Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission

Conservationists are challenging the approval of a Mount Spokane ski area expansion. The Lands Council and other groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court, not against the mountain, but against the state Parks and Recreation Commission.

Free Trees For Inland NW Residents

Mar 19, 2015
City of Spokane

The number of trees in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene will mushroom this spring with give-aways by both cities. As part of its Spokane Forest Initiative, the City of Spokane will hand out 2,000 free trees - one batch on April 17th and 18th at three area nurseries - and the next batch in October.

State Legislators Focus on Weeds and Bees

Mar 16, 2015
USGS: Elizabeth A. Sellers / USGS

Washington State lawmakers want to know if they can create a win-win deal in the battle against noxious weeds - that is to give honeybees - and the crops that depend on them - a helping hand while whacking aggressive weeds.

Washington bee keepers, faced with sudden and puzzling losses of entire colonies of the little pollinators, have asked state officials to to modify their unrestricted warfare against noxious weeds. That's because some varieties of voracious weeds are also pollen and nectar-rich, prime foraging plants for bees.

Spokane Regional Health District

A federal judge has sided with environmental groups and the Spokane Tribe in a case concerning pollution in the Spokane River. The case involves chemicals called PCB’s that have been linked to cancer and liver dysfunction for years. While the products were banned in manufacturing since the 1970’s, they still remain in the environment.

The Center for Environmental Law and Policy says the state and Federal EPA has failed to develop a policy for cleaning up PCB’s from the river. Monday, a federal court agreed with that assessment.

Gray Wolf stock photo
USFWS: Tracy Brooks / USFWS Flickr

Conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U-S Department of Agriculture Tuesday over killing wolves in Washington state. The state is home to 13 packs, which threaten livestock in some communities.

Wolf Lawsuit Prompted by Alpha Female Kill in 2014

Mar 3, 2015
Flickr user USFWS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq/sets/72157644568160740/

The lawsuit against the USDA’s Wildlife Services program stemmed from a wolf kill last year. The Western Environmental Law Center sued the federal program yesterday. Gray wolves are endangered statewide according to Washington’s listing, but only endangered in western Washington by federal standards. That leaves jurisdiction of the eastern third of the state up to state officials.

Last Rush for the Wild West - Facebook

A film that takes a critical look at tar sands and oil shale mining will screen at Gonzaga University Thursday. The film “Last Rush for the Wild West” take a look at a project that the director says is the most critical environmental problem facing the US today. It is a proposed strip mine that would cover a million acres near the headwaters of the Colorado River in Utah.

Director Jennifer Ekstrom, who was formerly the Pend O'reille water-keeper, says the mining process will pose a direct threat to millions of people downstream.

Senate Committee Strips Coal-Fired Plant Bill

Feb 20, 2015
Avista Utilities: http://www.avistautilities.com/inside/resources/Pages/default.aspx

A state senate committee took unique action Thursday on a bill supported by Avista and two other utility companies in Washington. The Senate’s Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee stripped the bill of all its language and voted to pass the bill’s title. It suggests the committee supported the idea but wanted an overhaul on the language.

Bruce Howard is Avista’s Director of Environmental Affairs.

Howard: “It would allow Washington utilities to acquire additional ownership interest in coal plants, to really facilitate early closure.”

Sierra Club Asks Avista to Move ‘Beyond Coal’

Feb 18, 2015
Jace Bylenga, Sierra Club

The Sierra Club delivered boxes of petitions on Wednesday to Avista Utilities in Spokane. The environmental group is asking Avista to replace coal power with sustainable energy.

Golf Course
Palouse Ridge: http://www.palouseridge.com/photo-gallery/course-views

Washington State University has been declared the victor in a long-running fight over using - or conserving - water in a rapidly shrinking aquifer underneath Pullman and Moscow. Six justices of the Washington State Supreme Court held that WSU is legally pumping millions of gallons of water from the Grand Ronde aquifer, with some of the water going to keep the university's new golf course green.

Three justices dissented, however, arguing that WSU relinquished some of its water rights several years ago, and that the old principle of "use it or lose it" must apply in the case.

Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

The state Department of Ecology is looking for public input on a rule that would reduce the carbon pollution in gasoline and diesel fuel. The department has announced a public comment period on a tentative plan to reduce carbon pollution in motor fuels. The plans stems from a legislative order to reduce greenhouse gases that was issued in 2008.

Washington State Republican lawmakers want to be ready for a possible end-around play by Governor Jay Inslee in case his greenhouse gas cap-and-trade bill fails to make it through the legislature. At least 10 Washington House Republicans and half a dozen members of the Senate have introduced bills which would virtually neutralize the Washington Department of Ecology.

The two measures would prohibit the Department of Ecology from enforcing any policy until the policy has been vetted and ratified by the Legislature.

Instream Flow Rule Draws River-Advocate’s Ire

Jan 28, 2015
Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

A new rule on the Spokane River will affect potential water users, from water-hungry businesses to recreational boaters. Tuesday, the department of ecology adopted an instream flow rule for the river’s main stem and a small portion in Stevens County.

You probably have made the educated guess that this was a dryer than normal winter in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene region. A weather official says that notion would be correct, though it's not the worst season on record.

Scott Pattee is with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which monitors snowpack and other environmental factors.

Tow boat captains, wheat exporters, and the directors of the farthest inland ports in the Northwest are breathing easier today.

A Once-Iconic Conifer May Make a Comeback

Dec 29, 2014

The US Forest Service plans to restore a rugged, scenic corner of far northeastern Idaho by re-introducing an imperiled tree which once carpeted that entire region. The roadless, steep area known as Lightning Creek near Clark Fork on the eastern shore of Lake Pend Oreille has been a candidate for restoration ever since ferocious floods devastated it in 2006.

Feds Allocate Money for Climate Study

Dec 22, 2014

Through a fledgling science center tailored to study the Inland Northwest, the US Department of the Interior has awarded several new grants to guide planning for climate change. The Northwest Climate Science Center, headquartered in Corvallis, Oregon, is getting seed money for 13 new climate studies.

The work will focus on figuring out how climate change affects natural resources, and ways to mitigate damage to ecosystems and species. For example, planners will try to understand how wildfires and land-use changes will affect northwest watersheds and water supply in the region.

Matt Shea

Conservative Republican lawmaker Matt Shea will take on a new role as the ranking minority member of the House Environment Committee in Washington state. The legislature convenes on January 12th for the 2015 session.

Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission

Mount Spokane’s ski planners got approval this week to develop new ski terrain on a contentious section of the mountain. The State Parks and Recreation Commission voted to allow ski expansion after hearing three hours of public testimony Wednesday night.

Last Public Meeting on Mt. Spokane Proposal, For Now

Nov 17, 2014
Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park

Mount Spokane owners and conservation group The Lands Council are reaching the end of a long and difficult run. This week the state parks commission will make a decision on whether skiing is allowed on an 800 acre spot on the mountain.

Paige Browning / Spokane Public Radio

As city planners work on the major goal of preventing untreated water from flowing into the river, an environmental group is overseeing one small part of the solution. The city contracted with the Lands Council to create a storm garden in the Shadle area.

Removing and disposing of contaminated soil is one of the biggest jobs at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The Environmental Protection Agency is testing out a new technique for keeping heavily-used river banks from eroding into the water.

County's Wastewater Treatment Permit Challenged

Oct 29, 2014

A vaguely worded state permit for Spokane County's new $173-million dollar wastewater treatment plant has been sent back for a do-over. A judge in Thurston County found that a permit issued in 2011 by the Ecology Department lacks any limits on discharges of polychlorinated biphenyls - PCBs for short - into the Spokane River.

The state Pollution Control Hearing Board held last year that the county facility was adding PCBs to river water, and that the state permit for the discharges was vague and unenforceable on PCB limits.

‘Reforest Spokane’ Work is Growing on Hangman Creek

Oct 21, 2014

More than 200 people will welcome the damp weather this weekend by planting trees in Spokane. The Lands Council hosts their 4th annual Reforest Spokane day Saturday at five locations along Hangman Creek.

When dozens of cars pull up Saturday morning, Lands Council staff will have about 1,000 trees ready to go into the ground. The holes will already be there, dug out by jail inmates this Friday. Conservation Programs Director Kat Hall says they focus on Hangman Creek because it’s a very degraded watershed.

A seven-month federal investigation into the firing of a top safety manager at Hanford came up inconclusive Monday.

Sewage Sludge Becomes Rich Compost

Oct 7, 2014

The City of Coeur d'Alene is greening up its newly renovated McEuen Park using tons of a home-brewed compost. The stuff is made from sludge at the city's wastewater treatment plant. They call it Coeur d'Green. The city carefully describes it as made from "de-watered biosolids."

Re-cycled Rail Car Bridges Surf-Turf Conflict

Sep 22, 2014

A super-sized re-cycling project on a ranch near Clarkston Washington may prove to be a winner for fish and cattle. The problem for Ranchers Dick and Levi Luhn was how to keep their cattle from stomping through steelhead spawning grounds - and destroying the fish nests - in a small creek that runs between spring and winter grazing grounds. No only how to do it - but just as importantly, how to pay for it.

Idaho senior Senator Mike Crapo was in Rathdrum, Idaho Monday in a campaign to fend off proposed EPA regulations that he fears will spell doom for manufacturers of wood-burning stoves. Crapo met with the owner of Kuma Stoves of Rathdrum, a family-owned business which has been building wood stoves since 1981.

Doc Hastings Not Retiring in Criticism of EPA

Aug 18, 2014

Washington Congressman Doc Hastings is retiring at the end of his current term, but not quietly. He's issued another broadside blast against what he considers abuse of power by federal agencies such as the EPA.