Sierra Magazine


Reading "Lewis and Clark’s America" in the May/June issue brought deep melancholy. There was nothing stated that I did not already know, but the freshening of reality still shocks. It has long been incredible to me that a people who came to this paradise, ostensibly in search of a life away from the spiritual corruption of the Old World, immediately began pillaging and plundering. In the early 1800s, my home state of Ohio was 98 percent forested. By 1900, that number had shrunk to 10 percent. An apologist might declare that these people were ignorant of the consequences of their exploitation. But what, then, is the excuse today? We are saddled with an administration whose raison d’être seems to be to show that it is empowered to do as it pleases environmentally. Just to prove it, it launches attacks on revered areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—not because of any defensible practical needs, but simply because they are there.
Lloyd Reinbeau
Howard, Ohio

Shame on you for referring to the American West as "terra incognita" in "Lewis and Clark’s America." Native peoples have been living for millennia in what we refer to as the American West, and they knew their land as well as the flora and fauna they shared with it. Do you think Sacagawea had no idea where she was going?
Catlin Murphy
Belchertown, Massachusetts

At best, Lewis and Clark brought back East knowledge that had already been obtained by other people long before their arrival. Or, as a Native comedian once said, "When the Europeans discovered the Pacific Ocean, all the Indians were standing around saying, ‘Thanks very much. We had no idea what that was.’"
Mike Pedde
Peterborough, Ontario

In "Growers and Greens Unite" (May/June), you stated that Seaboard Corporation, one of the world’s leading pork producers, is "still looking for a home, wandering the plains in vain." Oh, if only this were so. Unfortunately, Seaboard has not been vanquished. It hopes to establish a packing plant close to Dumas, Texas, and find contract growers in that area to supply the plant with 5 million pigs per year.

In addition, National Pig Development (a wholly owned subsidiary of Smithfield Foods) hopes to locate a 3,700-sow breeding operation just east of Pampa, Texas, with 50,000 animals. It is no exaggeration to say that the Texas panhandle is being literally covered up with pigs.
Edna L. Haydon
Pampa, Texas

I read with interest the recent articles about farmers and conservationists working together, "Growers and Greens Unite" and "For Love of the Land." I was surprised that neither mentioned community-supported agriculture. As a member of a CSA, my family signs up each spring with a yearly fee and in return we receive produce grown on the farm of our CSA partner. Each week we go to the farm and pick up our allotment of organically grown produce harvested that morning. This practice connects us to the land we live on and enables small family farmers to practice stewardship with a guaranteed income from their members. To find out if there is a CSA near you, visit the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association’s Web site at If we want to save our land, we must be willing to choose foods that are produced in an ecologically safe manner.
J. Slack
Longmont, Colorado

Regarding "For Love of the Land" in Sierra’s May/June issue, I have only one thing to say: Wendell Berry for President.
Geoff Adams
Providence, Rhode Island

In "Ten Reasons to Oppose Fast Track" ("Lay of the Land,"), you wrote, "The World Trade Organization (WTO), created with fast track authority, has imposed on other nations the same deregulated accounting practices that allowed Enron to hide its liabilities." While fast track has flaws and what Enron did was despicable, these deregulated practices, called GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles), are among the most vigorous in the world and do much to promote accountability and transparency. GAAP isn’t perfect, and indeed it’s being revised to plug the loopholes that Enron exploited. Understand, however, that if we didn’t have GAAP, there would be a lot more Enrons.
Al Sargent
San Francisco, California

Daniel Seligman, the Sierra Club’s senior trade fellow, replies: I agree that internationally recognized accounting standards are essential. But the WTO is contributing to the erosion of global financial reporting for entirely different reasons. Enron’s accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, convinced the WTO to allow firms to offer business consulting along with their accounting services. This policy creates a built-in incentive for firms to misreport financial problems in order to promote their consulting business, the same conflict of interest that produced the Enron disaster.

I found Jennifer Hattam’s "Righteous Road Trip" ("The Sierra Club Bulletin," May/June) both timely and informative, but unfortunately the story uncovered but a tip of the iceberg. Sport-utility vehicles are harmful to society and the environment in manifold ways. They require nearly twice the natural resources to manufacture as the average sedan; they are deadly in a collision with cars or minivans because of their great mass and high bumpers; they are prone to roll-overs; and as the author says, they are both massive gas guzzlers and air polluters. The manufacturers don’t care about the negative effects and shamelessly promote these vehicles because they generate huge profits.
D. M. Hrobuchak
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

I used to oppose sport-utility vehicles until Honda started building them. Then when Mercedes and BMW jumped on the bandwagon, I figured people would give up SUVs when they gave up motor-powered vehicles. Even Porsche now builds an SUV. Decrying the SUV is only tilting at windmills.
Mike Savino
Sacramento, California

There are several non-hybrid vehicles out there that get better gas mileage than the Prius. They are called motorcycles. I have been commuting on mine for ten years now. It gets 50 miles per gallon and is fun to drive.
Wayne R. Argabright
Wedgefield, South Carolina

I’m disheartened that Anniston, Alabama, was placed at the top of the list of cities that are sprawling even as their populations are shrinking ("Lay of the Land," May/June). Our city is indeed shrinking. We lost about 3,000 persons in the 1990s, and now our population is around 24,000. But to imply that our city continues to sprawl to increase its tax base is inaccurate. Yes, Anniston has previously expanded for that reason, but that was prior to 1980. Recently it has made only two major annexations: the Coldwater Mountain area and the former Fort McClellan military reservation.

Through Alabama’s outstanding Forever Wild program, Coldwater Mountain is being developed for preservation and for mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding. Fort McClellan was closed in 1999. Anniston is working to redevelop existing buildings on portions of the property, keeping its campus-like character. The majority of Fort McClellan has already been transferred to federal and state agencies, negating any substantial tax revenue from the annexation.

Anniston will experience tremendous growth pressure over the next 50 to 100 years if current trends continue. We are implementing strategies to accommodate future growth with minimal impact. These include brownfield redevelopment incentives, mixed-use development practices, transit and pedestrian-oriented projects, green-space preservation, stormwater management, and a general focus on quality of life issues. Today’s declining population indicates a past in which these critical issues were not addressed, nor sometimes even considered. By planning today, we can ensure a sustainable community in the decades ahead.
Wade W. Morefield,
Planning Director
Anniston, Alabama

Thanks for running the photo of the West Virginia coal mine along with the laughable quote from the Walker Machinery Web site ("Last Words," May/June). As a former West Virginian, I can attest to the ongoing devastation committed by coal companies and their puppets in the West Virginia government. Contrary to the quote, the coal industry has created unsafe, undesirable living conditions for many who cannot afford to move elsewhere. Perhaps requiring these out-of-state coal company executives to live in the communities they exploit and destroy would cause them to reconsider their mining techniques and ongoing defiance of environmental regulations.
Lisa Kelly
Los Angeles, California

Lewis and Clark could not have seen a bald eagle "near the confluence of the Little Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers," as we stated in our May/June issue, because these rivers never meet. (Both are tributaries to the Missouri.) In our March/April issue, we gave EPA administrator Christie Whitman credit for upholding strict limits on arsenic in water. That was an overly generous gesture. The praise should actually go to Congress, which forced Whitman to take this stance by passing a 2001 appropriations bill prohibiting the EPA from weakening the standard.

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

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