Preying on the predators

Regarding your May 9 opinion article "As cougar attacks grow, coexistence is key": I have a different perspective on cougar attacks. A Federal wildlife agent recently indicated in a talk here that the deer population - the main source of food for cougars - is stable in Washington and Oregon. In recent years, voters in both states have passed initiatives sharply reducing cougar hunting.

Any successful creature has a population as large as its food supply will support, and produces more offspring than it will support. Without predation (in the form of hunting), the most important check on the size of that population is removed.

So there is now a substantial population of hungry young cougars who have no fear of man, since they have never been hunted. One such cougar - about two years old - was found sunning himself on the steps of a grade school in a suburb of Portland, Ore. If nothing changes, we can only expect that attacks will continue to increase.

Post-election analysis of the antihunting initiatives referred to above showed that they passed overwhelmingly in the urban counties and failed in the parts of the states where attacks are occurring. This leaves some of us a bit cynical about the political process.

William G. Dennis Kelso, Wash.

Jam-packed with unjamming ideas

Your May 10 editorial "Ways to unjam highways" regarding the rising levels of congestion and delay in our metropolitan areas is useful, but offers little in the way of possible solutions. Those interested in finding ways that might lead to a reduction in auto traffic should consider the work of those trying to develop technologies that could help to achieve the goal of improved mobility without building more roads and autos.

The Innovative Transportation Technologies website provides descriptions of more than 50 such technologies from around the world (at http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans). Some are operational now, some are under development, and some are still only conceptual. For starters, I recommend browsing the RUF, ULTra, Megarail, SkyTran, System 21, CyberTran, TAXI 2000 and Austrans pages on the site. There is much there to be hopeful about.

Jerry Schneider Corvallis, Ore. Professor Emeritus, Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Urban Planning, University of Washington

Don't build, rehabilitate old homes

I am disappointed that your May 16 story, "Zoning crowds out the starter home," seemed tilted in favor of the development community. At least in my region, zoning rules are a useful tool to preserve agricultural land and open space. If developers' real concerns paralleled those of moderate-income folks like me, they would concentrate on the rehabilitation of existing dwellings and neighborhoods, where impact fees are often much less costly. Profit is a mighty motivator, and I don't blame developers from proclaiming their party line, but I do blame journalism that doesn't provide a more rounded view of the issue.

Mark F. Kramer Burlington, Wash.

Bush officials at prayer meetings

Attorney General John Ashcroft has been using government offices for morning prayer meetings, ignoring the separation of church and state issue. I can understand why the Bush administration, with its plans for an ineffective missile-defense shield and tax cuts for the super-rich, and its lack of any caps on skyrocketing energy prices, needs constant prayer to prevent the economy from going directly into the toilet.

George Z. Banks Oakland, Calif.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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