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  November/December 1995 Features:
House of Cards
Leader of the Pack
Hearnburn of Darkness
Ways & Means
Food for Thought
Hearth & Home
Way to Go
Sierra Club Bulletin
Last Words

Sierra Magazine

I enjoyed and agreed with Carl Pope's article ("Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw," July/August). As a moderate Republican, I am outraged at the hijacking of the Republican Party by right-wing Social Darwinists who are bound and determined to deliver our government and country to greedy individuals who have justified their actions by that warped philosophy (much like the "manifest destiny" of the last century).

Rick Bloom
Ebensburg, Pennsylvania

Your July/August issue is a treasure trove of pieces pinpointing the threats to our trees, water, coastlines, air, national parks, public safety, indeed to practically every aspect of an improving condition in our country. Where all your authors fall short, though, is in assigning the blame for this assault. Carl Pope mentions the 104th Congress, then substitutes "Social Darwinists." Paul Rauber and Scott Alan Lewis also use "the Congress" as a kind of generic term, while citing certain members as culprits. Why don't they just come right out and say "Republicans"? Why is the 104th Congress the villain? Because it is now controlled by Republicans. Who are the individuals bent on picking the public pocket? Republicans. Who are the venal vendors of our national treasures? Republicans. Who wants to return to the days of John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Jacob Astor, or the rest of the robber barons? Republicans.

Ken Alexander
Lafayette, California

Editor's note: We refrain from blanket condemnations of the GOP for the simple reason that not all Republicans are our enemies, nor are all Democrats our friends. While the House leadership attempting to gut 25 years of environmental protection is Republican, so are some of our hardest-working and most loyal allies, such as Representative Sherwood Boehlert (N.Y.) and Senator John Chafee (R.I.). And while in the first hundred days of Congress the average Democrat voted for the environment 69 percent of the time (compared with 7 percent for the average Republican), individual Democratic representatives Jimmy Hayes (La.) and Cal Dooley (Calif.) maintain 0 percent records.

If Ted Williams ("Only You Can Postpone Forest Fires," July/August) could take time off from depleting cutthroat trout to read Smokey Bear books and articles, he might discover that, more than anything else, Smokey teaches camping etiquette (no littering) and safety practices. Smokey needs to be updated, not ridiculed.

Jeanne Tillotson
Sagaponack, New York

Thank you for the best fire-management article to appear in a popular magazine. A former smoke jumper and national-park ranger, I now work as an employee of a permittee on Okanogan National Forest. Please reassure your readers that all the nasty things Williams said about the bureaucracy are true. In fact, he only scratched the surface.

Eric Burr
Mazama, Washington


Your July/August article "Trouble on Tap" brings up some important points about the dangers in tap water, but missed the boat on the seriousness of cryptosporidium and overemphasized coliform bacteria. Cryptosporidium was responsible for 100 deaths and 400,000 illnesses in Milwaukee in 1993, but Milwaukee did not make the list of 23 contaminated cities. Most drinking water utilities can destroy bacteria with chlorine, but they are not equipped with ceramic filters capable of removing parasites like cryptosporidium.

Marty Hanka
Sellersburg, Indiana

"Trouble on Tap" recommends that small water systems consolidate with larger ones nearby. This option sounds good, but in reality is a prescription for disaster. In western Sonoma County [California], our water and sewer problems have been coopted by the city of Santa Rosa and the town of Occidental. Viable small-scale and lower-cost recommendations have been shelved in favor of high-tech, high-expense pipeline projects that would crisscross the landscape and cause further growth.

Gene Koch
Occidental, California

Author Scott Alan Lewis replies: The 23 cities listed were those that reported violations to the Environmental Protection Agency, and since cryptosporidium isn't monitored or tested, Milwaukee didn't show up on the list.

But the article by no means ignored crypto: it mentioned the mortalities linked to it in Las Vegas and Milwaukee. I noted that it is present in 80 percent of the surface-water supplies of 66 major systems. Thanks to our political leaders, crypto is not about to be removed from these supplies anytime soon. Under a current agreement with Congress and the courts, the EPA will not implement the Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule, which will cover cryptosporidium and disinfection by-products, until 1997 at the earliest. Current efforts in Congress to cut EPA funding and to halt or delay new government regulations could slow this process even more.

Finally, Akron, not Kent, Ohio, should have appeared on the list of cities reporting violations to the EPA. (The Akron water system's address is in Kent.) Manatee County, not Bradenton, Florida, should also have been on the list. (The county system has a Bradenton address.)

It seems that our current Congress has the kangaroo (rat) court down to a science ("Stacking the Deck for Extinction," July/ August). Here in Minnesota the same formula is applied in an attempt to downgrade the status of our only national park, Voyageurs, where an overeager opponent of public-land preservation, Don Young (R-Alaska), and anti-environmental state and U.S. officials are teaming up and pandering to local "Wise Use" interests. They hold hearings as far from cities as possible, even though the metro-area residents are among the heaviest users of the park, and choose a time without conferring with potential dissenters. How disturbing to hear this is the norm, not the exception.

Jill Walker
Minneapolis, Minnesota

I have just read "Sting of Summer" (July/August). I haven't needed a commercial insect repellent since learning a safe and simple solution in Mexico ten years ago. Just cut a lime, squeeze a bit of the juice into the palms of the hands, and then lightly pat the juice all over any exposed skin and hair. When applied in small amounts it isn't sticky.

Lorna Fay
Berkeley, California

In the Financial Report in the September/ October issue, a tree chart listed "Contributions SCLDF" as the source of 9.5 percent of Sierra Club funds. The reference was to the more than $4 million worth of legal services that the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund donates annually to the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund is not part of the Sierra Club, and contributions to the Sierra Club do not fund the operations of SCLDF.

Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles. Letters may be edited due to limitations of space or in the interests of clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; Fax (415) 776-4868; e-mail address:

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