Environment

Environment & Planning

Bobby/morguefile.com

There have been moves in Congress to limit protections under the Endangered Species Act recently, and that may not sit well with voters. A new poll shows a majority of Americans support the current version of the ESA.

Bacterial Infection Causing Salmon To Die

Jul 9, 2015
gettyimages.com

Several dying and dead salmon were found in the Deschutes and Columbia rivers. The Oregon department of Fish and Wildlife says a bacterial infection is the cause.

Fish biologist Rob French with ODFW says dead fish were collected from the lower three miles of the Deschutes. He says the bacterial infection columnaris is typically associated with warm water and low oxygen conditions.

French: “It’s not uncommon for the Columbia to get to these temperatures. What’s most uncommon is how early in the year they got to these temperatures. Same for the Deschutes River.”

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Oregon is reviewing how it protects wildlife and habitat. This means reviewing numerous planning documents and asking the public's input.

Brian Davies / Register Guard (pool)

Two Eugene teens have appealed a Lane County judge's ruling against their climate change lawsuit. The appeal was filed Tuesday.

Kelsey Juliana and Olivia Chernaik are part of a global youth-driven campaign to get governments to do more to curtail the effects of climate change.

Wildfires Continue To Burn In Oregon

Jul 7, 2015
http://inciweb.nwcg.gov

The hot and dry weather in Oregon continues to fuel wildfires. A new fire was reported over the 4th of July weekend.

The Niagara Fire is burning on 70 acres near Detroit. Roads are open and the cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

There are four other large fires burning in the state. Anything over 300 acres is considered large. Emily Veale is with the Umpqua National Forest. She says Bunker Hill is 388 acres and is 90 percent contained.

Walking In The Woods With Google Trekker

Jul 6, 2015
Jes Burns / Earthfix

Exploring the Pacific Northwest’s natural wonders is getting a little bit easier. Google reconfigured its car-mounted Street View cameras for the hiking trail.

The idea is that people will be able to virtually walk mapped trails from the comfort of home. One Oregon conservation group is hoping this will inspire more people to visit and protect public lands.
 

4.2 Magnitude Earthquake Near Springfield

Jul 4, 2015
Chris Pietsch, TWITTER

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake occurred Saturday morning near Springfield. That's according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was gaged at about 6 miles deep. One resident in Dexter who contacted KLCC reported seeing her sliding glass door move. Springfield resident, Stephanie Songchild described her experience.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

Any gardener can tell you it’s been a pretty great growing season so far in the Northwest.

Well, the same is true for the marine algae that produce neurotoxins that make shellfish and crabs dangerous to eat.

The warm sunny waters this spring have contributed to a massive toxic algae bloom that’s shut down some recreational and commercial fisheries on the West Coast.

And it’s costing coastal communities millions.

inciweb

Wildfire season in the Northwest has started early this year. Crews are battling the more than 5-thousand acre Buckskin fire right now. As of Wednesday, it's 60 percent contained.

Scientists refer to the Buckskin as a “reburn” because it’s on land that was scorched by wildfire in the recent past. These reburns are a positive indication that the forests are recovering from decades of fire suppression.

Devil's Staircase
Rachael McDonald

Oregon U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley introduced a bill last week to expand wilderness in the state. The legislation has failed to pass 3 times in Congress.

The bill would designate more than 200 thousand acres of land as wilderness or national recreation areas. The bill creates the Devils Staircase Wilderness in the Oregon Coast Range southwest of Eugene. It also expands the Wild Rogue Wilderness. Josh Laughlin with the conservation group Cascadia Wildlands says he's hopeful public support can help get the bill passed this time.

If You Are Camping, Leave Fireworks At Home

Jun 29, 2015
https://twitter.com/amberwilmarth

High temperatures and drought conditions in Oregon mean campers need to be extra vigilant this year to prevent forest fires. Willamette National Forest officials are worried about fireworks during the upcoming 4th of July holiday.

Ken Gregor - Incident Commander

Updated Sunday 2:00 pm:

Lemolo Lake Resort and the Forest Service Campgrounds at Poole Creek and East Lemolo remain open.  Bunker Hill, Inlet, and Crystal Springs  Campgrounds are closed to protect public safety.

The Bunker Hill Complex is located 15 miles north of Diamond Lake.  The fire complex consists of one larger fire called the Bunker Hill Fire and several small fires all burning within the Umpqua National Forest.

Rachael McDonald

The McKenzie River Trust for years has been working to return the area around the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers to a more natural free-flowing waterway.

At Green Island, north of Coburg, the trust is restoring a side channel of the Willamette River where gravel pits had disrupted habitat for salmon and other wildlife.

The project was a partnership with Wildish Company which did the work of reconfiguring the three ponds.

Oregon Water Resources Department

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has declared a drought emergency in Sherman County due to a lack of snow pack and low water conditions. This brings the number of Oregon counties under drought emergency to twenty. Last year, only ten counties had the designation.

Gov. Brown says the signs are already apparent in many of Oregon's rivers, streams, fields and yards.

City of Portland

Fireworks go on sale Tuesday in Eugene. The Eugene Police Department is reminding people to keep Fourth of July celebrations safe and legal.

Last year, the Eugene City Council approved two new changes to the city’s fireworks code. Legal ones like spinners, wheels and fountains can be purchased only from retailers between June 23 and July 6 and December 31 through January 1. Any illegal fireworks like bottle rockets, firecrackers and any other types that explode carry a maximum fine of 2,500 dollars.

OR Department of Forestry

Wildfire season started early in Oregon and most of the state is experiencing drought conditions. That’s prompted the Department of Forestry to issue tighter restrictions on outdoor activities.

Open fires and cigarette smoking are just a few of the restrictions prohibited in wooded areas. The tightened measures have been implemented to curb the risk of human caused fires. 

ODF’s Greg Wagenblast says the upcoming heat wave and low humidity will make the wildfire risk even greater.

OPB News

Repeated high-profile incidents of people being sickened by pesticides sprayed from aircraft in Oregon have increased calls for new regulations. But push-back from agricultural and timber industry groups has led to a bill that supporters of stronger rules say won’t solve the problem.

ODFW: Philip Milburn

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been studying kit foxes since 2012. Recently, they captured rare video of two adults and their five playful pups.

Kit foxes are a diminutive desert animal, just four to six pounds. They’re listed as a sensitive species in Oregon, with a small or declining population. Meghan Dugan with ODFW says Malheur and Harney Counties are as far north as the species has been found:

Rachael McDonald

An unusual number of Chinook salmon carcasses have been found in the Willamette River around Portland. State wildlife biologists are blaming warm water.

Salmon need cool water to thrive. Nick Swart, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says in the last week they've measured temperatures at 75 degrees around Willamette Falls.   

Swart: "That's really a precarious condition for migrating fish."

Jeff Ziller, with ODFW's Springfield office, says the warmer water is due to drought conditions.

Jes Burns / Earthfix

Drought is creating problems in river systems all around the Northwest. Nowhere is this more evident than on the Klamath River in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Scientists there say there’s not enough cool water flowing, and a fish kill of young Chinook [shin-’nook] salmon is likely.

Releasing more water from upstream reservoirs could help the fish stay healthy.
 

Dan Ayres / Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

The west coast is seeing the largest bloom of toxic algae in more than a decade. It's led to the closure of some commercial crab and shellfisheries in Oregon, Washington and California.
 

Wildlife managers spotted a sea lion in Longview, Washington that was arching its back, and then having seizures. They had to euthanize it.

The cause?

Pseudo-nitzchia. It’s a type of algae that releases a neurotoxin. If people eat shellfish or crabs contaminated with it, they can also suffer seizures, short term memory loss and even death.

OR Department of Forestry

It’s officially wildfire season in Oregon. As of Tuesday, every district in the state is subject to fire restrictions.

Most years, it’s around July 4th before the northwest part of the state declares fire restrictions. The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Rod Nichols says low snowpack and dry weather have accelerated the season. He says the rules apply mostly to industrial work:

Nichols: “Logging operations for example need to have a fire watch present after they finish logging for the day and they also have to have fire suppression equipment positioned on site.”

State of Oregon

Governor Kate Brown Friday confirmed drought emergencies in Coos, Douglas, Gilliam and Jefferson counties. That makes 19 Oregon counties, officially in a state of drought.

Drought emergencies have now been declared in more than half of Oregon's 36 counties. Lane and Deschutes were recently added to the list.

Governor Brown cites low snowpack and low water levels in her declaration.

Brown: "Oregon is only just beginning to face what is likely to be an unprecedented wildfire season and drought. We must now rise to the challenge that a changing climate brings."

Jes Burns / Earthfix

You’ve probably heard by now that reservoirs in the Northwest are low on water, but you may be surprised just how dry they are.

Many lakes levels are lower this spring than they’ve been in 30 years. This is especially true at some of the most popular recreation lakes.
 

The marina at Howard Prairie Lake is high and dry. The docks tilt awkwardly this way and that, stranded on the uneven lake bottom.

Steve Lambert: “Normally, on a year when the lake is full, we’d most likely have 15 to 16 feet of water above our heads. So, yeah, it’s a little pasture right now.”

Cascadia Wildlands

The latest report card is out for the Northwest Forest Plan. The landmark forest management plan covers more than 2 million acres of public lands in Washington, Oregon and California.

Jes Burns of our EarthFix team says the newly-released 20-year monitoring report examines how well those federal forests are meeting economic and habitat restoration goals.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently picked up a yearling bear cub after people saw it begging for food near their campsite in Sweet Home. It's common to see baby animals this time of year and ODFW is reminding people not to take them from the wild.

When the bear cub was found, she weighed 25lbs. She's now doing better but cannot be returned to the wild according to ODFW's Michelle Dennehy. The agency believes the bear was taken out of the wild as a cub and returned just before winter began.
 

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

Wildlife cops have uncovered a problem on the Columbia River. Poachers are catching and killing giant sturgeon. They're driven, in part, by global demand for black market caviar. And they're putting the whole sturgeon population at risk. As part of our EarthFix series on wildlife crime, Cassandra Profita went on patrol and brings us this report:

It’s a high-speed pursuit in an unlikely place: The Columbia River. Wildlife cops are chasing a boat with illegal sturgeon on board.

Officer: “Stop right now!”

New Maritime Guide Helps Boaters Prepare For Tsunami

Jun 4, 2015
www.oregongeology.org

The Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries published a tsunami guide for fisherman, mariners and boaters on Tuesday. The recent earthquakes off the coast of Oregon did not produce any tsunamis, but the guide lets boaters know how they should be prepared.

The guide is brand new says Ali Ryan with the department of Geology. She says depending on where boaters are in the event of a local or distant tsunami determines whether they should evacuate or go out to sea.

Jes Burns / Earthfix

Before you can prosecute a thief, you have to know what he stole. This holds true for crimes against people - and crimes against nature.

Southern Oregon is home to the world’s only criminal forensics lab dedicated to this kind of evidence. Its traditional focus has been on endangered animal cases.

But that’s changing, thanks to an international push to stem the trafficking of hardwood from illegally logged forests.
 

Katie Campbell / Earthfix

Pinto abalone were poached almost to extinction by the end of the 90s.

The tasty meat of this shellfish, combined with its mother of pearl shell, made pinto abalone a target for illegal harvest, and a delicacy in Asia.

Thousands upon thousands of them were taken from Puget Sound.

You can hear the pride in Josh Bouma’s voice as he peers down into a tank at the NOAA labs in Mukilteo. Bouma is a shellfish biologist with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund and manages a captive breeding operation for pinto abalone. He’s raised these abalone from tiny larvae.

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