KNKX Public Radio

Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KNKX's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.

Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KNKX's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.


Tacoma, WA


Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KNKX's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.






12180 Park Ave S. Tacoma, WA 98447 253-535-7758


Settlement agreement says state must protect endangered species from polluted runoff

Endangered species in Washington will get a much-needed boost following the settlement of a major lawsuit about runoff and water quality.


The standoff at this Pierce County bridge 50 years ago codified tribal treaty fishing rights

Author's note: Every once in a while, a milestone anniversary comes around that allows us to learn about or review important historical events. This year, because of the pandemic, the Puyallup tribe did not do much to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a crucial standoff beneath the new structure now known as the Fishing Wars Memorial Bridge. That event, and the media coverage it garnered, ultimately led local authorities to live up to the promise of tribal fishing rights, agreed to in the...


Seattle photographer's 'Snowy Owl' book transports readers to the Arctic tundra

For about a month now, a snowy owl has been spending its daytime hours on several rooftops in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. Prior to that, there were sightings of the iconic bird in West Seattle and Burien .


In wake of wasting disease, scientists on San Juan Island rear sunflower sea stars in captivity

Seven years ago, a wasting disease began killing sea stars all along the West Coast. The largest and hardest-hit species, the sunflower sea star ( Pycnopodia helianthoides), is now critically endangered, reduced in numbers by some 90 percent. Scientists with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) put it on their “red list” last week. But researchers at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island say there’s reason for hope.


Task force says reparations may be needed as state works toward environmental justice

As they prepare for the next legislative session, state lawmakers are reviewing a report that calls for laws to ensure environmental justice. It comes from a new entity, created in 2019 and charged with developing strategies to address findings in the Washington Environmental Health Disparities Map.


Whale watch operators insist their presence helps protect southern resident orcas

Operators of commercial whale-watching vessels are pushing back against proposed new regulations from the state. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is implementing a mandatory licensing system for the vessels , after the Washington Legislature passed a directive last year that also instructed the department to develop rules for viewing endangered southern resident killer whales.


Economy, traditions suffer as toxic algae shuts down clamming on Washington coast

Wind and rain hammer the coast in the early morning hours at Copalis Beach in Ocean City. But Dawn Radonski is already out in her waders, waiting for the perfect moment to pull a five-gallon bucket of saltwater from the waves. She’s a harmful algal bloom specialist with the Quinault Indian Nation, and she’s sampling for a certain kind of especially toxic algae. “The pseudo-nitzschia,” Radonski says. “I look underneath the microscope, and I count all the pseudo-nitzschia that are in there....


Washington Food and Farm Finder makes it easier to shop with local producers

Demand for fresh food from local farms has surged in recent months, even as the pandemic has sometimes made it harder to get. Many people are looking for healthy ways to avoid grocery store shopping and support local small businesses.


Environmental groups appeal lower court’s decision on Cooke Aquaculture’s net pen plan

A controversial plan to raise domesticated steelhead in net pens in Puget Sound faces a new legal challenge. Cooke Aquaculture wants to use its remaining leases with the state, despite the ban on net pen farming of non-native fish. So, it proposed switching from Atlantic salmon to sterilized native steelhead.


Quiet Sound underwater noise reduction program could soon slow ships, protect orcas

Underwater noise from ship traffic is one of the major threats to Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident orcas. It can interfere with the whales’ ability to communicate, navigate by echolocation and find the increasingly scarce salmon they prefer. A recommendation from the orca recovery task force convened by Gov. Jay Inslee in 2018-19 is to reduce noise and disturbance from large vessels. Work is underway to develop a program called "Quiet Sound," which will alert ships to the presence...


Advocates say election outcome means more ‘climate champions’ headed to Olympia

Climate action advocates say they’re hopeful they’ll see more success in Olympia, when lawmakers return to session. A recent webinar with several environmental groups provided an overview of the election outcome, and its implications for climate policies.


Neurotoxin that shut down razor clamming threatens Dungeness crab season

UPDATE, Nov. 25: The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has closed recreational fishing for Dungeness crab on the central Washington coast, effective immediately. That’s after new test results showed levels of the neurotoxin domoic acid have reached unsafe levels. The closure stretches from the Queets River to Point Chehalis and includes Grays Harbor and the popular Westport Boat Basin. The commercial crab season is not yet open. Tests next week will determine when it can open and if...


Toxins from harmful algal bloom shut down razor clamming on Washington beaches

A potentially record-setting season f or razor clam digging in Washington has come to a screeching halt. Warm water off the coast has helped toxic algae thrive, rendering the clams unsafe to eat. Some species of algae that razor clams feed on produce domoic acid . It’s a neurotoxin that at high levels can cause brain damage in humans and other vertebrates. Tests in mid-October showed the levels of this toxin had reached unsafe levels. The clams are unaffected, but they concentrate it in...


Big money in politics — now greener than ever

Environmental groups have become some of the biggest spenders in U.S. politics this election. Washington state is no exception. The Washington Conservation Voters political action committee (WCV PAC) has poured some $425,000 into about 10 state legislative races. In each case, fossil fuel interests have funded campaigns on the other side.


Contrasting views on climate action in the race for Washington's 10th Congressional District

Two Democrats are vying to fill the open seat in Washington’s 10 th Congressional District. State representative Beth Doglio is running against former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. The race has been called a microcosm of the recent split in the Democratic Party between establishment liberals and left-leaning progressives. One issue that clearly displays their differences is how they would address climate change.


Washington state developing safety rules to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke

The state department of Labor and Industries has begun a rule-making process to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke. It will make Washington the second state after California to do so.


Group pushes for clean-energy stimulus, as fast-growing industry is hit hard by pandemic

The clean energy sector was one of the fastest growing parts of the economy before the pandemic, and it’s been one of the hardest hit. But researchers say jobs in energy efficiency or solar or wind power are still some of the best paid .


USGS pressing for expansion of lahar detection sites around Mount Rainier

Officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior and United States Geological Survey have been touring sites in Mount Rainier National Park this week. They’re looking at five new locations where upgraded monitoring stations will soon enhance detection of lahars. There’s also a proposal to add another 12 lahar monitoring stations in the park, to complete an expansion they say will put detection at Rainier on par with other high-threat volcanoes in the region, such as Mount St. Helens.


Salish Sea Shared Waters forum wraps up third and final year of work to reduce risks of oil spills

Washington has been stepping up systems to prevent and reduce the risk of oil spills, due in part to the looming expansion of Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline. It could result in as much as a sevenfold increase in the number of oil tankers traveling from Vancouver, B.C., through Puget Sound. In 2018, the state Legislature passed the Strengthening Oil Transportation Safety Act. Among its requirements, along with a barrel tax on crude oil and updates to contingency plans for oil spills, was...


'Incredibly insensitive': How a proposal to honor the childless tanked on Bainbridge Island

This story originally aired on February 14, 2020. It started over a few glasses of wine, with friends passing around a smartphone and sharing views of a sketch by late-night comedian Bill Maher. The idea presented there, for a holiday on par with those honoring moms and dads, often provokes laughter. “I Didn’t Reproduce Day” would celebrate single people, aunts and uncles who help out — and not just by being allies to parents or mentors to young people. Maher makes the case that people who...