Environment & Planning

In the U.S., we waste about 40 percent of all of the food we produce. A lot of that food winds up rotting in landfills and releasing air pollution. But many cities are trying to turn it into something more valuable and less harmful to the environment. EarthFix reporter Cassandra Profita kicks off our series of reports this week on food waste by exploring the virtues of curbside composting:

Fish Passage Upgrades Proposed For Fall Creek Dam

Nov 14, 2014
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to upgrade the fish collection facility at Fall Creek Dam. The enhancements would improve passage for Willamette River Chinook, steelhead, and other native fish. Scott Clemans is a Spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Portland. He says the proposed upgrades are designed to reduce the amount of contact with the fish.

Clemans: "Because physical handling means stress, and stress often results in fish dying before they are able to spawn."

Ryan Hasert / Earthfix

Washington has more glaciers than any other state in the lower 48.
Besides Alaska, it's the number one glacial stronghold in the U.S. Glaciers are a key part of our water supply in the Northwest. But they’re melting away.

Guess how many glaciers feed into the Skagit River? Just take a guess.

Answer: 376.

No joke.

Jon Riedel is hiking up to one of them, on the slope of Mount Baker in Washington’s North Cascades.

Rachael McDonald

Thursday the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a new version of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s bill to boost logging on public forests called O & C lands -- named for the Oregon and California Railroad that once owned them.

Jes Burns of EarthFix explains some of the changes.

Tom Banse

An east wind is pushing arctic air from the central U.S. to the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures have plummeted in the last couple of days. 

The cold front is forecast to bring snow to the mountains and central Oregon and even into the Willamette Valley overnight and into Thursday. Laurel McCoy is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland. She says the snow isn't likely to stick around in the South Willamette Valley. But it's good news for Oregon's ski areas.


An oceanography institute announced Monday that trace amounts of radioactivity from Fukushima have been detected off the West Coast. This stems from the 2011 nuclear plant accident in Japan. Radiation experts say the very low levels of radioactivity measured do not pose a health threat here.

A Second Silent Spring

Oct 27, 2014

Recorded on: October 24th, 2014

Air Date: October 27th, 2014

We have been hearing about the hazards of chemical contaminants in the environment since Rachel Carson presented her argument against DDT in her book Silent Spring. Although chemical companies opposed her views, the environmental movement she inspired has led to policy changes. More than half a century later, Professor Tyrone B. Hayes — a biologist and professor of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley — faces similar opposition.

Oregon Coast Aquarium

A team of divers has discovered thousands of young sea stars off the Oregon coast near Florence. Some say it could be a sign of recovery from a disease that's been wiping out sea stars all along the Pacific coast.

Tiffany Eckert

Landowners, small farmers and urban park enthusiasts exercised their First Amendment rights today (Wednesday) with a march on Springfield City Hall. They want the city to immediately abandon plans to place an industrial zone near the entrance to one of the largest urban parks in the world…Buford Park. KLCC's Tiffany Eckert was on the march route and has this story.



The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has some new tools to help anglers avoid fishing in designated marine reserve areas off the coast. There's a new app for both apple and android smart phones called "Fish Alerts" that displays borders for all protected areas and includes rule summaries. Stacy Galleher is ODFW's Community Outreach Coordinator.

Galleher: "It's hard to pop out a paper map and know exactly where you are, and it's just more intuitive as we keep going with technology that people are looking to their electronic devices to know where they are."

Lindsay Eyink

Last spring, voters in two southern Oregon counties passed measures to ban the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. Now, Oregon voters statewide are being asked to approve a measure to require genetically engineered foods to be labeled. As with the similar, unsuccessful ballot measures in Washington and California, lots of out-of-state money is flooding into the campaigns on both sides.

Is Alaska Safe For Sea Stars?

Oct 15, 2014
Taylor White / Earthfix

A deadly disease has been wiping out West Coast starfish for more than a year. One place that has held off the disease the longest is Alaska. Researchers recently traveled there to search for new clues.

City Club of Eugene - Oregon’s Geology: Scientists Warn of Hazards, But Do Lawmakers & Agencies Respond?

Meeting date: October 10, 2014

KLCC air date: October 13, 2014

Natural disasters are often followed by a period of public reflection: Did anyone know something like this could happen? Had we taken precautions to prevent and minimize the damage from the earthquake, hurricane, flood or other event that just turned life upside down?


This Columbus Day weekend, those heading to the Oregon Coast should be extra cautious. There is a potential for deadly sneaker waves in the next few days.

Sneaker waves are sudden, unexpected waves that reach farther up the beach than normal. Mark Spilde is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He says conditions exist for sporadic waves up to 18 feet high:


More funds will soon be available to Oregon farmers and landowners who choose to use non-lethal deterrent techniques for wolves.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture just received a $53,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be used for non-lethal preventative measures. Those may include barriers, alarms, or animals to guard the livestock. ODA Program Director Jason Barber says the most efficient method to prevent wolf attacks are range riders.

Alexi Horowitz / Earthfix

As hunting season begins across the Pacific Northwest, Oregon conservationists and state agencies are taking a new look at the issue of lead ammunition and its effects on wildlife.

Inside the operating room at the Portland Audubon Society Wildlife Care Center head veterinarian Deb Shaeffer is carefully inserting a syringe into the shoulder of an injured red-tail hawk.

Shaeffer: “It’s a very simple blood draw, it takes one drop of blood, and we run it through a machine, and it takes about three minutes and we get a result back.”

Wikimedia Commons

A controversial nickel mining project in a roadless area of Southwestern Oregon has failed to clear an early hurdle. The state has denied a UK-based company permission to use water from a small creek.

It’s difficult to use water when there’s no water flowing. Or so discovered Red Flat Nickel Corporation when the State of Oregon denied its application to use water for five years.


A remarkable rebound for salmon in Oregon has led to a bountiful fishing season. It's also meant fishing quotas are being met early, resulting in the closure of one river.

Wild coho season on the Umpqua River will end October first, when biologists predict the quota of 2,000 fish will be met. Jessica Sall is with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Sall: "We do want to remind anglers that the river is still open for hatchery coho, or those fish that have their adipose fin clipped."

Rachael McDonald

People walking Oregon's beaches this fall may come across juvenile shorebirds that seem to be distressed or ill. Wildlife experts say it's best to leave them be.

The Common Murre is a small shorebird with black and white feathers, kind of like a mini- penguin. This time of year, the young ones have just fledged and are learning to feed themselves.
Laura Todd is with US Fish and Wildlife's Newport field office. She says some of them don't survive. If you come across a bird that's not moving and seems weak and unwell…


People holding outdoor gatherings might be facing intrusions from wasps and yellow jackets. As summer winds down, the insects are likely searching for protein-rich food before overwintering.

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, many people assume applying pesticides to their flower beds will get rid of the nuisances. But many products end up harming honeybees instead. ODA spokeswoman Rose Kachadoorian says spraying insecticides around the yard won't do much good.


Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Eugene Sunday to rally for more action on climate change. This is in solidarity with a Global Climate march focused on the United Nations Climate Summit taking place this week in New York.

The biggest climate march in history is happening on Sunday, and Oregon is joining in. Events around the world will bring together hundreds of organizations in a call for action to protect the air, food and water.

Demonstrations are centered in New York City, where a U.N. Climate Summit takes place Tuesday. The gathering in New York is expected to attract over 200-thousand people. Local rallies are planned for several Oregon communities, including Eugene.

Hottest Summer on Record for Eugene

Sep 17, 2014
Schin Haakenson / Inciweb

Eugene experienced its hottest summer on record this year. The area saw 34 days of 90 degree temperatures or higher. The old record was set in 1958. On average, only about 12 days of 90 degree temperatures are expected, according to Clinton Rocky with the National Weather Service in Portland.

“We just lost our good classic onshore flow that brought us those morning clouds. This year not the case. So instead, we got the warm days plus we got all those obnoxious warm nights where the temperature sometimes had a hard time getting back down under 60 degrees.”

Coos County

The Oregon Health Authority has issued an advisory due to high levels of blue-green algae in Tenmile Lakes south of Reedsport. The toxins in the water can be harmful to humans and animals.

David Farrer is a toxicologist with the Oregon Health Authority.
He says people, especially children and pets, should avoid any contact with the water of Tenmile Lakes. Farrer says the blue-green algae produces the same toxin that led authorities in Toledo, Ohio to place a municipal ban on drinking water last month.

Danny Didricksen

Flash floods this August swept mud, debris, and ash through north-central Washington. All that gunk has created an unusual problem for farmers and migratory fish.

Farmers usually install screens on the end of irrigation pipes to prevent clogs. Those screens also keep fish from being sucked out of the water and into farmers’ fields. But fish screens do little good when they get inundated with debris and mud.

Danny Didricksen is with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He says crews have been working non-stop to help unclog fish screens.

The Oregonian

A 2 thousand acre wildfire near Estacada is creating unhealthy air quality in many parts of Oregon. The Department of Environmental Quality says the impacted areas range from Portland to the Southern Willamette Valley and will likely continue until Wednesday morning. DEQ spokesman Greg Svelund  says if people need to know the air quality in their area, sometimes it's best to look outside.


Passive solar. LED lighting. Urban gardens. This weekend, BRING Recycling's Home and Garden Tour in Eugene highlights sustainable design and low-impact construction.

Julie Daniel is the Executive Director of BRING. She says the tour started as a showcase for re-used materials. Over six years, it's expanded:

Daniel: "There's more than one new building on the tour this year. Some are still under construction. There's a net zero home, which is a home that uses no energy, it actually returns more energy than it uses to the grid, including charging their electric car."


Hot, dry, windy weather is forecast for the next few days in Oregon. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag warning for most of the state.

Matthew Cullin is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland. He says the most of the state will be at risk for fires to spark and grow rapidly through Saturday.

Cullin: "Most notably it's hot and it's very dry. The relative humilities are going to be very low which promotes fire growth, if you were to have a spark, it would rapidly be able to start a fire. So, along with that, we have quite gusty winds."

Stephen Baboi / Earthfix

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The landmark environmental law requires that wilderness areas remain roadless and untrammeled by people. As part of our series on the law, EarthFix reporter Cassandra Profita visited a proposed wilderness area in the southeast corner of Oregon. She explains why it's harder to create wilderness now than it was half a century ago.

Hansen: "Echo!"

Chris Hansen calls out into a desert canyon in Southeast Oregon's Leslie Gulch.

Hansen: "Hello!"

Devan Schwartz / Earthfix

Scientists say whitebark pines are one of the Northwest’s most iconic and ecologically important trees — the majority of which are found in rugged wilderness.

Wilderness areas are preserves where human disturbances are outlawed. And yet, whitebark pines face the possibility of extinction. And many of the tree’s threats are connected to human-caused climate change.