Courtney Flatt

Reporter for Earthfix
Lena Jackson

Lead and arsenic used decades ago in pesticides are still lingering in the topsoil of Pacific Northwest apple country. That poses a health risk for children who come in close contact with dirt -- in the backyards and playgrounds developed from former orchards.

Lena Jackson

Lead and arsenic used decades ago in pesticides are still lingering in the topsoil of Pacific Northwest apple country. That poses a health risk for children who come in close contact with dirt -- in the backyards and playgrounds developed from former orchards. In this second and final part  of our series, EarthFix reporters Courtney Flatt and Tony Schick traveled to some of those places to find out what’s being done to keep kids safe from contaminated soil.

It was a hot summer afternoon in Yakima when we ran into Jennifer Garcia. 

Tony Schick / Earthfix

For decades, apple growers in Central Washington sprayed their trees with a misty brew of lead and arsenic to keep pests away. The practice stopped in the mid-20th century. Since then, many of those orchards have been redeveloped -- some as housing subdivisions, schools, and daycare centers. Even though the orchards are long gone, those toxic chemicals remain in the soil.

Courtney Flatt

This summer’s hot, dry weather has left Northwest apple growers hurting for water to irrigate their orchards. It’s a hint at what’s predicted as the climate continues to warm.

Courtney Flatt

 

Southeastern Oregon is filled with the kind of wide open rangeland where an iconic bird is struggling to survive: the greater sage grouse. Eleven states in the West are working out strategies for the survival of the sage grouse. In Oregon’s Harney County ranchers are eager for solutions that will avoid more government restrictions.

The plight of greater sage grouse is now at the top of mind for ranchers, conservationists, and politicians across the West.

So much so that one ranch in southeastern Oregon has put a wildlife biologist on its payroll.

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

It’s been nearly a year since the biggest wildfire in Washington history burned thousands of acres in the state’s north-central region. And one bear has become a symbol of the area’s recovery. Cinder the Bear suffered third degree burns in the Carlton Complex fire. Last week, she was released back into the wild.

Almost a month after the Carlton Complex ignited, a one-year-old black bear was found whimpering under the shade of a trailer in Methow, Washington. She came to be known as Cinder the Bear.

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.”

Chafer Machinery

Few people come into contact with farm chemicals the way agricultural workers do. That's why a new health report on a commonly used herbicide is raising special concerns about farmworkers and cancer.

For years, researchers have seen glyphosate as one of the least harmful herbicides. It doesn’t cause very many acute poisonings. But now the World Health Organization has said there’s “limited evidence” long-term exposure can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma in people.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Cente

2014 was the hottest year on record. That’s according to data released Friday by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the Northwest, temperatures also rose above normal.

After a warm summer and winter, last year was the second hottest on record for Oregon and the fifth hottest on record for Washington.

The hottest year for both states is still 1934, when the Dust Bowl plagued the West.

Karin Bumbaco is the assistant state climatologist in Washington.

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

This summer, the Carlton Complex wildfire swept through north-central Washington. The fire consumed more acres than any other fire in the state’s history. Now, ecologists are trying to make forests more sustainable to help prevent these large-scale fires.

Fire ecologist Susan Prichard was driving from Seattle to her home in Winthrop just as the Carlton Complex fire picked up.

Prichard: “I saw the plume of smoke, and I felt the wind. At that moment, I hadn’t even possibly considered that the fire could race all the way down to the Columbia River.”

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