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Natural Resource News, Information and Resources from Around the World

Oil Spill Response Plan Approved

Emergency oil spill response preparations for a major oil train spill took a big step forward this week. The Washington Department of Ecology has approved the state’s first oil spill response plan for the largest freight railroad company in the state, BNSF Railway Company. BNSF owns 1,332 miles of track in the state and delivers oil to refineries at Cherry Point and Ferndale, truck racks in Seattle and Spokane, and terminals in Anacortes and Pasco. With the approved oil spill response plan, BNSF meets Ecology’s more protective requirements. Oil Spill Response Should Be Rapid, Aggressive and Well Coordinated “This...

Forest Restoration: Getting the Prescription Right

Forest health, like human health, involves a complex set of variables. Just like medical doctors, there are many types of forest health specialists. Working together, silviculturists, fire specialists, hydrologists, biologists and timber specialists create comprehensive forest treatment and management plans. Forests face multiple health threats including disease, drought, fire and insect infestation. The way we manage our forests has short and long term impacts on a forest’s ability to respond to and resist these disturbances. This is similar to our own bodies: If we adopt healthy behaviors like getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating a balanced diet, we are...

State Bans Atlantic Salmon Farming After 2025

The net-pen salmon farming of Atlantic salmon would be phased out in Washington waters by 2025, when existing leases run out, under legislation passed with bipartisan backing Thursday in the state Senate. The legislation comes as reaction to a net collapse last August at a salmon farm off Cypress Island, where between 243,000 and 263,000 non-native Atlantic salmon were accidentally released.  The fish have turned up as far away as the Harrison River in British Columbia. Powerful Bipartisan Vote of Salmon Farming  After what sponsor Sen. Kevin Ranker, R-Orcas, described as a “powerful bipartisan vote” of 35-12, the legislation...

Investing in Clean Energy

Since 2003, in an effort to implement clean energy, Pearl Jam has mitigated their tour-related carbon dioxide output by self-imposing a voluntary ‘carbon tax,’ and allocating a portion of tour profits to organizations working on reforestation efforts and fighting climate change. But there’s still more work to be done. Multiple strategies are needed in order to effectively reduce carbon pollution. Through The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy’s policy proposal, Washington state can become a climate leader by transitioning to a clean energy economy. The policy suggests charging corporations who are major pollution offenders and reinvesting those dollars into clean energy transportation options, raising...

Washington Official: Cooke ‘Negligence’ Caused Salmon Escape

Washington state officials have fined a unit of Canada’s Cooke Aquaculture $332,000 for allegedly breaching water quality rules with the August 2017 salmon escape. In a Jan. 30 press conference, state officials charged with investigating the escape of several thousand salmon blasted the company for its actions prior to the incident, which they claimed, could have been prevented.  “What we can now confirm is that Cooke Aquaculture was negligent,” Maia Bellon, director of Washington state’s Department of Ecology, said during a press conference. “Cooke Aquaculture’s negligence led directly to the Atlantic salmon pen failure in August of 2017. What’s even...

EPA Ends Clean Air Policy

A decades-old air policy opposed by fossil fuel companies that is being done away with by the Trump administration was announced Thursday, a move that environmental groups say will result in more pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency said it was withdrawing the “once-in always-in” air policy under the Clean Air Act, which dictated how major sources of hazardous air pollutants are regulated. Under the EPA’s new interpretation, such “major sources” as coal-fired power plants can be reclassified as “area sources” when their emissions fall below mandated limits, subjecting them to differing standards. Though formal notice of the reversal has...

Poacher Gets Busted With 1,088 Sea Urchins

Sea urchins, those spiny creatures beach goers carefully avoid stepping on, are a hot commodity. Sometimes too hot. A sea urchin poacher was caught Jan. 7 when he pulled into Tacoma’s Breakwater Marina just east of Point Defiance Park. Officer Jake Greshock with the state Fish and Wildlife Department’s Central Sound Marine Detachment was watching the commercial diver from shore as he harvested green sea urchins north of the Tacoma Narrows bridges. When Greshock checked the diver’s 1,500 pounds of sea urchins at the marina he found several under the minimum 2 1/4-inch size limit. He called in three other officers and Sgt....

Dramatic Decline in Genetic Diversity of Northwest Salmon

Columbia River Chinook salmon have lost as much as two-thirds of their genetic diversity, Washington State University researchers have found. The researchers reached this conclusion after extracting DNA from scores of bone samples, some harvested as many as 7,000 years ago, and comparing them to the DNA of Chinook salmon currently swimming in the Snake and Columbia rivers. Preserving genetic diversity is a central goal of the Endangered Species Act, in part because it helps a species adapt to changing environments. Yet it is rarely measured to this degree. Writing in the journal PLOS One, the researchers say their analysis...

How Much Do Climate Risks Cost?

Climate risks are pushing the Trump administration, and its allies in Congress, to fight a losing war. They continue to press forward for the development of oil, gas, coal, when the rest of the world understands the implication of that folly. Global warming is the most pressing issue for our time. Period. The thing is governments really have two choices when it comes to managing the impact on its peoples from global warming: Spend money on trying to reduce the problem; or spend money on cleaning up the catastrophes. Administration on the Hook for Climate Risks  The Trump administration...

Dead Trees Are Alive With Fungi

Fungi that live on trees perform an important function in the forest ecosystem by breaking down dead wood. This is no easy feat, because wood is very resilient. It is held together by a biopolymer known as lignin, which together with cellulose and hemicellulose form the cell wall of woody plants and give the wood its stability. Fungi are able to break down the robust lignin and the flexible cellulose fibres by releasing enzymes that cause the polymers to degrade and become mineralised. As part of the ecosystem’s cycle, the leftover material becomes part of the humus layer, which...