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November 1999 Planet Main
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The Planet


by Jenny Coyle

My, What A Big Beak You Have

"Told you so."

That's what former Sierra Club board of directors member Les Reid is saying. Or at least he's thinking it.

In 1987, when a captive breeding program was proposed for California's 22 endangered wild condors, Reid adamantly opposed the plan. The process will tame them, he said; our efforts should go to preserving more condor range.

But captured they were, and bred, and now 49 of them are flying wild...that is, if Reid's house is considered wilderness.

One day in August, Reid heard a commotion upstairs in his Southern California home and found that eight of the birds -- with average wingspans of nine feet -- had busted through a screen door and seized control of his bedroom.

"One was on the bed and the other seven were sitting on a cot," he said. "They were just looking at me. I think they were Sierra Club members having a meeting and since there were eight of them they couldn't reach consensus on what to tear up first."

Reid and the birds, 15 of which have made themselves at home in the small town of Pine Mountain Club, have earned celebrity status with coverage in the New York Times, National Public Radio, ABC World News Tonight and People magazine.


And AnotherClub Celebrity

"It started as a story about shark-finning, I swear," insists Jeffrey Mikulina, Hawai'i Chapter director for the Sierra Club.

Except that shark-finning isn't mentioned at all in the tiny article accompanying the giant photo of bare-chested Mikulina holding a surfboard in the October issue of Details magazine.

Mikulina spent time with a magazine reporter on a press tour to fill her in on all kinds of local issues. He gave her details about finning, the brutal -- and legal -- practice in which long-line fishing boats hook sharks, lop off their fins and throw the maimed creature back in the sea to drown. The fins, used in shark fin soup, fetch $50 a pound. Mikulina says over 60,000 sharks were slaughtered last year alone.

There were too many details, apparently, for the editors at Details, who instead sent a photographer with orders to get the usually pony-tailed Mikulina with his hair down, holding his surfboard under a palm tree.

The text gives him credit for "wrangling with bureaucrats" and "trying to persuade local politicians that no, the unspoiled coastline of Kauai doesn't need a new 250-unit resort."

But there's no ignoring the photo.

"I look all greasy and it looks like I have two black eyes," laments Mikulina.

Yeah. Sure.


Still More Fame and Glory

It was a dark and stormy afternoon at the airport outside Baltimore. Hurricane Floyd had caused two flights to be canceled for Ozark (Missouri) Chapter director Ken Midkiff. He was working with a ticket agent to arrange a flight out the next morning when another agent stopped and glanced at Midkiff's ticket.

"Ken Midkiff?" she asked. "You work for the Sierra Club, right? I've seen your picture and writing in that Sierra Club publication."

"Sierra magazine?" an astonished Midkiff replied.

Nope. Turns out she meant The Planet.

Then she made Midkiff's day. Turning to the other ticket agent, she said, "Get him in first class." And they did --at no extra charge.

"It felt strange sitting up there with the upper crust," Midkiff said.

(Maybe it was his reward for delivering a prize-worthy sound bite the previous day. It was spoken at an outdoor press conference to announce the release of the Club's report "Corporate Hogs at the Public Trough." When it started to rain, the group moved inside a Lutheran church -- everyone, that is, except for the live pig they had on hand for the press conference. A reporter with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked Midkiff why the pig was left outside. "Because he's not Lutheran," Midkiff quipped. And they printed it.)

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