Cost-Effective Environmental Protection
Regarding the editorial ``Saving US Flora, Fauna,'' Jan. 4: After summarizing two House bills to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the author says that ``rescuing the national bird ... from imminent extinction was one outcome of the act that was universally appreciated.'' Strikingly, an analysis by the Endangered Species coalition of ``what might have been'' shows that while the version of the ESA by Rep. Gerry Studds (D) of Massachusetts also would have brought the American bald eagle back from the brink of extinction, their recovery under the other bill would have either failed altogether or taken much longer and cost more.
This second bill, introduced by Rep. Billy Tauzin (D) of Louisiana, would require two public hearings in each county containing endangered eagles. That would cost more than $10 million - funds which could be much better used to protect habitat. Under the guise of ``private property rights,'' landowners with known eagle nests could have cut down the trees legally when the eagles were away, whereas Mr. Studds's bill would protect roosting and nesting areas.
Perhaps the worst aspect of Mr. Tauzin's bill is that recovery plans prepared by the National Marine Fisheries Service would have to be redrafted from scratch. Five of those eight plans pertain to sea turtles, which are now protected in Louisiana waters through mandatory turtle excluder devices installed on shrimp nets. Leaders of some Louisiana shrimping interests have insisted on casting this 12-year battle as turtles vs. shrimp, but the National Academy of Sciences found that the shrimp catch did not suffer from releasing baby sea turtles caught accidentally in the nets. Turtle-release costs represent only a fraction of annual operating costs.
We would be wise to aim for protecting the biological heritage of our planet with the most cost-effective proposal: the Gerry Studds bill. Kathryn Bricker, Bethesda, Md.
I would like to add a practical suggestion to the article ``Saving Soil Resources Needs High Priority,'' Dec. 27.
Although I have farmed most of my life, I am not self-sufficient and a major portion of the family's menu is purchased in the marketplace. Consumers can find a direct way of expressing their responsibility and accountability for the land at the marketplace.
The value of produce is usually judged by appearance, taste, and availability. But we need to see the head of lettuce or pound of potatoes as reflecting the growers' stewardship of the land and their concern for workers. While it often requires extra shopping effort and usually a bit higher price, we can find some food items grown in ways that mitigate the problems pointed out by the article. In-season market gardens, natural food stores, mail order, and even some of the chains provide such ``value added'' foods.
Perhaps some legislative steps are necessary, but we can express our concerns for the land and its stewards right now by supporting those producers already exercising a sound land ethic. It can be fun too. Bob Erb, Somers, Mont.
Humans hogging lowlands
Regarding the article ``Snaring of Hawaii's Feral Pigs Angers Animal Activists,'' Jan. 5:
The author notes that pigs arrived in Hawaii 1,500 years ago with the Polynesians. Other varieties arrived with Europeans 500 years ago. At the rate pigs reproduce one has to question why any vegetation still exists on an island inhabited by the pigs after 1,500 years! Since humans have not been totally controlling their number, what natural process has kept them in check? (Other animals species have such natural control systems.) The pigs' natural population-control mechanism, in all probability, will eventually work in the mountains where the feral pigs now live, as it has for centuries in the lowlands.
It is noted that cruel wire snares are being used in remote mountain areas where dogs and hunters cannot readily function. Pigs are in such inaccessible places because humans, in their exploitation of the more accessible and livable lowland areas, have driven the pigs into the mountains. I bet human exploitation has been far more responsible than pigs for destroying native vegetation in Hawaii. G.B. Lloyd, Southwest Harbor, Maine