Renowned Port Angeles conservationist John Willits dies at 78 – PDN

Another loss of a local leader of protection of our lands. Along with the loss of Dick Goin in the last month, now John. He will be missed.

John Willits, a dedicated conservationist whose passion helped preserve hundreds of acres of farmland and wildlife habitat, is dead. He was 78. He died last Friday at his Port Angeles home after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Rob Ollikainen reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

KING 5 finds gaps in septic tank inspections – KING

This has been a problem for a long time, but because of a child’s death, it’s finally coming to light. The problem is funding the inspection of septic tanks. Most communities like Jefferson County simply don’t have the money to staff inspections. The state should step in and help fund this, as should the septic owners.

After a two-year-old boy died and a 10-year-old girl was hurt in accidents involving septic tanks, KING 5 examined state and county data and discovered a trail of incomplete records and out of date inspections. The Washington State Department of Health admits it doesn’t know exactly how many on-site sewage systems exist in the state. DOH estimates 934,000 exist in the state and 613,000 of those are in the Puget Sound region. Of those, only a fraction are closely monitored. The majority of those are in marine recovery areas where a failure could be catastrophic to the area’s waterways. Danielle Leigh reports. (KING)

Using Fish Ear Bones To Track Salmon – KUOW

New research for fish tracking.

If you were to catch a salmon in Puget Sound, chances are you won’t be able to say exactly where that fish came from. That’s because salmon spawn in rivers and streams and then swim hundreds or even thousands of miles to the ocean to mature. Some new research could help fisheries managers better protect salmon by studying their ear bones – that’s right, ear bones. They’re called otoliths and they help fish with balance and hearing. They come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the type of fish, but they share a common, very cool, growth pattern. Each year, the otolith adds a ring, just like a tree trunk. Those rings are incredibly valuable to scientists like Sean Brennan because they reveal where the fish spent time over the course of that year. Ashley Ahearn reports. (KUOW)

Citizens Ask Island County commissioners to halt “irreparable injury” from jets  – Islands Weekly

The mounting evidence of harm from the Navy base is going to be what eventually turns the tide on this issue. The day has long past that it is appropriate to have this base, this close to such a huge population base. As I have pointed out here in the past, these jets have woke me up at after midnight, and I am farther away from the base than Edmunds is from Seatac. Or to think of it another way, would we ever consider it appropriate to allow this base here if it already wasn’t?

Island County Commissioners faced a room full of concerned and sometimes tearful Whidbey Island residents requesting specific actions be taken in response to documented proofs of on-going health harms. Proof of noise inflicted injuries were presented to the commissioners at their May 12 meeting in the form of declarations from medical experts, a local practicing physician, an acoustical expert, and victims suffering health problems attributed to the hazardous noise from low-flying Navy ‘Growler’ jets.  (Islands Weekly)

Coordinated Assault on Endangered Species Act – Audubon

We’ve known that the Republican controlled Congress has been working to catch up with the Canadian government’s destruction of environmental regulations. Now Audubon puts it in context.

America’s strongest and most important law for protecting wildlife, the Endangered Species Act, is under a coordinated assault. Since January, over 30 bills and amendments have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that would dismantle the Act, including eight extreme bills in the Senate that received a hearing last week.

A Record-Breaking No-Snow Year for the Olympics – Olympic Park Associates

If you think we can be a bit smug about California’s ongoing drought, think again. We are experiencing, this year, an unprecedented lack of snow in the exact places that need to have it. We are entering uncharted territory. By local author, Tim McNulty.

The data from Olympic National Park’s May 1, 2015, snow survey are in and the results are alarming. All snow survey and automated Snotel sites in the park were empty of snow, indicating a zero percent snowpack.

Snow remains on the higher peaks, but it is the mountain basin snow sites that indicate how much moisture will be available for rivers, water supplies, and salmon later in the summer. May is a time when the Olympic snowpack is typically near its peak.

Park science technician Bill Baccus, who monitors the snowpack monthly throughout the spring, points to Cox Valley, at the head of Morse Creek, as an example. Most years, the site would have over six-and-a-half feet of snow in May. This year the site was bare.

Governor signs bill for big study of Puget Sound forage fish – Kitsap Sun

At least funding studies is a small positive step. We have to have the science to underpin any asks for more regulations to protect forage fish. Our local Marine Resource Committee will likely be helping with volunteer efforts to flesh out the field research.

Puget Sound’s population of little fish will soon get a big look. A state Senate bill signed into law this week initiates the sound’s most comprehensive study of herring, smelt and other forage fish. These fish serve as prey for larger predators, including salmon, seals and killer whales. Small-scale surveys have indicated forage fish populations may be declining. Proposed by Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, the bill requires the state Department of Fish & Wildlife and state Department of Natural Resources to team up on an ambitious survey of forage fish spawning areas and a mid-water trawl survey at various depths throughout the sound. The survey results will help Fish and Wildlife develop conservation strategies for small fish populations that appear to be declining. Tristan Baurick reports. Kitsap Sun) [paywall subscription]


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