Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out-of-the-way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years.  He got his start in radio at WCAL-FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place beyond the reach of email.

Ways to Connect

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond said a lot of what's driving this forecast is an El Niño , a warming cycle in the Pacific Ocean that can have big effects on weather and climate around the globe.

"It is slowly getting started, but it looks like it is happening in the tropical Pacific,” he said. “In the past when we have had those conditions, it has tended to be on the warm, dry side."

As you might imagine, this outlook sends shivers down the spines of anyone who depends on winter snowpack for recreation, water supply or hydropower.

Credit Washington Employment Security Department / Northwest News Network

Job growth stalled during September in Oregon and Washington according to new numbers from the respective state employment departments. In Washington's case, state labor economist Paul Turek is not too concerned though by one month of flat hiring.

"Put it in context of what has been happening in the labor market. We seem to be sustaining momentum. Every now and then we have a little blip," Turek said.

Turek announced Washington's unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a point to 5.7 percent in September.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Law enforcement groups in Washington state are pushing back against possible limits on police use of drones. That happened as a task force convened by the governor wrestled some more Monday about how to regulate small unmanned aircraft.

In April, Democratic Governor Jay Inslee vetoed the Washington Legislature's first attempt to regulate government use of drones. Now police groups are worried the planned second try will handcuff their ability to take advantage of the new technology. Mitch Barker directs the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The old saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." That was the reaction of a U.S. Forest Service researcher when he rediscovered a trove of landscape panoramas called the Osborne Panoramas.

The photos were taken during the Great Depression at hundreds of fire lookouts in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

UK Ministry of Defence

Managers at a military drone maker in the Columbia River Gorge say they see great potential for civil and commercial uses for their best known aircraft. But realizing that promise requires the federal government to finalize rules for drones in the national airspace.

When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled plans for aerial drone delivery of packages last year, many observers dismissed the concept as science fiction or pie-in-the-sky.

Both Oregon and Washington’s state forestry departments had hoped to try out drones this summer to provide reconnaissance at wildfire scenes. But neither firefighting agency managed to pull it off. Now both plan to try again next year.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

  

  Chefs and adventurous diners converged at Zenith Vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley near Salem.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

People along the Oregon Coast ran for their lives Sunday to escape an imaginary tsunami. Local, state and federal emergency management agencies hatched the idea for a 5K fun run and walk along an actual tsunami evacuation route in Cannon Beach. The event was an example of trying to inject some levity in the serious business of disaster readiness.

Cassandra Profita / OPB

On September 28, several hundred people are expected to gather at a vineyard near Salem, Oregon, to chew on the problem of invasive species.

This is not just food for thought though. Celebrity chefs will compete in a cook-off using undesirable weeds and animals.

Aero Icarus / Flickr

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines plans to launch five more jets Friday to evacuate American vacationers from Los Cabos, Mexico. A hurricane slammed the resort area at the beginning of this week. Since then, there have been reports of looting, no water and electricity, and food shortages. Airlifts to get stranded tourists out of there started Wednesday and ramped up Thursday. Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Halley Knigge greeted the first wave of arrivals in Los Angeles.

Alaska Airlines

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines is dispatching jets today to evacuate American vacationers from Los Cabos, Mexico. Baja California is still reeling from the direct hit by Hurricane Odile at the beginning of this week.

Jodi Green / Flickr

The latest reading on unemployment in Washington state shows the rate holding steady in August at 5.6 percent. That's half a percentage point below the national rate according to a report from Washington's employment department Wednesday. 


Army Medicine / flickr

Public health authorities in Washington and Idaho are now investigating at least 79 cases of a serious respiratory illness that affects children. The widening disease outbreak is suspected - but not confirmed - to be a rare strain of enterovirus. 


Kevin Mooney / Northwest News Network

The Western Hockey League opens its regular season next weekend. The players you'll see on the ice are mostly teenagers. That fact has state labor investigators asking if the four Washington teams are breaking child labor laws.

Kevin Mooney

Remotely monitored video cameras are replacing some human fire lookouts on mountaintops around the Northwest. 


King Mountain Tobacco website

A federal judge in Eastern Washington has ruled a cigarette maker on the Yakama Reservation owes $58 million in unpaid taxes and penalties. The privately owned tobacco company has tried - so far unsuccessfully - to assert a treaty right to trade tax free. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

John Brooks / U.S. Army

The Army Surgeon General today suspended the commander in charge of Army hospitals in 20 western states. The reason for removing the Army's top doc in the West is a bit mysterious, as correspondent Tom Banse reports.


Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English. Correspondent Tom Banse takes us inside a 911 call center to find out what happens then.

InciWeb

It might seem like fire season is as bad as it's ever been. But there's a group of researchers who question that prevailing wisdom.

Michael Dillon / Run for Colin

A 23-year-old Seattle man has smashed the speed record for hiking the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail. Recent college grad Joe McConaughy crossed into Canada on Sunday, exactly 53 days, 6 hours and 37 minutes after leaving the Mexican border on the storied trail. McConaughy says he felt elation and disbelief at the finish of the 2,660 mile journey.

Beth Waterbury / Idaho Fish and Game

Osprey nests are a common sight near rivers, lakes and bays around here. If you look closely with binoculars, you might notice some of these large raptors like to line their nests with discarded baling twine or fishing line. The problem is it can kill them. Now wildlife biologists are working with ranchers and at boat ramps to keep the attractive nuisance out of the ospreys' clutches. Correspondent Tom Banse reports from Missoula.

Courtney Flatt / EarthFix

Washington State University’s mascot is the cougar, but the university is also home to the nation’s only captive grizzly bear research center. Correspondent Tom Banse reports a new study involving those bears yields insights into possible therapies for human obesity and diabetes.

Kevin Dooley / Flickr

A divided county council in Pierce County, Washington voted Tuesday to display the motto "In God We Trust" in its chambers. That makes it the first jurisdiction in the Northwest to become part of a national campaign to feature the motto. Correspondent Tom Banse reports the approval came with a twist.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

It's been more than three years since the Fukushima nuclear plant accident resulted in a spill of millions of gallons of radioactive cooling water into the Pacific. Oceanographers projected that it could take until this year for highly diluted traces of that spill in Japan to reach our coast (i.e., the West Coast of North America). Radiation experts don't believe there is cause for alarm on our shores. But some coastal residents are stepping forward to pay for seawater testing just to be sure. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Tambako the Jaguar / Flickr

A federal threatened species listing for the wolverine is looking increasingly unlikely. Protected status was put on the table in anticipation of harm due to global warming. At present, the fierce and rare carnivore is making a slow comeback in the Northwest and Northern Rockies. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

MTSOfan / Flickr

The federal Bureau of Land Management plans to capture and remove fewer wild horses from Western rangelands this summer. An agency statement blames budget constraints and already-full holding pens. Correspondent Tom Banse has more.

Province of British Columbia

Organizers of the next (FIFA) Women's World Cup hope to leverage the unusually high interest in this year's men's tournament in Brazil to their benefit. Northwest sports fans may want to note that group play and the 2015 World Cup final will take place just across the border in Vancouver, Canada. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Vancouver is one of six host cities in Canada for the Women's World Cup next summer. Nine matches including the final will be played in BC Place stadium over the span of a month.

Horia Varlan / Flickr

A coastal Northwest county is the first to strike back against pricey recreation permits now being required by some large timber companies. The Grays Harbor County commission voted unanimously Monday to take a tax deferral away from private timberland owners that charge for public access.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Timber giant Weyerhaeuser is joining the pay-to-play and pay-to-hunt trend. This week, the largest private forestland owner in Oregon and Washington will begin selling seasonal access permits to hunters, horse riders, hikers and other recreators. The Washington state-based company is not the first to charge access fees. But the breadth and high prices it will charge are generating more push back than before. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

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