News Roundup – Fire Hazards, Elk, Ocean Tidbits and More

With rainfall still well below normal for the water year, state and local governments are girding for a potentially devastating fire season. Jefferson Public Radio discusses what Oregon is doing to prepare. Meanwhile, while Oakland has taken measures to control wildfires since the 1991 blaze that spread across the hills of the East Bay, concerns of a new fire hazard are growing. With the spread of hydraulic fracturing in California’s shale formations and high profile oil train explosions elsewhere in the country, plans to ship shale oil through Oakland by rail have residents and environmental groups alarmed. While the Lynchburg, VA train explosion didn’t result in the loss of human life, an incident of that scale in a heavily populated area most certainly would.

Residents near the Elk River are still dealing with flooding resulting from sediment in the river from logging activity. Mike Jani, CEO of Humboldt Redwood Company which logs forests nearby, denies responsibility for silt buildup and flooding despite well-documented links between deforestation, soil erosion and flooding. The nonprofit Friends of the Elk River, backed by local residents, wants logging activity in the watershed halted until fish populations recover to 1987 levels.

Some good and bad news has landed regarding fish populations. First the good; the NOAA fisheries report for 2013 has added thirty four fish populations to its “rebuilt” list since 2000, including the Chinook salmon. The establishment of marine reserves over the last decade (twenty of which are off the California coast) are largely credited for the recovery. The worrying news is that marine snail shells are weakening due to ocean acidification. One of the long-understood side effects of carbon dioxide pollution is the acidification of ocean waters. This has had measurable effects on coral growth and reef health, and now a study has shown that marine snails are being impacted as well. This includes the sea butterfly snail that acts as a food source for many fish species.

We’re personally keeping an eye out on the Roosevelt elk in Humboldt County to see when this year’s mothers rejoin the herds with their calves. As of yesterday, no calves were present at Dry Lagoon or the elk meadow, but the young ones are expected to appear later this month or in early June.

In other elk news, Santa Clara County will get its own herd of tule elk, which once numbered only 28 animals due to overhunting and habitat depletion. The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos will receive breeding stock from the San Antonio Valley Ecological Preserve, establishing the 23rd population of the California-native elk subspecies.

Looking for somewhere to enjoy outdoor recreation in California this Summer? KQED Radio’s Forum discusses what this state has to offer.

London-based Red Flat Nickel Corporation is planning on establishing a nickel-mining operation on the Smith River watershed. Potentially impacting water quality, fish populations and overall wildlife health in Southern Oregon and Northern California, the company plans to perform exploratory drilling along Baldface Creek and Rough and Ready Creek, which contribute to the Smith and Illinois Rivers, respectively. With metal mining, both the silt from unearthing ore and the potent acids used to refine ore pose a serious threat to watershed health. A coalition of tribes and environmental interest groups are pressuring Oregon members of congress to establish protections on the land in question that would prevent mining operations.