Courtney Flatt

Reporter for Earthfix
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.”

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.

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

You may find bats scary. But one group of nature lovers doesn’t. They recently spent a night out tracking bats in central Washington. They wanted to check-in on how bat populations are doing in the state.

Moses Coulee is a bat-lovers paradise. You can find 14 of 15 these mammals in Washington at this one speck of land – about 45 minutes north of Ephrata. It’s is also home to one of the most rare bats in the state: the spotted bat.

And there’s one thing especially cool about this bat: people can hear its echolocation.

Courtney Flatt

When you think of grapes in the Northwest, wine is probably the first thing that comes to mind. But Concord juice grapes actually are Washington’s most widely planted grape. It turns out, juice grapes are more susceptible to warming weather than their wine grape cousins.

The sun beats down as researcher Markus Keller leans in to inspect his experimental concord grape vineyard.

Keller: “As you can see here, there’s a lot of flowers forming on the different shoots.”

The grape leaves hang down like a curtain over the rows of vines. This year’s crop looks to be strong.