Readers Sound Off

Feedback on our July/August issue

From the print edition:


I was enjoying the pieces in the magazine about the Wilderness Act of 1964 until my experience was upended by the presence of a Ted Nugent quote, extolling an appreciation for nature. Heck, even George Wallace or Bull Connor had an offhand comment here or there about liberty or freedom, but that doesn't associate them with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nugent is a virulent anti-environmentalist and a man who shoots captive animals. 

If you want to be inclusive of hunters, which is the right idea, there are countless among them who would be legitimate representatives of the virtues of wilderness and the foresightedness of untrammeled landscapes.

Wayne Pacelle
President, Humane Society of the United States
Washington, D.C.

Ted Nugent!? You quote Ted Nugent in an article about wilderness? Did he threaten to shoot you if you didn't put his name in the article? Looking at the sunrise before hopping on an ATV to vaporize some poor deer with an AR-15 on private property is not a wilderness experience.

Steve Dangberg
Via email

A note from editor in chief Bob Sipchen: In putting together Sierra's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, we wanted to show that even people who disagree sharply on significant issues often share a bone-deep connection to beautiful wild places. I regret not finding a better voice to include in our pages.


Kenneth Brower's essay was wild and wonderful, and addressed the hijacking of environmental ethics from intrinsic to instrumental value ("Reclaiming Wilderness," July/August). True wilderness has value not just for what it does for humans but also for what it is, with or without us. 

Mark Edwards
Boone, Iowa


In your article about the impact of sunscreens on marine ecosystems, I was surprised there wasn't a discussion about using rash guards instead of sunscreen. I use one anytime I go snorkeling. It saves my skin from toxic chemicals and also saves me money.

Lisa Davison
Petaluma, California

Correction Due to an editing error, "Create" incorrectly identified the federal law authorizing a U.S. president to protect public lands by declaring them national monuments. That authority was codified in the 1906 Antiquities Act.

From our in-box:


What does it mean to say of Wilderness, Alaska that it is "visited by less than one ship a year?" Less than one ship a year is no ships a year, which could be better said thus: "is visited by no ships." What, exactly, were you trying to say?

Robert Miskimon
Vashon Island, Washington

Ken Brower's "Reclaiming Wilderness" described the blunder of a "wilderness conference" that actually provided a forum for "wilderness deconstructionists." But that July/August issue commits the same blunder by quoting Alice Waters in a photograph of Lake Clark Wilderness. Alice Waters recently opposed the only marine Wilderness on the West Coast (Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore). Using the same phony "deconstructionist" arguments mentioned by Brower, Waters argued that "wilderness advocates [are] stuck in an archaic and discredited preservationist paradigm." That "paradigm" that Alice Waters seeks to discredit is otherwise known as the Wilderness Act.

Gordon Bennett
Former member of the SF Bay Chapter ExCom.
Inverness, California

I was shocked and quite frankly livid that you quoted Ted Nugent in the most recent issue. He is an unstable man and a hate-monger. I'm not supporting the Sierra Club's protection of wildlife so that people like Nugent can turn around, take their rifles and blow the animals away. I'm sure that I won't be the only reader who was offended. 

Mary Mason

 I applaud the Sierra Club for your work, and enjoy reading your magazine. However, I'm fairly appalled that your magazine felt the need to include a quote by a has-been rock star in your article about the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Mr. Nugent is a big-game trophy hunter whose most recent claims to fame are controversial political statements and cowardly threats against the President (for which, he received a visit from US Secret Service agents). I have no idea what Mr. Nugent's views are on the Wilderness Act, but considering his extreme right-wing politics, I seriously doubt he supports the law in its current form. Including Mr. Nugent's quote in your article is something of an insult to hard-working individuals who are much more deserving of recognition in their efforts to protect and preserve the environment. 

James C. Adamski
Professional Geologist
Orlando, Florida 

In the article about the Our Wild America campaign and Sierra Club re-branding, Sierra magazine made the appalling decision to insert a quote from Ted Nugent over a lovely picture Wilderness in Hawaii. Is that the re-branding you are talking about? I am stupefied and angry. Ted Nugent is the supreme wildlife Wacker and Stacker. As recently as last winter he derided not only the Endangered Species Act and the EPA on his Facebook page, calling them "rotten frauds and scams from hell," he kills and kills and kills: gunning animals from airplanes, killing them in traps, killing deer, bobcats, bears, marmots, coyotes--everything--and then he gloats salaciously over their carcasses. He has been convicted of hunting violations. He disrespects Native Americans by wearing ceremonial garb during his concert performances. I'm sure people who have equally disgusting views may also have the capacity to wax poetic about wilderness, but why would the Sierra Club ever quote them in our literature? How about quoting Sarah Palin or James Watt or the CEO of Exxon? How tone deaf could our Club be? I've let my membership go from other organizations over less. How many did we lose this time? Sierra magazine, we deserve an explanation and you owe us a huge apology. I expect to see it in print. Whoever made this editing decision should be fired. 

Mary Katherine Ray
Wildlife Chair
Rio Grande Chapter
Winston, New Mexico

I cannot understand why you chose to print a pretty quote from, of all people, Ted Nugent. The man has said, "I'm stymied to come up with anything funnier than people who think animals have rights. Just stick an arrow through their lungs." There's nothing illegal in that statement. However, Nugent (who sells canned hunts at his "little Michigan fen") has been convicted of violating hunting laws more than once.

Nugent referred to Heidi Prescott of the Fund for Animals as a "worthless whore" and a "shallow slut," asking "who needs to club a seal, when you can club Heidi?"

I realize Sierra is not an animal-rights publication, but really--this man is an over-the-top villain who kills wildlife for all the wrong reasons.

Debra Lewis
Hayward, California 

You printed a quotation by Ted Nugent. Would you please tell us why anyone thought that this would be a good idea? While it may be vaguely rational compared to his usual rants (although it contains a idiotic cliche and values nature only as a killing ground), you can hardly have been unaware of his larger history. And we do hope you are not going to make an argument on the ground of inclusiveness.

It would surprise us if we were the only readers who were not dismayed by this.

Anne Somsel and Stephen Vincent Kobasa
New Haven, Connecticut

Ted Nugent? Are you kidding? He is the most offensive shill for the right-wing and was recently "interviewed" by the Secret Service for threatening the President. I actually like his music, but refuse to listen to it based on his politics. While, he might love his Michigan fen and Texas ranch, his political ilk certainly do not support conservation. An explanation why you chose to quote him would be most illuminating.

David Leonard 

As a long time member I look forward to getting each new magazine. This month I was stunned to see Ted Nugent quoted quite prominently. Using him as a spokesperson for wilderness is puzzling to say the least. His long-espoused lifestyle of using of high-powered armament to kill just about anything that moves seems to fly in the face of Sierra Club's stated mission of wilderness protection. He favors hunting wolves from planes among other charming personality quirks. Even the quote makes reference to his hunting habit. What were you thinking?? Or does this represent a new direction for Sierra Club and should I be re-evaluating my participation?? I carefully searched the article to find a tie-in, but came up empty.

On my next Sierra Club hike should I wear camo or flagger orange?? As my grandmother used to say, "Bad taste is never in style". This member feels granting him this legitimacy is both a poor choice and very bad taste. 

Penny Odom

Ted Nugent? Really? You are using Ted Nugent in paean to wilderness? The Sierra Club is not getting any more of this family's support.

Les and Catherine Ford Parker
Gabriels, New York

Are you serious? A quote from Ted Nugent in Sierra, lovingly illustrated with an idyllic nature scene? (I just double-checked to make sure this wasn't the April Fool's issue.) This is a Romney supporter who has made death threats against President Obama and Democrats in general and who owns and operates a canned hunting ranch. Please tell me that whoever edited this article did not realize any of this and is horribly embarrassed, and that violent haters will not be held up as role models in Sierra again. 

Stephanie Bennett
Northridge, California

I am astonished that you would select a Ted Nugent quote, in an article written by the son of David Brower, one of the icons of the Sierra Club. Nugent is as anti environmentalist as you can get. Here are a couple of quotes I just got offline that supports that

*  At a 2009 West Virginia rally sponsored in part by Massey Energy, Nugent "defended mountaintop removal mining," according to reporters on the scene. "On behalf of the Nugent family, I say, start up the bulldozers and get me some coal."

* In a January 14, 2014, op-ed for Newsmax, Nugent asserted, "The whole global warming lie is a giant, international environmental scam and hoax designed to control people by instigating fear and panic. There is no global warming, only hot air from Al Gore and his gaggles of Woodstock rejects who have made many millions by perpetuating something that just isn't so.

Bob Spichen, someone needs to be severely chastised for this egregious error.

Robert Grimm
Member since 1970, Life Member since 1996 and John Muir Member since 2005
Fall City, Washington

Thought I'd seen and heard about everything in my 67 years, but Sierra quoting Ted Nugent?!

Alan Malone--life member
Colorado Springs, Colorado

 We were very disappointed to see your quoting Ted Nugent. I'm glad that Ted enjoys being outdoors at sunrise, but he is one of the most reactionary entertainers in the USA and has a history of endorsing the views of the most reactionary anti-environmental politicians and groups in society. A huge number of those on us in the NRA despise him. When I saw the quote, I immediately remembered an article you published some few years ago praising the US Navy for "going green" The US Navy, along with the other branches of the US armed forces, has a long history of supporting imperialist extractive adventures in other countries that cause extreme environmental derogation.

We admire the Sierra Club for its long history in working for conservation and environmental improvement. We are also happy that it does not oppose sport hunting as a wildlife management tool. However supporting racist reactionaries and military enforcers of imperialism is inexcusable. We will have to rethink our membership in the Sierra Club if there is not an editorial change in this policy. You should have quoted Willie Nelson!

Walter and Yolanda Garza Birdwell


Reed McManus missed the mark in the electric vehicle article "How Far Can We Go." He should have spoken with Oliver Kuttner and the folks at Edison 2 about their Very Light Car. It already has a range well in excess of 200 miles, seats four, and can sustain a 60mph cruising speed with a 5 horsepowere motor. After converting the Automotive X-Prize winning vehicle to all-electric, they demonstrated a 90% fuel cost savings over a 50mpg diesel Jetta. When he found out I was a solar PV developer, Oliver told me to stop comparing solar electricity to coal electricity, and start comparing solar transportation to oil transportation, because the economics are far better. Unfortunately this fabulous vehicle may never be available in the U.S where it was designed. Cars will never be efficient as long as they are essentially shoeboxes with wheels.

Hugh Stoll
Harrisonburg, Virginia

P.S. I have no business interest in Edison 2, I'm just a big fan...when I'm not biking. 

I read your article on electric vehicles with interest. One point most articles regarding electric vehicles fail to make is that they are not efficiently "refueled" en route to anywhere. They are best refueled at one's destination, be it work, home, or an evening out. The concept of stopping and waiting for a vehicle to be refueled at some intermediate point is carried over from internal-combustion-engine-driven vehicles. Most current EVs are not intended for cross-country use, or for use as a delivery vehicle. So charge times aren't nearly as important as range.

We have driven a Nissan Leaf for a few years now, and have never charged it anywhere except at our destination.

Dan Hofstadter
Tucson, Arizona

Lots of press about Toyota Prius, never about the Honda Civic Hybrid. Why not?

I have driven a Honda Civic Hybrid since 2003 and enjoy cruising at 55 mpg on the freeway (staying under 65 mph) and average 38 mpg around town. Have 103,000 miles on it and plan to drive it to 300,000. Hopefully.

Patricia Crow
Redding, California



In my July/August issue of Sierra magazine the article on The Mayor of Wind talks about how the Tea Party and the Koch brothers are trying to end Texas's wind energy boom. Here is California the Sierra Club and others are trying to end it. They complain of being ugly on the landscape, noisy, killing birds, built in endangered species areas, etc. Confusing. 

Bob Gregg
Member since 1960
Glendale, California

As a Texan who would love to see more red to green bridges being built, I was at first encouraged by the profile of a fellow "conservation Republican" in your "Grilled" column. But, the Tea Party bashing that permeated your West Texas wind article left me feeling burned. 

One can be pro-wind without being pro-subsidies, especially if the subsidies have already done their job. As was noted, generation costs have "fallen by more than 40 percent over the past three years" and the wind companies are "not going anywhere." In an age of record debt, are taxpayers really supposed to buy the idea that because oil and nuclear got egregiously over-extended subsidies, wind should too? (Perhaps, wind subsidies could be justified by the lack of a carbon tax, but that was not the argument made.) 

There are actually opportunities to make common cause with some Tea Party types--such as organic farmers buried in regulatory red tape--but environmentalists must first acknowledge that this movement is more than just a Koch brothers' front. Better a partner than a punching bag. 

John Murdock
Director, Earth Stewardship Alliance
Hallettsville, Texas



Reading the issue while I ate, I almost sputtered my spaghetti sauce all over the page when I read the brand name for the pickles you show on page 7.

Some one in Austin has a great sense of Gaelic (Irish) humor.

David Loughran
Indian Trail, North Carolina


Beautiful photograph of Steamboat Rock! I was on one of the last raft trips--long ago now--before the dam builders got started. Beautiful trip all the way, marred only by one strange incident. We stopped to re-supply our water one day, proceeded on to the night's camping spot. In the middle of the night, one by one, we all fled from our sleeping bags toward the established toilet area, desperate for relief. Very disturbing event all around. When the trip was over, a sample of that day's water supply was sent to the Univ of Utah chem lab for analysis. The instant answer . . .  "That water is loaded with epson salts!" Future trips were warned to seek water from a more salubrious source. . . . 

I do enjoy reading SIERRA. My only author-contribution to it was back around 1970 when my article about the saving of Big Basin Redwoods State Park was featured. The Sempervrens Fund is going stronger than ever, tying together all the redwood and open-space areas of the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

Allen Jamieson 
Sacramento, California 


The Wilderness Act was a milestone in protecting our national heritage but attitudes did not change overnight, as you point out. "Wildness" is still seen, even by many who support it, as the opposite of civilization instead of its complement. So long as the culture emphasizes a bi-polar distinction between what is "wild" and what is not the vast majority of land is exposed to self-styled developers who oppose almost all kinds of regulation. The consequence is that, between the rare wilderness areas, there is unrestricted exploitation of the environment. Most of us see ugly strip developments, the result of such commercial dominance, all round us.

I am glad to read that Ireland is creating a national park, but the characterization of "those not-so-wild Europeans" distorts the real differences between the US and Europe. There are dozens of national parks in Europe, where more dense settlement has generally led to a different, less polarized culture of land management than exists in the US. European parks are not wildernesses but managed areas in which it is accepted that regulations are required to promote sustainable use of natural resources while conserving the beauty of the landscape. Commercial activities and even private buildings are restricted, and not only in parks and 'green belts,' in ways that many Americans would not accept.

As a European who has lived most of my life in the US, I think we should all learn from each other in order to better sustain the planet we share.

O. Nigel Bolland

Lenny Antonelli's article on re-creating a wilderness in Ireland on a continent that almost has none left me puzzled. If he had traveled to Sweden's Sarek National Park (the oldest national park in Europe) in the Arctic, he would have discovered some 100 glaciers, 19 summits exceeding 6,200 feet, no marked trails, no lodgings, numerous birches and conifers, and streams safe to drink from (i survived a few sips) all ensconced within 763 square miles. In 1996. Sarek was declared a National World Heritage Site primarily because it's Europe's last wilderness.

Kjerstin Sama
Media, Pennsylvania

I just wanted to say thank you for the short yet insightful article regarding mushrooms as the next big thing.

In my own mycology studies, I have found that mushrooms do play a major part in this world and it's so exciting to read that others out there feel the same way. Mushrooms, although very tasty, have so many other positive uses! We can learn a lot from fungus if more people take the time and the energy to conduct the research. One of the best books out there regarding mushrooms and their many uses is Mycophilia by Eugenia Bone - a worthwhile read. 

Kimberly B. Richardson
Memphis, Tennessee

Dashka Slater reports: "Skin cancer is already the most common form of cancer in the United States", and since Harvard shows America's ozone hole opening, advises: " don't forget your sunscreen." We also learn "6,000 tons of sunscreen washes from the bodies of swimmers into the ocean" per year and that this "chemical laden goop" is "toxic" to plankton and "bleaches" corals.

The watchdog Environmental Working Group says most sunscreens are poorly regulated, do not protect from UV as they say, and contain carcinogens. An example from the EWG: "studies have found a link between higher concentrations of oxybenzone and health harms." "More than 40 percent of all beach and sport sunscreens in this year's guide contain oxybenzone."

Please read the whys of their guide. See how safe your screen is, and the few they OK.  Is this why Americans slather more "goop" than others, yet have more cancer? A better thought: "Don't forget the right sunscreen," but first cover up! 

I only hope the right lotion helps the Ocean!

Thank you very much for the important advocacy and inspiration of Sierra magazine!

Matt Mailander
Palm Desert, California

Got some corrections or clarifications you:

Page 21: Two to three orders of magnitude more methane from fracking. I would really like to see the reference for this. Otherwise, it's 2 to 3 "times" more methane from fracking.

Page 21 also says solar power in Germany is as cheap as power from fossil fuels. At five or maybe six installations (or contracts for) in the U.S. in the last 18 months, the cost of solar has been at or below fossil fuels including in Austin where a new 130 Mw facility was signed for $0.05 per kWh.

Page 20 says: Overall, U.S. emissions are at their lowest level in 20 years. Considering the EIA's CO2 accounting criteria, where all CO2 generated from burning fossil fuels in the U.S. is tallied on a yearly basis, this is true. But it is not reality. The U.S. offshored 20 to 25 percent of it's CO2 emissions in 2012 for goods and services produced overseas and consumed in the here in the states. These emissions are ours. We bought and paid for them. Prior to 2000, when China began its rapid industrialization, the EIA tally was totally accurate. But a lot has happened since 2000.

 Page 20 also says: Spring is arriving 3 days earlier than it did between 1960 and 1980. Y'all should really consider referencing your quotes, or at least having an expert review them before publishing. I have a double handful of academic papers that say spring is arriving 30 days (or more) early across the North American West. Spring may be arriving 3 days earlier on average across the globe (that would not be my guess however) but average global anything is next to meaningless. As an example, if we can hold warming to 2 degrees C average across the globe, warming over land will be 4 degrees C and over water about 1 degree C (because of the cooling nature of our oceans). Warming in the Arctic and periphery of Antarctica on average is already 1.8 degrees C (double the global average) and 3 to 4 degrees C in eastern Alaska and northwestern Canada, most of Siberia, much of northern Greenland, the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica.

Page 11 talks about air travel being responsible for some 20 percent of the U.S. total of global warming. If one is evaluating climate science based on 20-year old science, this is completely true. This knowledge level evaluates global warming based on the simple test tube warming created by carbon dioxide in a controlled environment where nothing else is taken into consideration. But when everything in the atmosphere is taken into consideration: the breakdown rates of CO2, the other global warming pollutants emitted from aviation, bright and dark soot, global cooling sulfates, interaction of the global warming and global cooling pollutants and mechanisms dealing with other things in the atmosphere like water vapor, and hydroxyls and the indirect effects of all these things on clouds and how clouds warm and cool the earth and the altitude that the emissions are made--the net warming from aviation in the most critical short-term time frames is negative. That is, aviation cools the planet in the 20 year time frame. In the long term, because of all of the above, aviation creates only five percent of the warming that coal does (power generation in Unger 2010). Unger 2010: Figure 1, page 3384, Power, Transportation and Aviation Sectors.

But I am not knocking what it is y'all do! These are easily made errors based on decades of environmental advocacy. But science is not a static thing. Unfortunately, new science is notorious for being under reported and undervalued. Virtually none of it makes it into the popular literature. Because of the perceived debate, climate science is outreach is the worst!

Bruce Melton
Austin Region ExCom
Texas Chapter ExCom and Climate Change Chair

Thank you for covering the wastefulness of flaring of natural gas: "One-third of the natural gas produced in North Dakota's Bakken shale formation is burned off and wasted. [This is] ... the greenhouse gas equivalent of 1 million cars ...." Oil companies "flare" natural gas and other petroleum products when they decide it is not sufficiently profitable to capture, refine, and market these emissions. Various government regulations allow them to do so without penalty. The NY Times, on Dec. 17, 2013, informed us that "natural gas flaring around the world results in emissions of 400 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to the World Bank. That is equivalent to the emissions of 77 million cars, and much of that wasted gas is produced in countries where natural gas could provide power to people who subsist without electricity."

So what we have is oil companies flaring -- wasting and causing emissions of carbon dioxide annually -- equivalent to 77 million cars, all because our governments do not require them to capture, process, and sell these flared byproducts. Our Environmental Protection Agency could require these oil companies to cease and desist flaring and to capture, process, and market these byproducts. Please help me push our government to stop this wasteful and harmful practice of flaring. 

Jim Musselman
San Francisco, California


On page 9 of your July/August 2014 issue, there is an ad depicting a so-called green ranch cabin sitting at the foot of majestic snow-covered mountains. Doesn't it seem lovely, all alone amid the splendor? No doubt, the home uses energy efficiently -- although the manufacturer only claims a vague "green" or "eco-friendly" construction, without mention of meeting any third-party standards such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. But my argument is not with the building's materials or construction. What galls me is its subtle elitism. And its message about land. Who is the market for such a building? What happened to the land on which it was built? Where did the real ranchers go? Where did the wildlife go? Where is the road built to serve this home? What about the resources (water, sewer, electricity, fire crews) to serve it? What about the people who work in places like Aspen and can barely afford a trailer to live in, while a home like this gets used intermittently?

 This ad reminds me of the ads for SUVs that show them romping through pristine streams and meadows, the driver salivating over bagging his next wilderness adventure and bragging rights back at the water cooler in Manhattan. Oh, but the SUV is a hybrid!

Why is it that we can't just leave the land be? Instead, we are told (and sold) the promise that we can own a piece of it.

Whether you print this will show how much you're willing to stand for what the Sierra Club stands for, at the risk of ruffling the feathers of the advertisers whose dollars you gladly take.

Michael F. Tevlin
Portland, Oregon


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