Environment

Environment & Planning

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.

Angela Kellner

Saying she plans to do "more being and less doing" in her retirement, Julie Daniel has passed the crown of reduce, reuse, recycle to her successor after nearly 10 years as the Executive Director of BRING. After a national search the Board of Directors picked staff member Carolyn Stein to replace Daniel. Stein has been with BRING since 2008, serving first as Education Coordinator, then moving to her most recent position as Manager of the RE:think Business program, which she developed and launched in 2010.

Tony Schick / Earthfix

The U.S. is increasing its efforts to combat global wildlife trafficking. But resources have diminished for catching poachers stateside.

For our series on wildlife crimes, EarthFix reporter Tony Schick takes us to Central Oregon, where Fish and Wildlife troopers are struggling to protect a mule deer population that’s in decline
 

BEAN: “ Hello .... State Police ...“

Oregon Fish and Wildlife Trooper Darin Bean is searching a home in the backwoods of La Pine, Oregon.

BEAN: “Boy, there’s a lot of little rooms in this place …”

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

Every year deer and elk lose their antlers. It’s kind of like when a child loses a baby tooth. For some, they’re are fun to collect. But other unscrupulous people are harassing animals to death in an effort grab the biggest antlers. Today in our series on wildlife crimes, Courtney Flatt from our EarthFix team takes a look at what that means for the animals and the people who try to protect them.

The trick to looking for antlers is to keep your eyes on the ground.

Tanner: “You’re trying to just find something that looks out of the ordinary.”

Pollen Season In Full Swing In Willamette Valley

May 29, 2015
Oregon Allergy Associates

Allergy season is in full swing in the Willamette Valley. According to the Oregon Allergy Associates Research Department, Friday the grass pollen count is at high levels, and the tree pollen is at a moderate level. Because of large grass seed farming and general geography Eugene is consistently ranked as one of the toughest cities for allergy prone patients. Judy Moran is a nurse at Oregon Allergy Associates. She says just because the season is staring a little earlier this year, doesn't mean clear breathing will come sooner.

Central Oregon Fire Info

Local, state and federal officials are bracing for an expensive, potentially catastrophic fire season.Over the past two years, the Oregon Department of Forestry spent more than 200 million dollars fighting wildfires. 2013 was a record season for acres burned and money spent firefighting on state land. ODF spokesman Rod Nichols says drought conditions in Oregon may mean another rough season, but a lot depends on the weather.

Bend Issues Water Curtailment Alert

May 26, 2015
http://visitcentraloregon.com

The city of Bend has implemented a stage 1 water curtailment alert after Governor Kate Brown declared Deschutes County to be in a state of drought.

Bend’s curtailment is a voluntary alert and reminds citizens to use their water wisely. The city has two water sources which come from Bridge Creek and the Deschutes Regional Aquifer. Bend water conservation program manager Mike Buettner says citizens should focus on efficiency.

KMTR

Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced drought emergencies in 8 additional counties Friday, including Lane.  Many reservoirs in Lane County are only half full.

John R. McMillan / NOAA Fisheries

Salmon and other threatened fish need cold water to thrive. Research shows current logging rules in Oregon can result in streams warming up more than is allowed under standards meant to protect the fish. That could force the state Board of Forestry to require more trees be left standing alongside fish-bearing streams. And that would be an economic hit to private forest landowners.

Liam Moriarty / JPR

The federal government has been telling Oregon for over a decade that its rules to protect threatened coastal salmon are not up to snuff. Now, the state is faced with a loss of federal dollars unless it gets with the program. In response, the Oregon Board of Forestry is weighing whether to require timberland owners to leave more trees standing along streams to better protect fish habitat. And that’s got owners of small timber lands especially worried.

Kai-Huei Yau

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington is one of the most contaminated places on earth. It’s also one of the most sacred landscapes for Northwest tribes.

One woman is working to heal it.

 

Downstream from the Yakima Greenway, Hanford is changing. Cleanup is happening. But Natalie Swan is also changing, because of the southeast Washington nuclear site.

“I’m a quiet person,” she said. “But I’m getting a little bit louder.”

Fighting for Treaty rights

Brian Davies / Register Guard (pool)

Monday, a State judge ruled against a climate change lawsuit brought by two Eugene teens. The suit sought to force Oregon lawmakers to do more to reduce carbon emissions and help prevent climate change.

Theresa Tilson / Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

A record number of sea lions have been feeding in the Columbia River this spring. A lack of food in the ocean and a big run of smelt drew them in. And now they’re eating salmon. That has a lot of people debating the best way to manage these hulking pinnipeds. While some are shooting at them, and arguing for their lethal removal, others are rushing to their defense.
 

In Astoria's East Mooring Basin, big blubbery sea lions have taken over the docks that are supposed to harbor boats. Bill Hunsinger oversees those docks as a commissioner with the Port of Astoria.

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