The March/April cover article, "Call of the Congaree" by Rick Bass, clearly expressed the joy of discovering a special place. Bass said, "Thank God it is too mired and muddy, too wild and glorious, for us to get our roads into it." The Congaree is the "last significant stand of old-growth river-bottom hardwood" precisely because the others have been stripped bare by the tree cutters who long ago learned how to get into the mired and muddy. Without the Sierra Club and local volunteer leaders Jim Elder, Dick Watkins, Brion Blackwelder, and Ted Snyder, there would be no national monument for Bass to visit. They did it for a total out-of-pocket cost of $7,100, about 47 cents an acre. That, and years of hard work, brilliant leadership, and a passionate love for this place. Denny Shaffer
Sierra Club past president
Fayetteville, North Carolina
In the March/April issue there is a photo of a residential subdivision next to the headline "Ten Reasons Why Sprawl Is Hazardous to Your Health" ("Lay of the Land"). Is this picture supposed to epitomize sprawl? In terms of density, the subdivision is composed of lots no larger than 5,000 square feet, a density of eight to ten units per acre. Guidelines say this is the minimum needed to support bus-transit operations.
The density pictured, in conjunction with activity centers within walking distance and the open space that clearly surrounds it, is a fundamental component of "smart growth." If you had shown instead an aerial view of a suburban subdivision of 1.5-acre lots, which is the rule where I live in Chatham County, North Carolina, I wonder how many of your readers would have recognized it as truly automobile-dependent sprawl? Most, I fear, would have thought, "How attractive!" James Carnahan
Pittsboro, North Carolina
Editors note: In Las Vegas, where this picture was taken, urbanized areas grew 244 percent between 1982 and 1996, and the still-growing population is expected to double by 2020. So that open space in the background likely wont stay open for long.
HERES THE BEEF "Nothing to Beef About" is full of manure. The authors use of the oxymoron "conscientious meat-eater" betrays her lack of research on the environment, empathy for animals, and knowledge of the slaughterhouse. Organic grains, fed to cows, still require huge areas of land to grow them, and lots and lots of water. They cause topsoil erosion, habitat destruction, and even species extinction. If meat-eaters really want to do the best thing for our planet, it is time to make some changes. I find being vegan an ecological, compassionate, healthy, and delicious way to live. James Corcoran
Madison Heights, Michigan
In March/Aprils "Call of the Congaree," "alligator snapping turtles" should have read "common snapping turtles." Had the false chameleons on the boardwalk been sunning for long, they would have been green rather than brown; and blacksnakes do not in fact pose any danger to butterflies. In "Beauty and the Badlands," we misidentified rancher John Heiser as founder of the Badlands Conservation Alliance. That credit goes to Lillian Crook.
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