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  July/August 1997 Features:
Among the Giants
Nine Ways to Save Our Forests
The Great Green Hope
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Sierra Magazine
Letters

BIKERS AND HIKERS

I was heartened to see Sierra publish an article about the use of mountain bikes to explore and protect Grand Staircase­Escalante National Monument ("Kaiparowits for Keeps," March/April). I have often used a bike in Colorado to explore the boundaries of wilderness study areas. It's much softer on the land than a four-wheel-drive vehicle and enables me to cover more ground than hiking.
Gary Sprung
Crested Butte, Colorado

What is wrong with you people anyway? We revisited Moab to see old friends. The place has been totally destroyed by bikers and big-time money grubbers. Then we get home and the new issue of Sierra, with the cover line "Bicycle Our Newest National Monument," is on my dining-room table. I could shoot my left brain and write better eco-articles than you print.
Andrew R. Gantenbein
Stevensville, Michigan

Do you discern any irony in a bicycle outing whose purpose is to promote a wilderness designation for the area toured? Author Paul Rauber's Momentum Method is to "take the downhill as fast as you dare, and then pedal like hell as long as you can, stopping to pant and wheeze and admire the scenery at the top." How disappointing to find Sierra Club members who view a potential wilderness area as an amusement park. And it seems they brought a motorized vehicle ("sag wagon") to avoid lugging gear in bike baskets ("sparing us the torture of panniers"). Let us work toward making the Kaiparowits a designated wilderness, with the consequent end of motorized-vehicle use and mountain biking in the area.
Bob Moss
Bloomfield, New Jersey

Author Paul Rauber replies: No one is seeking wilderness protection for the entire Kaiparowits Plateau, only for certain areas with special qualities, prime among which is lack of maintained roads. The road we were biking on is one of the major routes through the new monument. Hikers would have no reason to walk along it. While our mode of transportation may not be to your taste, it did result in a dozen new activists dedicated to protecting the national monument.

MORE RIVERS TO LIBERATE

David Brower's powerful essay "Let the River Run Through It" (March/ April) described the rationale behind the Sierra Club's recent proposal to drain Lake Powell. But "broad visionary strokes" must be tempered with reality. Glen Canyon Dam provides economic benefits to a wide array of irrigation, electric power, and recreation interests. These powerful interest groups will not easily agree to draining the lake that supports them, and attempts to pay them for their lost income would be incredibly expensive.

There are several current proposals for dam removal around the country that stand a much better chance of success, such as those for the Elwha River in Washington and the Kennebec River in Maine. These river-restoration efforts are targeted at limited-purpose dams that have a well-defined adverse impact. It will be much easier to find compromise with the opposition in these cases, instead of fighting a national battle over Glen Canyon.
David Reeder
Hanover, New Hampshire

Editor Joan Hamilton replies: The Sierra Club strongly supports removal of the Elwha and Kennebec dams, as well as restoration of channelized rivers such as the Kissimmee in Florida. Another one of our fond hopes: removal of O'Shaughnessy Dam in Yosemite National Park to restore the magnificent Hetch Hetchy Valley.

CARPET BACKING

The Carpet and Rug Institute would like to provide several points of fact in reference to "The Carpet Cure" ("Hearth & Home," March/ April). The carpet industry has been amazingly active in determining whether there is any impact on the indoor environment by their products and has done extensive research to make those determinations. Scientific studies have shown that new carpet is one of the lowest emitters of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and that those emissions dissipate within 48 to 72 hours of installation. A review of the data completed in 1994 by ENVIRON, an independent research company, states that "no cancer or toxicity health risks were identified that would be considered of public health concern." Following his in-depth study, Dr. Alan Hedge, professor of environmental analysis at Cornell University, reported that "concentrations of VOCs in carpet emissions . . . should not create health problems for people."

The Carpet and Rug Institute's Indoor Air Quality Carpet Testing Program is not simply "greenwashing." It has been very successful by helping consumers identify tested, truly low-VOC products and by encouraging carpet manufacturers to decrease the odor and emissions from an already low-emitting product.

We encourage your readers to contact us for further information about carpets and rugs at (800) 882-8846 and www.carpet-rug.com.
Kathryn O. Wise
Director of Public Relations
Carpet and Rug Institute
Dalton, Georgia

Editor Tracy Baxter replies: Scientific studies have not conclusively linked carpeting to human illnesses possibly because so little research has been conducted. To date no governmental agency regulates indoor air pollution. In the absence of data on the individual and synergistic effects of the 40-odd chemicals commonly found in carpets, an industry-certification program (based on the analysis of only 4 chemicals and total VOCs) can only be arbitrary and incomplete. Moreover, since at least 86 percent of all carpets would have met the Carpet and Rug Institute's emissions standards before the Green Tag program was instituted, manufacturers really don't have much incentive to make carpets safer.

The Carpet and Rug Institute can trot out as many experts as it chooses, but the wiggle room afforded by its blanket denials is shrinking. Calling the DuPont Certified Stainmaster Carpet "unreasonably dangerous," a district court judge recently awarded a consumer $4.2 million in damages for carpet-related respiratory illness.

COFFEE CLARIFICATION

"Habitat-Saving Habit," ("Food for Thought," March/April) leaves the faulty impression that shade-grown coffee plantations are as good for birds as complex native forests are. They certainly are more bird-friendly than fields of open-grown crops. But local tropical birds and most tropical migrants need mosaics of land uses, including large, unbroken tracts of complex forests. Coffee plantations cannot be "new rainforests."
Lawrence S. Hamilton
Charlotte, Vermont

JUSTICE FOR ALL

While I am all in favor of environmental justice and even in favor of increasing our Sierra Club efforts in this area, I must protest the cheap shot at environmental enforcement in your March/April "Sierra Club Bulletin," [which cited studies indicating that enforcement of environmental regulations was biased against African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and the poor]. As an enforcer, I know that when we sue air and water polluters, we strike a blow for the poor and people of color. Why? Because steel mills, chemical plants, and their ilk tend to locate in non-rich neighborhoods.

Sierra Club members should be congratulated for being among a handful of organizations doing more for environmental justice than everyone else. I don't see you criticizing the local bowling league or the stamp collectors' club for doing so little for eco-justice, so why not give us some recognition where due?
Charlie Garlow
Silver Spring, Maryland

FISH FEELINGS

Since the Sierra Club's purpose is to "practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources," I am surprised that you would print "The Use of Rivers" (March/April), in which the author seems to delight in watching her companions "catch a hundred fish and let all of them go." She then proceeds to try fishing herself, and ends up with a steelhead "quivering in my hands" and holds the fish next to her face for photos while the fish "fixes me with one round, mortal eye."

There is a misconception that because fish have no voice, they feel no pain. A hooked fish struggles out of fear and physical pain. Once out of the water it begins to suffocate, its gills may collapse, and its swim bladder may rupture. A fish that has been "played" may be so stressed that it may die anyway once released. In its fight to survive during catch-and-release there may be a build-up of lactic acid leaving the fish stiff and sore with less chance of survival.

I am hoping that this letter will "educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environments," as I understand the Sierra Club hopes to do.
Gina LaFond
Duluth, Minnesota

AMENDMENTS

Our thanks to E. K. Teberg of Hemet, California-and dozens of other careful readers-who pointed out that we misplaced Capitol Reef National Park on the map on page 38 of our March/April issue. As Teberg put it, "I am now a true believer in plate tectonics. Capitol Reef is shifting faster than even California." The geographical upheavals extended to our mislabeling of the canyon photo on page 3, which was taken just outside the boundary of Grand Staircase­Escalante National Monument.

A portion of our March/April cover photo shows land owned by the University of California at its Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center, which is a Mojave National Preserve inholding. The Sweeney Center is open for research, education, and public tours, but not for general recreation.

AND THE ANSWERS ARE...

Still puzzling over the "Where in the Wild Are You?" photos published in our March/April issue? Their mysterious locations can now be revealed.

  1. Glacier Peak Wilderness, Washington
  2. Mojave National Preserve, California
  3. Nauset Marsh, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (we also accepted Monomoy Island as a correct answer)
  4. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
  5. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

The winner, chosen in a random drawing of entries with five correct answers, will receive a hiking and camping trip for two in Bryce and Zion national parks. For the name of the winner (who has already been notified), send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Sierra. Many thanks to our generous sponsor, travel outfitter Backroads.

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., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794; e-mail: sierra.letters@sierraclub.org.


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