As COVID-19 upends wildland firefighting, Pacific Northwest forests poised for conflagration

With nearly triple the usual number of wildfires this year, Washington and Oregon are set to have the worst summer fire forecasts in the nation. And it’s not the only one. As a result of COVID-19, volunteer firefighting numbers are down and those who did sign up face increased vulnerability to the virus. The pandemic has curtailed preventative measures, leading agencies across the country to plan for fast, low-headcount efforts to fight fires.

Would you like forks with that? Legislation aims to end disposable plasticware in WA

Legislation being considered in the Washington Legislature phase in a ban on plastic cutlery and other food-service products accompanying ready-to-eat food, effectively making the state’s takeout industry go compostable-only. Associated fees would fund the upgrade of state facilities to process the compostable utensils and containers. Environmentalists see the legislation as a step in the right direction, but grocery, restaurant and chemical industries feel that existing state taxes on food-service items should pay for the upgrades.

Make way for duplexes: Washington could join Oregon in banning single-family-only zoning

Two bills currently in the Washington Legislature aim to address the housing shortage in the state with legislation that would clear the way for duplexes and other multi-household homes. While the legislation could help reduce sprawl and commutes, as well as open up more pathways to home ownership, opponents worry that it would undercut property values and reshape neighborhoods.

Legislature eyes ways to control speculators buying Washington water rights

Several upcoming bills in the Washington Legislature aim to take on the state’s convoluted water rights system, which balances two conflicting positions – that water is a public resource stewarded by the state, and that water rights are private property. While legislators want to cut out water speculators who are looking to make a profit on water, farmers, builders and environmental stewardship organizations fear that regulations could impede community water banks.

Senator: To help orcas and salmon, seawalls should be a last resort

Newly proposed legislation in the Washington Legislature would require waterfront homeowners along Puget Sound’s 2,500-mile shoreline to consider fish-friendly fixes when replacing concrete seawalls. Proponents believe it’s the best opportunity to soften the Sound’s shores and jumpstart populations of forage fish that feed juvenile Chinook salmon, the preferred food of endangered orcas. The building lobby and others aren’t convinced.

Supreme Court ruling bolsters abused foster kids’ lawsuits against state

In what may prove a watershed moment for the state’s foster care system, Washington’s Supreme Court found the state has a broad duty to protect foster children from abuse. The decision in favor of five young women who were sexually, physically and psychologically abused provides a stronger legal footing for other foster children suing the state, which already has paid out hundreds of millions of dollar in similar abuse cases.