and steelhead.

The National Guard is gearing up to help fight wildfire in eastern Washington, and Gov. Jay Inslee has declared a state-wide emergency.

Fire conditions in southwest Oregon improved slightly over the past couple days, as stagnant smoke helped raise the humidity. Those conditions started to change Tuesday morning, which is expected to increase activity on multiple wildfires burning in the region.

West of Grants Pass, the boundaries of the Taylor Creek and Klondike fires had grown to within about seven miles of each other Tuesday. Fire information officer Bill Queen said crews will try to maintain the gap because of what lies in between.

For the third year in a row, a military reconnaissance aircraft is joining the battle against Pacific Northwest wildfires. This specialized plane can locate new fires from many miles away.

Most of the Albertan oil piped through British Columbia winds up at refineries in Washington state.
Kinder Morgan

In May, the Canadian government announced it would buy the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline from Texas-based Kinder Morgan in order to finish the pipeline's expansion project. 

Courtesy of Jonathan White

Before you listen to this talk by Jonathan White, you might want to be somewhere by the sea as the moon rises or sets. That would be ideal. If not that, be somewhere where you can search maps of all the far-flung places he’ll talk about. You’ll likely have that urge.

Ninety-four million extra miles of driving.

A new study says that’s the amount of traffic that ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft added to Seattle streets in 2017.


Orca whale, Tahlequah or J35, carrying her dead calf
Photo courtesy of Michael Weiss, Center for Whale Research

Last Tuesday, a new Orca calf was born to one of Puget Sound’s resident pods. The birth should have been a moment of celebration for the endangered population, but it quickly turned to tragedy when the calf died within a half hour.

Northwesterners are hearing a lot about mountain lions lately. Since May, an extremely rare fatal attack in the Washington Cascades, a Willamette Valley pool party interrupted by a wandering cat and a viral Facebook video of a mountain lion lounging in a southern Oregon woman’s living room have made headlines across the region.

Are the Northwest’s mountain lions acting out of character this summer?

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Derek Broman says no. But they are adapting to a gradual shift in their range.

When a huge floating gyre of plastic waste was discovered in the Pacific in the late 1980s, people were shocked. When whales died and washed ashore with stomachs full of plastic, people were horrified. When photographs of beaches under knee-deep carpets of plastic trash were published, people were disgusted.

Though some of it came from ships, most, presumably, was from land. But how much was coming from where?

“Although the fact that fire has always been an important ecological factor is recognized to a certain extent by most foresters, many of them disregard or minimize the possibility of utilizing fire as a silvicultural agent in the management of ponderosa pine forests.”

— Harold Weaver, Journal of Forestry, 1943

On a cool spring morning outside Sisters, Oregon, the Wolf Creek Hotshots weaved their way through ponderosa pines, drip torches in hand.

By Sarah Hoffman/KCTS 9

In the basement of a quiet residential street in Federal Way, Washington, hides the ultimate home science experiment — a nuclear fusion reactor.

Boeing

New high-speed passenger planes being designed by Boeing and other manufacturers could connect continents faster than ever before.

But these supersonic and “hypersonic” planes could also wreck the global climate faster than other means of travel. 


After nearly a week of fighting dozens of lightning-caused fires, agencies in several levels of government announced plans to better coordinate the firefighting.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest announced "a multi-agency coordination group that will provide a mechanism for prioritizing incidents, sharing resources and putting fires out more efficiently."

FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2016 file photo, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington during a House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee hearing on The Flint Water Crisis.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

The city of Flint, Michigan represents the height of American ingenuity, productivity and economic progress — and also the mirror opposite. 

For years, some farmers in central and eastern Oregon have been battling an unexpected new pest: a genetically modified strain of the soft, lush grass you’d commonly see on a golf course.

In 2003, a botched experiment by agribusiness giants Scotts Miracle-Gro and Monsanto unleashed a mutant strain of creeping bent grass across the state. It's a fight that raises questions about the regulation of GMOs and of who is on the hook when something goes awry.

During every berry picking season in the Pacific Northwest, blueberry and raspberry growers fight to prevent birds from gobbling up the crop before they can harvest it. This year, some farmers are trying something new and high tech to scare away the thieving birds.

Citizen scientists count butterflies on Sauk Mountain, in the North Cascades.
Eilís O'Neill/KUOW-EarthFix Photo

Jean Bradbury lives in northeast Seattle. She’s an artist, and she loves swallowtail butterflies.

“These guys are big—like we think of a monarch, maybe—big like the palm of your hand,” Bradbury says. “They’re pale bright yellow. Very, very beautiful.”

She says she hasn't seen many swallowtail butterflies in Seattle before, but this summer she sees them every day.


Sail Like a Girl heads off into the sunset.
Photo by Katrina Zoë Norbom.

It's an 1,110 mile drive from Port Townsend up to Ketchikan, Alaska.

There is a way to shave 350 miles off the trip, but there's a catch: You have to sail.


UPDATE (July 20, 7:15 a.m. PT) — The Substation Fire burning east of The Dalles, Oregon, is now the nation's top priority fire. That means it's first in line for national fire resources as needed and available.

"This adds more people and tools to the 217 firefighters who are currently out here, and that's representing 73 fire agencies across our state," said Stefan Myers with the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office.

Plans for a wooden high-rise in downtown Portland are no more.

Developers behind a 12-story building project known as Framework say the project has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. They cited inflation, escalating construction costs and market changes.

KUOW/Brie Ripley

It's known as the miracle compound: Omega-3s are an amazing fat that can helps lower blood pressure, help with heart disease, and can strengthen brain function.

We consume omega-3s in fish and increasingly in supplements made from marine creatures. But there may be more to the story of those magic fish oil pills. Are they as environmentally sustainable or as healthy as we thought?

The dense network of cables that make up the Internet is likely to be inundated with saltwater as sea levels rise, a new analysis suggests, putting thousands of miles of critical infrastructure along U.S. coastlines underwater in the next 15 years.

Can't cool off this summer? Heat waves can slow us down in ways we may not realize.

New research suggests heat stress can muddle our thinking, making simple math a little harder to do.

"Deliberate use of fire, as well as control of wildfires, must be an integral part of the planning process.” — Thomas C. Nelson, Deputy Forest Service Chief, in 1979.

The U.S. government spent a record $2.9 billion fighting wildfires last year. This year is shaping up to be another costly fire season. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Federal lawmakers are making a move to change the Endangered Species Act.  On Thursday, members of the U.S. House announced legislation they say will “modernize” one of the country’s seminal environmental laws, originally passed in 1973.

Members of the House Western Caucus say the nine pieces of legislation are designed to streamline the administration of the Endangered Species Act, provide more local control and protect property rights.

From Bend, Oregon, to Ellensburg, Washington, there is a fire weather watch Friday for hot temperatures, low humidity and breezy weather.

Single use plastic straws are optional to many, but can be critical for people with certain disabilities.
Flickr Photo/Horia Varlan (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/7vEzW1

Seattle's straw ban has coincided with hometown coffee chain Starbucks' decision to phase out all single-use plastic straws by 2020. The new sippy cup-esque lid is recyclable - but what it's not is accessible to folks with disabilities who rely on single use plastic straws.


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