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  July/August 2001 Issue
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Along Came a Spider
 
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Sierra Magazine

LETTERS

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Bushwhacked
I was appalled by the outcome of the recent presidential election. I progressed to near-panic with the selection and acceptance of the members of the cabinet. Then I received the March/April Sierra and I realized that, one, I am not alone, and, two, there is a big battle ahead of us. It must start now and continue every day of the next four years.
Alice F. Gambill
Stillwater, Oklahoma

Suppose the Bush administration didn’t follow through with its trillion-dollar tax break, but decided to spend it instead on a program to help reduce global warming, dramatically improve air quality in cities, and eliminate the need to buy foreign oil or drill Alaska. Here is one way the money could be creatively spent: Contract with all of the automobile manufacturers to develop a car that can get 100 miles per gallon or better--a design that can be mass-produced for $10,000 or less wholesale. The final designs are then rated by the experts for quality, safety, and efficiency, and public polls suggest how many of each model to make. Orders are placed for 100 million cars, at a cost of a trillion dollars--a major boost to the economy. On the grounds that they unnecessarily damage the earth and make us dependent on foreign oil, all vehicles that don’t meet the new standards are recalled. They are replaced free of charge with the new energy-efficient designs. Gasoline consumption is diminished to a fraction of what it is now. Skies are blue and pollution-related illness is dramatically reduced across the country.
David Barclay
Seattle, Washington

As an avid hiker, cyclist, and friend of the environment, I found the March/April issue, with its tasteless screeds against President Bush, offensive. These extremist views cause some of us to have second thoughts about the environmental movement, which we would otherwise enthusiastically support.
John P. Doremus
Tallahassee, Florida

Articles by Carl Pope (“Ways & Means”) and Bruce Hamilton (“Passages”) in the March/April issue used restraint while lamenting the anti-environmental stance of the new administration and its party members in Congress. But Bush’s postelection disavowal of early pro-environment declarations together with his flip-flop on the promise to curtail carbon dioxide emissions signals that much of his rhetoric is pure Bushwah. Defense of the environment during the Bush administration must be relentless. It won’t be successful without strong arguments for energy conservation and the development of renewable-energy technology.
Mike Wolf
Corvallis, Oregon

COUNTING SHEEP
Having followed the saga of the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep for a few years now, I’ve read a number of articles on the subject and written a few of my own. But Paul Rauber’s account, “The Lion and the Lamb” (March/April), is second to none. He does a masterful job of getting to the essence of the story. We are confronted with a situation where nature is out of balance. To simply hope that the predator-prey relationship will reach some sort of equilibrium without intervention is to sentence these mountain sheep to extinction. Rauber’s article also helped me understand the wariness of the folks who are suspicious of the California Department of Fish and Game’s motives when it comes to taking mountain lions. That’s a valuable insight.
Paula Brown-Williams
Bishop, California

Allow me to present a different perspective on mountain lion depredation (a.k.a. extermination), one which may explain why the Mountain Lion Foundation has been so “fiercely protective of its namesake.” In December 1999, the California Department of Fish and Game killed a lion in the eastern Sierra because “it was persisting in the vicinity of bighorn sheep.” In fact, the adult lion was several miles and a ridgeline away from the sheep; it was known to prey on resident deer and had no history of harassing sheep. Another, similar incident occurred in April 2000. A radio-collared lion in the eastern Sierra that had been monitored and not known to prey on sheep was killed, again because it “persisted in the vicinity” of bighorn sheep.

The reckless depredation of cougars is a problem statewide and nationwide. In April 2000, the California Department of Fish and Game killed six mountain lions in Calaveras County in one week, including a mother with two yearlings, because of their predation on a small cashmere goat operation (located, coincidentally, right in the middle of prime lion habitat).

problem the Mountain Lion Foundation is dedicated to solving. The foundation’s involvement has helped inject the evolving science of predator behavior into the recovery process to the point where depredation is now a last resort. Similarly, the foundation recently embarked on a focused campaign to reform state-agency management of this magnificent, shy, and reclusive animal.
Pat Gallagher, Board Member
Mountain Lion Foundation
Mill Valley, California

Paul Rauber’s article left the reader with the unfortunate impression that one must somehow choose between mountain lions and bighorn sheep. That is a false dichotomy that should be rejected as quickly as the old “jobs versus the environment” argument. The article also created an impression that the Sierra Club and the Mountain Lion Foundation have differing goals regarding the protection of bighorn sheep. I serve on the Bighorn Sheep Recovery Stakeholders team along with the Sierra Club’s representative and have not found that to be the case. I have every confidence that the Sierra Club fully recognizes that prey species are just as dependent upon predators as predator species are upon prey.
Lynn Sadler, Executive Director
Mountain Lion Foundation
Sacramento, California

Paul Rauber replies: My story did not suggest we should choose between lion and sheep: “Surely the voters didn’t intend to champion one magnificent species at the cost of wiping out another,” it concluded. Nor did it say the Sierra Club and the Foundation have differing goals. And while prey species do depend on predators to keep their numbers in check, the Sierra Nevada bighorn hover near extinction, not overpopulation.

DOWNWIND IN MISSOURI
We have much in common with Everett Kennard (“Profile,” March/ April), though we are in Missouri. Our newest neighbor is a 6,000-hog finishing operation. Weak-willed legislators and notoriously lax enforcement by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources have allowed mid-size operations such as the one across from us to avoid all regulation simply by dividing their land into 40-acre plots, putting different names on the deeds, and limiting the number of hogs on each plot. The stench is not diminished, however, and the potential for environmental damage is increased because of the number of lagoons required. Western and northerly breezes are our friends, but still summer nights allow the heavy sulfurous gases to settle into our valley. No person in their right mind would sit outdoors once that sickening fog sets in. Maybe we should just move. But why should we have to? We’ve done the only thing we can--we don’t eat pork.
Ed and Ruth McEowen
Jerico Springs, Missouri

BUGGED
It was good to read about taking inner-city kids out to learn about insect life (“Bug Walk,” March/April). However, every female student mentioned in the article was described as either recoiling, shrieking, disgusted, or squealing. Were there no girls who found bugs to be cool and enjoyed the trip as much as the boys described in the article?
Judith S. Weis
Professor of Biological Sciences
Rutgers University
Newark, New Jersey

101 SMART CITIES
Your March/April issue praises (deservedly) the city of Oakland, California, and Mayor Jerry Brown for their commitment to renewable energy sources (“Lay of the Land”). But I have to add, for the record, that in addition to Oakland, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Association of Bay Area Governments, composed of nine counties and 101 cities, shares a power-purchasing pool that provides its members with electricity from 100 percent renewable resources.
Mayor Larry Robinson
Sebastopol, California

BOLD BUT BOLTED
Truly beautiful photograph and wonderful Edward Abbey quote (“Last Words,” March/April). Did anyone notice, however, that the climber is using fixed bolts for protection? While certainly needed in some places for safety and acceptable in many climbing areas, permanent bolts aren’t totally in the spirit of the quote’s “venturesome minority.” The problem with fixed anchors is that they modify the rock forever, albeit in a small way. Perhaps a rock route using only natural features and removable protection could have been chosen.
Gregory Frux
Brooklyn, New York

And the answers are . . . The answers to our March/April “The Desert’s in the Details” quiz can now be revealed:
1) The mythic coyote figure is called the Trickster.
2) The amazing feat performed by the sunflower is phytoremediation, or removal of radioactivity and heavy metals from water.
3) The common name of the yucca’s winged friend is yucca moth or pronuba moth.
4) The avian beauty is a peregrine falcon.
5) The plant’s common name is ephedra or Mormon tea.

The winner, chosen in a random drawing of correct entries, will receive a rim-to-rim wilderness hiking trip for two in the Grand Canyon, or another Sierra Club outing of equal value. For the name of the winner (who has already been notified), send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Sierra.

CORRECTIONS
In our “Wildlands Report Card” of the March/April issue, the 1,000 acres we celebrated adding to Sterling Forest were in New York (not New Jersey as our headline implied), though activists from both states worked on the expansion. In “Bug Walk” in the same issue, we placed entomologist Ron Lyons on the wrong stretch of the California coast. He trains docents at Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego, not Carpinteria State Beach near Santa Barbara.

Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794; e-mail sierra.letters@sierraclub.org.


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