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Where the Caribou Roam
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Defending the Forest, and Other Crimes
 
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Sierra Magazine
Letters

Editor's note: Sierra and the Club's Northwest field office have been deluged with letters and calls about "Salmon's Second Coming" by David James Duncan in our March/April issue. Dan Kibler of Danville, California, called the article "conservation writing at its best." Bill Huppert of Perry Hall, Maryland, felt so inspired by it he bought some stamps, made 100 copies of the action postcard we enclosed in that magazine, and asked members of the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association to join our effort to protect Northwest salmon.

We knew the cause had risen to national prominence on April 1, when The New York Times ran a strong editorial calling for the removal of four Snake River dams. The National Marine Fisheries Service is still counting the thousands of cards you sent. We'll let you know what happens.

Friends of Salmon

I have just read David James Duncan's article "Salmon's Second Coming" and am deeply touched. One would hope that recovery efforts would begin immediately. To continue on the path designed by ignorance becomes a metaphor for the arrogance and lack of humility in our culture. If only all our politicians would read this most important documentation of how "profits reserved for Anglo industrialists" direct our society today.
Nina Leopold Bradley
Baraboo, Wisconsin

Many thanks to David James Duncan for being willing to state the truth: that preserving and loving the earth is, at its core, about such "wimpy" issues as love, spirit, and wholeness; about more than just how useful our environment is to the perceived needs of modern society. It's time we stopped allowing our voices to be shamed into silence with the accusation that we are allowing sentiment to obscure reality. Loving the earth is nothing to be ashamed of, and our need to connect to spirit and wholeness is about survival. We need to understand that this is neither mushy nor softheaded. It has real power of moral authority, and is actually the only argument for which there is no valid rebuttal.
Harold Sloane
San Rafael, California

I was born and raised in Lewiston, Idaho. My dad took me to the dams in the area and showed me the "fish ladders." I was amazed at the time to find out that the fish could actually jump up the ladders to swim upstream to spawn. Well, we didn't know the half of it, did we?
Molly Jo Eggleton
Lake Forest, California

It is ironic that in an issue devoted to the preservation of salmon you glorify the ritualistic hunting and consumption of them. While this may have been necessary in the past, it certainly is not necessary today. The article begins with the author extolling the magnificence of the salmon in one breath and claiming them "a delectable meal" in another.
Dan McElwee
Seattle, Washington

David James Duncan is a lyrical writer, but he gets some basic biology wrong: Nature did not bequeath "just one species" the ability to swim between the inland West and the Pacific Ocean. Six species of the Pacific salmonids (chinook, chum, coho, pink, sockeye, and steelhead) do so. And, before dams stopped them, other fish made this journey as well: The amazing white sturgeon, North American's largest freshwater fish, would voyage to the sea and back repeatedly over its century-long life span, growing up to 20 feet long and weighing half a ton. Like salmon, white sturgeon have been decimated by the Snake River dams. There are undoubtedly a few old sturgeon in the Snake River that remember the smell of the Pacific Ocean even though they have not swum in it for half a century.
John Ryan
Seattle, Washington

David James Duncan replies: I apologize for my article's flaws and thank, with all my heart, the tens of thousands who looked past the errors, heard the desperate love, and "inundated" the Corps of Engineers for a change, with testimony on behalf of wild salmon. Despite the National Marine Fisheries Service's lies, we have alerted the nation.

Grazing Debate

Wonderful! I am so heartened that the Sierra Club-of which I have been a member for at least 20 years-indicates a strong and confident openness to the subject of grazing on public lands ("High Noon in Cattle Country," March/April). Thanks especially to Rose Strickland for her enlightened views.

There is no doubt that our nation's culture, economy, and environment are and will continue to be enhanced and buffered by the stability and viability of the livestock-raising industry. Cattle and sheep may generally be fattened up in feedlots for a few months before becoming food for Americans, but their primary growth, health, and cleanliness are best achieved in the open, natural, recycling, and productive spaces that public lands still provide at minimal cost to the taxpaying consumer. Our goal must be not to destroy the ranching business but to continue to develop sound livestock-management techniques and ensure that ranchers understand and practice them.
Tom McGowan
Redding, California

I was glad to see your substantial coverage of public-lands grazing. Unfortunately only authors Watkins and Wuerthner spoke truth to power, recognized the facts, and came to the logical conclusion of livestock removal. Everyone else who contributed indulged in wishful thinking, hoping that some day (with "endless pressure endlessly applied"!) the agencies may begin to protect these devastated ecosystems. Besides being the only recovery program that works, the removal of livestock is a clear and unequivocal action. No arguing for years or decades about acceptable damage, stubble heights, compliance. Wildlife has been losing these arguments, and now it's time it won.
Karen Klitz
Berkeley, California

Adoption of a no-grazing policy would hurt our grassroots efforts in Nevada and other western states to obtain legislative protection for our wilderness study areas and designation of national conservation areas. The Black Rock Desert/High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trail National Conservation Area proposal (with designation of 11 wilderness study areas as wilderness) in northern Nevada would become a historical footnote. There'd be no congressional support if current ranchers were eliminated. Let's stick with our reasoned approach of supporting the good stewards-yes, they are out there-and kicking only the abusers off the public lands. It takes a heck of a lot more effort than pontificating about the evils of livestock.
Dennis Ghiglieri
Reno, Nevada

Banning domestic livestock from public lands is anything but a radical notion. It's pure common sense. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, with our tax money, are supposed to manage our lands for the benefit of the watershed, wildlife, and the public at large. They aren't. Last year, one week before Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck arrived to celebrate wilderness, I took a picture of a "stream" in our nation's first wilderness, the Gila. It was nothing more than a trench latrine for cattle!
Michael Sauber
Silver City, New Mexico

There's one simple thing that each of us could do to help save the West, and improve our own health in the bargain: Eat less meat, or no meat at all. Without demand, the grazing problem would simply fade away, along with that fatty buildup in our arteries!
Rebecca Dale
North Lima, Ohio

Earth first!

Kudos on the article on Howie Wolke and the work he and many others are involved in to preserve the Northern Rockies ("One Man's Wilderness," March/April). As a cofounder of Earth First!, Howie says he quit the "disorganization" in 1990 because, in part, it had "become militant vegan feminist witches for wilderness." Yes, we have militant vegan feminist witches in our ranks, and we also have those working on animal liberation, globalization issues, social ecology, Native American struggles, opposition to genetic engineering, and many other campaigns. Although we have diversified over the years and aren't single-issue like EF! once was, we still stand firmly behind our founding motto, "No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth." Today, 20 years since our inception, we are anything but a "disorganization."
Kris Maenz, Adam Volk, Josh Laughlin Earth First! Journal Editorial Collective Eugene, Oregon

Trade Talk

In response to Carl Pope's fine article, "Trading Away Democracy" ("Ways and Means," March/April), I suggest Jim Hightower's excellent book If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They'd Have Given Us Candidates (HarperCollins). Hightower illustrates the involvement of Congress and President Clinton in this global hijacking in which even water is subject to the rules of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization. Hightower explains that the "corporation" is just a piece of paper, allowed to exist only through receipt of a state charter. The founders of this nation fought a bloody revolution to be free of oppression-raw economic power-a threat to self-government. Corporations should not have rights as persons.
Hazel Matthews
as Vegas, Nevada

Civil Action

I could not help but notice a gross mischaracterization made in "Earth in the Balcony" (November/December 1999) n your review of the movie Civil Action. In that article you innacurately characterized the story's protagonist, Jan Schlichtmann, as the lowest form of legal counsel, an ambulance chaser. It is interesting that your review would paint Jan in this light, although it is not inconsistent with the portrayal of his character in the movie. This seems to be an error that was generated by the movie's Hollywood packaging and version of actual events. The real Jan Schlichtmann, however, is the farthest thing from this maligning characterization and in fairness to Jan this mischaracterization needs to stop.

I am fairly confident Jan is unaffected by this portrayal, but as a colleague of Jan's I felt the need to right this wrong. I have had the privilege of working with Jan for the past few years on a variety of legal issues. In addition to his true genius as an attorney, Jan's most striking characteristic is his integrity. I know, for example, that the first scene in the movie Civil Action is fictional inasmuch as Jan did not position the accident victim in a wheelchair in front of the jurors to elicit sympathy, but rather insisted the injured party walk in to the court room of his own volition, albeit with the use of crutches. Jan was involved with a congressional inquiry of the Kennedy assasination as a young lawyer and who also worked with the Clamshell Alliance.

Jan continues to be involved and interested in a variety of challenging environmental and legitimate injury claims and he continues to break new ground in both these areas. In reality, it is people like Jan and the integrity they bring to the table in these often daunting situations that makes a true difference in our world.
Glenn D. Goodman
Springfield, Massachusetts

CORRECTION

In "One Man's Wilderness" (March/April) we inadvertently included elk and moose in a long list of "top-of-the-food-chain carnivores." Rest assured, however, that these two beasts are still devoutly vegetarian. - 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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