Tom Banse | KUOW News and Information

Tom Banse

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from 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 found online and heard on-air 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.

Less than 200 years ago, the easiest way to get around a lot of the Pacific Northwest was by canoe. The first American steamship to provide regular service among Puget Sound ports arrived in 1853.

This small steamship, propelled by paddlewheels attached to its sides, was called the Fairy. But its success was short-lived. It soon blew up and sank.

An emaciated, 4-year-old Pacific Northwest orca is drawing alarm.

NOAA Fisheries spokesman Michael Milstein said feeding live Chinook salmon to the female orca, possibly laced with medication, is being considered.

In a clash of protected species, Pacific Northwest members of Congress are coming down in favor of salmon. The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday morning to make it easier to kill sea lions who feast on Columbia and Willamette River salmon and steelhead.

The craft brewing industry in the Pacific Northwest is starting to feel pain from the Trump administration's steel and aluminum tariffs. Those metals are made into beer cans, kegs and fermentation tanks.

The two biggest blood networks in the Pacific Northwest say the region's blood supply is suffering a critical shortage.

The U.S. and Canadian governments have scheduled a second and third round of negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty. The 54-year-old treaty provides flood protection to Portland and smoothes out Northwest hydropower production.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has finalized shorter hours for several border crossings in northeastern Washington state, effective this fall. The reduction in operating hours in one case was modified based on protests from the local community.

The push for a bullet train between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, BC, is getting additional backing. The state of Oregon and Microsoft Corporation are putting money into an in-depth "business case analysis" previously launched by Washington and British Columbia.

Policymakers, academics and regional industry leaders from the U.S. and western Canada are getting together in Spokane Monday to get an update on ongoing talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. So far, top U.S., Canadian and Mexican officials have missed numerous self-imposed deadlines to reach a deal.

During every berry picking season in the Pacific Northwest, blueberry and raspberry growers fight to prevent birds from gobbling up the crop before they can harvest it. This year, some farmers are trying something new and high tech to scare away the thieving birds.

The legend and theorizing about Northwest skyjacker D.B. Cooper just won’t die. A new documentary about the unsolved 1971 hijacking introduces a new twist to the tale. It suggests we might have been looking for D.B. Cooper and his loot in the wrong place for all these years.

On the evening of March 7, a bright flash, a tremendous boom and a rumble like an earthquake alarmed people in coastal Washington state. Next week, scientists will attempt an underwater recovery of the shattered meteorite that caused all that.

They're life-jacket orange, they're robots and they're capable of sailing the high seas without human intervention.

On Tuesday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a private contractor launched a pair of unmanned “Saildrones” in Pacific Northwest waters for the first time. Their summer-long voyage to collect fish data will stretch from Vancouver Island to California.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the Washington state courts to take a new look at the case of a florist from Richland who refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. The justices declined to hear the case themselves a few weeks after issuing a narrow ruling in a similar case involving a Colorado bakery.

The call is going out again to the operators and pilots of big ships to slow down in the shared border waters between Washington and British Columbia. The idea is to reduce underwater noise that could bother endangered killer whales.

Earlier this week in Tacoma, Washington, police tactical squads staged coordinated raids on middle class homes converted into indoor pot farms. What the authorities found follows a recent pattern in West Coast states: all of the marijuana growers arrested were immigrants from China who spoke little or no English.

A Chinese immigrant arrested during the bust of a sprawling illegal pot growing operation last November wants to withdraw his guilty plea. The man claims he didn't understand his conviction could lead to deportation.

Beginning next month, driver’s licenses in Washington state will be changing. Regular licenses and ID cards will be marked with the words “federal limits apply.” Oregon is going down this path too, but not until mid-2020.

The starting gun fires bright and early Thursday morning for the fourth annual running of the maritime Race to Alaska. The 750-mile adventure marathon has been compared to the Iditarod but with a chance of drowning, being run down by a freighter, or getting eaten by a grizzly bear.

Ocean Shores, Washington, has no natural high ground inside its city limits. On Tuesday night, residents will meet with government and university experts to discuss whether to build a tsunami evacuation platform as in a few other Northwest coastal towns.

Renewable energy developers are showing interest in converting public grazing lands in sunny central Washington into large solar farms.

The Port of Newport on the Oregon coast has revoked a docking permit for a pair of tall ships based out of Aberdeen, Washington. Efforts to reach a compromise between the port and the ships' operator seem to be foundering.

Since 2008, wildlife biologists in Washington state have worked to reintroduce the fisher, a locally-extinct forest weasel. They are not shouting from the tree tops about success, but say things are looking positive. Fishers were previously reintroduced in the southern Oregon Cascades.

Two projects that would convert cropland in Oregon and Washington into large solar farms are hitting new bumps.

The Olympia city prosecutor's office confirmed to public radio Thursday that it will file animal neglect charges in the next day or two against the owner of an Oregon-based sloth sanctuary. This is fallout from a raid two months ago on a satellite center under development in Olympia, Washington.

Coastal erosion is chewing away at one of the Northwest's most popular recreation areas. It's threatening the main campground and other amenities at Cape Disappointment State Park, which has the second most camper visits in the Washington State Park system.

In an earthquake or wildfire or other disaster, you typically can’t bring your animals with you into a shelter. This is a reason why some people choose not to evacuate when they ought to.

Some Northwest localities have volunteer “Animals in Disaster” teams to handle pet rescue, preparedness and emergency sheltering tasks. Cannon Beach is the latest to establish one.

Aptly nicknamed Washaway Beach, in Pacific County, Washington, has long suffered from the most extreme coastal erosion along the whole U.S. West Coast. Now a relatively low cost defense is raising hopes among property owners and nearby cranberry growers.

A rare cougar attack east of Seattle left one bicyclist dead and another seriously injured over the weekend.

Seven different companies have notified Washington's Department of Licensing that they plan to test self-driving vehicles on roads in the state. Oregon transportation officials have gotten notifications from two other companies.

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