We are a people who look outward, outward to the Rocky Mountain, outward to the Salish Sea. What we see is not only God's majesty--though that is certainly there to be found--but also our livelihoods, our sustenance and in some cases our very identity. So it makes sense that we talk a lot about what should be done about predators once extinct in the woods and toxins that continue to flow into the water; it makes sense that when we do talk we get passionate. In all of the following stories, I endeavored to not only tell stories about how x human behavior is affecting y in the environment, but why that equation means so much to those involved.
Return of the Wolf
Fifteen years after gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, the decision to return the predators to the Montana landscape was in many ways more controversial than it had ever been. The population was robust enough for the federal government to take the animal off the endangered species list, a position questioned and challenged in court by environmental groups. What wasn't questioned was that the population was large enough to be having a real effect on Montana's world-class elk herds and putting continued stress on ranchers. To mark the 15 year anniversary and present readers with a clear explanation of where things stood in the debate, I produced a multi-part series on the animal that received the Sigma Delta Chi award for feature reporting. You can read the pieces here.
The Plight of the Duwamish River
The Duwamish is Seattle's only river, and since the city's inception it has played a central role in both its triumphs and tragedies. It was the mouth of the Duwamish where industrial commerce first took hold in the city; Seattle would not be what it is today if a man named Boeing hadn't started making airplanes on the banks of the river in the early 20th century. It was also from where the original inhabitants of the area, the Duwamish Tribe, gained their sustenance for 10,000 years only to be violently removed by white settlers. Now a Superfund site where most fish are too toxic to eat, the EPA is trying to figure out a way to clean up the river in a way that honors the river's original role as a culturally (and calorically) vital place while not hampering Seattle's global role as an economic juggernaut. Finding that balance, though, could prove impossible. Read my story on the river for Seattle Weekly here, and a preview to my cover story for High Country News here.
Seattle Coal Trains
Flush with hydropower and endowed with a fierce green streak, not only did Seattle not have to think about coal in any local sense since "global warming" entered our lexicon; it didn't want to. But the issue has been pressed with proposals to ship millions of tons of coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia via a network of Washington ports, much of it going through Seattle first before being dumped on a barge. With the issue at a fervor, I took a step back and examined how we got here, starting my story in the lonely eastern plains of Montana and ending it by looking over the wide expanse of the Puget Sound. Originally published in Seattle Weekly, the story was re-run in the Missoula Independent, speaking to its wide geographical relevance. [Readers may find the Missoula version easier to read, as a formatting change at the Weekly has played some mischief with the punctuation there].
The industry of green
What turned a small cow town in Southwest Montana into a major hub of environmental nonprofit groups? And how has that affected the public's view of the environmental movement and the way our public lands are managed? And, finally, how do these people make money fighting for the environment to begin with? Reporter Carli Flandro and I asked all these questions and more in our multi-part series examining the sprawling network of environmental nonprofits in Bozeman, Montana. Check them out here.