Courtney Flatt

Multimedia Journalist - Based in Richland, WA

Courtney Flatt began her journalism career at The Dallas Morning News as a neighbors editor. There, she also wrote articles for the Metro section, where she reported on community issues ranging from water security to the arts. Courtney earned her master’s in convergence journalism at the University of Missouri and developed a love for radio and documentary film. As a producer at KBIA-FM she hosted a weekly business show, reported and produced talk shows on community and international issues. Her work took her from the unemployment lines, to a Methamphetamine bust, to the tornado damage aftermath in Joplin, Mo.

What I cover
Energy, climate change and the Columbia Basin

Soon to be favorite outdoor activity
Having never lived so close to mountains before, I am determined to learn to snowboard this winter.

A funny thing happened one day in the field...
It was an icy winter morning, and I was trying to get some ambient sound of the Missouri River, which seemed easy enough. I had to make it over a pile of cement rocks to reach this one sandbar. (And if you know me, you know I’m a walking example of Murphy’s Law.)

Realizing this, I securely attached every piece of equipment to my body. Everything except my extra mic. I had climbed halfway across the cement pile when, woosh! My mic fell through a small hole covered by leaves. The mound was probably 10 feet tall.

As I peered down, a fisherman wandered by. He helped me lift a few of the blocks – they probably weighed 50 pounds each. But the mic wasn’t anywhere near the top. Every time I saw the pile after that day, I wondered where my mic wound up.

Likes
Farmers markets, traveling, tea and painting (though I’m pretty bad at it)

Dislikes
There’s not much… Maybe traffic?

If I weren't a journalist, I would be...
Working on an organic farm in Spain. I actually joined the WOOF program right before graduation. Then I got a job.

Ways to Connect

A. F. Litt / FLICKR Creative Commons

A federal court has ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to pay for the toxic waste cleanup at a historic Yakama Nation fishing site on the Columbia River. The decision is said to be the first of its kind in the nation.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest Public Radio

Tacoma’s Commencement Bay has long been riddled with toxic pollutants. It’s taken decades — and cleanup at some superfund sites is still ongoing. Now, the Washington Department of Ecology is making plans to clean up one of the last and most complicated sources of pollution along the bay: a plant that for decades produced drycleaning solvents and other chemicals that have slowly leached underground.

Ted S. Warren / / AP Images

The Washington Commissioner of Public Lands is asking for extra funding to help with next year’s fire season. Peter Goldmark spoke at Washington State University Tuesday to address how the state can be more prepared for future large fire years.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest Public Radio

For federal wildlife enforcement officers, time on the job means a lot of time alone, wandering remote areas. But one wildlife officer now has a new companion to keep him company on the trails: the Pacific Region’s very first enforcement dog.

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Rice is a staple in many people’s diets. But you may not know that rice paddies are one of the biggest sources of global methane emissions — a potent greenhouse gas. Now, researchers have found a way to nearly eliminate methane emissions from rice paddies.

When it comes to greenhouse gases, methane is a major contributor to climate change. It is 20 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

Researchers estimate that up to 15 percent of global human-caused methane emissions comes from growing rice.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest Public Radio

This year’s hot summer and low river flows devastated Snake River sockeye.

Orin Blomberg / / FLICKR Creative Commons

A plan to ensure there’s plenty of water for the Yakima Valley is one step closer to moving forward. A bill that aims to bring drought relief to the agricultural area would provide federal funding for water projects. But not everyone is on board.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest Public Radio

The sagebrush ecosystem is in trouble — thanks to invasive species and wildfires, which have damaged much of the land in the West. Now, to help restore some recently burned areas, inmates from central Washington are planting sagebrush that has been grown in prisons.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest Public Radio

Too many nitrates in drinking water can cause health problems for infants and some adults. Nitrates can come from several sources, including fertilizers and septic systems. One Washington County is stepping up nitrate testing to learn more about contamination in the area.

Lena Jackson

Lead and arsenic used decades ago in pesticides are still lingering in the topsoil of Pacific Northwest apple country. That poses a health risk for children who come in close contact with dirt -- in the backyards and playgrounds developed from former orchards.

Tony Schick / EarthFix

For decades, apple growers in Central Washington sprayed their trees with a misty brew of lead and arsenic to keep pests away. The practice stopped in the mid-20th century. Since then, many of those orchards have been redeveloped -- some as housing subdivisions, schools, and daycare centers. Even though the orchards are long gone, those toxic chemicals remain in the soil.

Fickr Creative Commons, EcologyWA

The summer may be over, but this year’s drought isn’t. Washington state officials are predicting another warmer-than-normal winter. That could mean there won’t be enough snow to head off another year of drought.

Courtney Flatt / NWPR/EarthFix

This summer’s hot, dry weather has left Northwest apple growers hurting for water to irrigate their orchards. It’s a hint at what’s predicted as the climate continues to warm.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest Public Radio

An investigation into what caused the deaths of three firefighters and injured four others last week in North Central Washington is just beginning. This fire is now part of the Okanogan Complex, which has burned nearly 375 square miles.

A juvenile inmate helping fight wildfires in North Central Washington escaped Friday after allegedly assaulting a staff member. Officials have said the inmate no longer poses a threat to the community. Courtney Flatt has more. 

The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that the escaped inmate was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The inmate had stolen a gun the previous night.  

Courtney Flatt

Fires in North Central Washington are continuing to threaten homes and buildings. Thousands of people are still under evacuation orders. But calming winds have helped slow the fires’ progress. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Wildlife experts from Oregon, Washington and California say wolf activity has been increasing in all three states.

Loren Kerns / Flickr

Some good news for anglers in Central Oregon: The state department of Fish and Wildlife has lifted fishing restrictions on the Lower Deschutes River.

Courtney Flatt / EarthFix

This year was supposed to be one of the biggest returns in 40 years for the endangered Idaho sockeye salmon. But it’s not turning out that way. Only a fraction of these fish have survived their journey up the Columbia and Snake rivers. The biggest problems: warm waters. Now dam and fish managers and tribes are in a race against time to save the few remaining fish. 

Courtney Flatt / EarthFix

The plight of greater sage grouse is at the top of mind for ranchers, conservationists and politicians across the West — so much so that one ranch in southeastern Oregon has put a wildlife biologist on its payroll.

Alan Sylvestre / EarthFix

Oregon and Washington officials are curtailing fishing starting Saturday on many of the states’ rivers in hopes of helping salmon, trout and steelhead survive drought conditions.

J Brew

    

A warming climate is making water more scarce in places that rely on runoff from mountain snowpack — places like the Yakima River basin in Central Washington. A Senate panel took up a plan today that would ensure plenty of water for decades to come in this agricultural hub.

Courtney Flatt / NWPR/EarthFix

Puget Sound steelhead will be heading to an inland Washington lake again this summer. That’s because federal officials are conducting a review of those hatchery programs. The controversy is bringing up a lot of debate about hatchery science in the Northwest.

Ken Balcomb / Center for Whale Research

It’s been a one-two punch of low snowpack last winter and not enough rain this spring for many Northwest rivers. Warm temperatures and low river flows are causing problems for salmon making the return migration.

Courtney Flatt

One bear has become a symbol of resilience after the biggest wildfire in Washington history burned thousands of acres last year in the state’s north-central region.  After a year of rehabilitation, Cinder the Bear was released into the wild Wednesday.

Courtney Flatt / EarthFix

 

 

Every year deer and elk lose their antlers. It’s kind of like when a child loses a baby tooth. For some, they’re are fun to collect. But other unscrupulous people are harassing animals to death in an effort grab the biggest antlers.  The trick to looking for antlers is to keep your eyes on the ground.

Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Growing marijuana indoors requires a lot of energy -- lights to speed up plant growth, dehumidifiers, heating and cooling equipment. Could sustainable outdoor farms be a more environmentally responsible alternative? A group of Washington marijuana growers say yes.

Several workers sit around a  white table in a small room on a marijuana farm in Goldendale, Washington. They’ve got scissors in hand, scales set to carefully measure out grams.

“I am weighing out some weed," said one of the workers. "Yesterday was an 18 hour day trying to get an order out.”

kaylaword / Flickr

Air pollution caused by wood stoves in Washington is in line with federal clean air requirements for the first time in seven years.

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency lowered its limits on air pollution. For most of Washington state, that wasn’t a problem. But the air in Pierce County was too polluted from wood stove smoke. The fine particulate from that smoke has been linked to asthma and heart attacks and high blood pressure.

Binsar Bakkara / Associated Press

An international report on the health risks of a commonly used herbicide is raising special concerns about farmworkers and cancer.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the weed-killer Roundup. A study by the World Health Organization has found limited evidence that glyphosate is probably capable of causing cancer in humans.

Chuck Benbrook studies pesticides at Washington State University. He said the new report could be bad news for farmworkers.

Flickr

A grain handling facility in Eastern Washington has been leaking chemicals into the only source of drinking water for a local school district. The Environmental Protection Agency now wants to add it to the Superfund list of hazardous waste cleanup projects.

Pages