The worlds fastest land mammal and a deft hunter, the cheetah is also, at heart, a big scaredy-cat. When challenged, it will run, not fight, a trait that inspired a time-proven solution to its conflicts with Namibian farmers: guard dogs for livestock.
With only 12,000 remaining in the wild, the cheetahs are Africas most endangered cats. The largest population, about 2,500, lives in Namibia in southwest Africa. Drought during the 1980s killed off many of the rabbits and juvenile antelope that cheetahs usually prey on, forcing them to turn to livestockand farmers to defend their livelihood. (Although the cheetah is considered a protected species, farmers are allowed to trap or shoot "problem animals" suspected of being a threat to their stock.)
In response, a local organization called the Cheetah Conservation Fund began breeding Anatolian shepherds as livestock guard dogs and giving them to farmers. Originally from the arid Anatolian Plateau in Turkey, the animals are well suited to Namibias climatic extremes, and have been valued for thousands of years for their ability to guard vast open territories without human supervision. The canines arent trained to attack, but their barking generally causes cheetahs to beat a quick retreat, saving the cats skins, as well as the farmers sheep, goats, and cattle.
"We have to help local people solve their own problems first," says Vance Martin, president of the U.S.-based WILD Foundation, which works with the Cheetah Conservation Fund and other African groups to protect wildlands and endangered animals.
The breeding program also provides veterinary care, training assistance to the farmers, and a years worth of dog food. So far, it has placed almost 100 Anatolian shepherds, and will find homes for more, thanks to a joint project with the Sierra Club Foundation. Through its new Beyond the Borders program, the Club funds grassroots environmental projects in southern Africa and Mexico, relying on local groups to lead the way.
"In the United States, we look at wilderness as an area where people are visitors and do not remain," says Sierra Club conservation director Bruce Hamilton. "In many other countries, wilderness areas are inhabited, and people need to earn a living from those lands." In Namibia, happily, their survival doesnt have to come at the cheetahs expense.
America's Most Wanted: Animal Factories They spill manure into streams and wetlands, dump dead chickens in fields, deliver contaminated food to schools, and endanger their own workers. Theyre some of the worlds largest meat producers, and the Sierra Club has documented their dirty deeds in "The RapSheet on Animal Factories." Available online at www.sierraclub.org/factoryfarms/rapsheets, or by calling (202) 675-2392, the new report lists health and environmental violations at more than 240 chicken, pork, and beef factories in 44 states, including those run by industry giants Cargill, ConAgra Foods, Foster Farms, and Smithfield Foods. Some of the details arent easy to stomach, but theyre vital to citizen activistsand people who eat meat.
Our Ears Are Burning
"Its true the Sierra Club can be a royal pain in the keister, especially if youre a real estate developer sitting on an otherwise worthless piece of property populated by . . . what are they called again? Oh, yes, wildlifelike birds, or alligators, or those clumsy good-for-nothing manatees."
Tampa Tribune, April 22, 2002
Mapping Our Future
Are we on the asphalt road to ruinor bound for transit renewal?
By Jennifer Hattam
With the average American spending 55 workdays a year stuck in traffic, a third of all hazardous air pollutants linked to automotive emissions, and more open space disappearing every day, the problems with our highway-dependent transportation system are obvious. So are the solutions: cleaner cars, fewer cars, and increased public-transit options.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees the wisdom of making the roads less traveled. Some communities are trying to wean themselves from the highway habitby creating car-sharing programs, restoring downtown train stations, and investing in modern light-rail systemsbut often they still keep laying more asphalt.
This kind of schizophrenic planning is glaringly evident in urban Denver, where government and citizen groups are working to restore a historic train station that was Colorados transit hub until 1958. They envision a Union Station bustling once again with connections to light rail, Amtrak, buses, a clean-fuel downtown shuttle, bicycles, taxis, and pedestrian walkways. Their plan also sets aside the surrounding 18.5 acres for offices, retail space, and affordable housing.
But scarcely 20 miles away, a new four-lane toll road is a giant step backward. Scheduled for completion in 2003, the Northwest Parkway would connect eastern Boulder County with the Denver metropolitan areaand expose more than 11,000 acres of open space to development.
Recent studies indicate that the $250 million project would not be as effective at reducing traffic congestion as simply improving existing public transit.
For more of the best and worst transportation projects in America, check out the new Sierra Club report "Smart Choices, Less Traffic," available at www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/report02.
Picture Perfect The Ansel Adams 100th-anniversary celebration took on a touch of glamour this summer when a Sierra Club documentary on the photographers life and work was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Cinematography for Non-Fiction Programming. Coproduced by Sierra Club Productions and Steeplechase Films, and written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ric Burns, Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film has been seen by more than 3 million viewers since its initial April airing on PBS. For more on Ansel Adams and the documentary, visit www.sierraclub.org/ansel_adams.
To join the Sierra Club activist network, write to the Office of Volunteer and Activist Services, 85 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail email@example.com. Members receive a free subscription to the Planet monthly newsletter and Sierra Club Currents, a twice-weekly e-mail update.
California Runway of Light
Should U.S. taxpayers cough up $28 million to upgrade a rural airstrip so that Boeing 757s can take off and land 40 miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park? The idea sounds ludicrous, but the proposal is very real, thanks to the big-league aspirations of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and the adjacent town of Mammoth Lakes. Long a weekend destination for Los Angelenos, the eastern Sierra Nevadas only major ski resort hopes to attract vacationers from Dallas and Chicago by expanding the town runway, which sits at 7,000 feet in the shadow of the looming Sierra massif.
While the project could bring 330,000 new visitors each year by 2020, local planners talk only about the proposals effect on the airports immediate surroundings, ignoring the sprawl that will inevitably result throughout the Mammoth Lakes area. That narrow-mindedness has irked environmentalists as well as the state attorney generals office; both have threatened legal action. (In late July, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the towns meager environmental report, but has yet to authorize funds.)
Airport opponents, including the Toiyabe Chapters Range of Light Group, point out that expanding an existing airport 40 miles south in the town of Bishop would serve the entire region rather than just one resort, be safer because of its lower elevation, and be gentler on the environment. "Our town depends on tourism," says Owen Maloy, a Mammoth Lakes resident and Range of Light Group leader. "But there is a risk of destroying the very scenic values that attract visitors." Maloy and others dont want future travelers to this now-sleepy side of the Sierra to encounter signs for "Mammoth Yosemite Airport" and mutter, "No kidding."
Washington Wild Where It Matters Most
Even in an evergreen state like Washington, with 30 designated wilderness areas on more than 4 million acres, youll find protected sites clustered around harsh, "rock and ice" mountaintops. Thats great for backpacking trips and photo ops, but not ideal for most wildlife, which prefer more obliging lowland forest valleys.
A wilderness bill supported by members of the Sierra Clubs Cascade Chapter and championed by Senator Patty Murray (D) and Representative Rick Larsen (D) may provide just what the animals need. The Wild Sky Wilderness proposal aims to protect 106,000 acres along the north fork of the Skykomish River in Mt. BakerSnoqualmie National Forest. West of the crest of the Cascade Range, the area is habitat for bald eagles, marbled murrelets, spotted owls, cougars, lynx, salmon, and steelhead, which thrive among mature and second-growth forests of cedar and Douglas fir. Humans like it too: The region is a mere 90 minutes from the more than 2 million residents of Seattle and the Puget Sound area.
Decades ago, places like this were dropped from wilderness proposals at the insistence of the politically powerful timber industry. But with recreation and tourism a centerpiece of todays western Washington economy, Wild Sky has gained support from outfitters, local elected officials, and many citizens. Even the Washington State Snowmobile Association pledged not to oppose Wild Sky after working out differences with the plans proponents. That unanimity should pay off in the wilderness of Washington, D.C., where bipartisan support is essential if a public-lands bill is to survive. After Club volunteers and other Wild Sky supporters went door to door in Representative Jennifer Dunns suburban district, Washington States top Republican lawmaker signed on as a cosponsor, joining the majority of the Evergreen States congressional delegation.
Wisconsin Wild Rice, Wild Fish, Wild Water
You dont win a fight against one of the worlds largest mining companies without a unified front. Thats why the environmental, angler, and Native American groups that have worked separately for two decades to stop a proposed zinc and copper mine in Wisconsins north woods have joined together to save the idyllic Wolf River headwaters, a federally designated wild and scenic river. The coalition has called on Governor Scott McCallum to tap the states bond-supported Stewardship Fund to purchase land and mining rights from Australian/South African mining conglomerate BHP Billiton, then devote the area to tribal cultural values, recreation, and other sustainable uses. Groundwater contamination and air pollution from the mining operation could harm runs of wild sturgeon, whitewater recreation, and wild-rice beds critical to nearby tribes.
Fishing and Native groups overcame a history of friction over treaty and fishing rights to collaborate, concluding that there was little use arguing over fish that might soon be wiped out. They hope that Nicolet Minerals, the mining conglomerates local arm, will conclude that selling rather than pursuing the project is the best route. Mineral prices are weak, and past and present mine owners have already spent $150 million to fight opponents and meet regulationswith no end in sight. "Indian and non-Indian people are hand in hand on this," says Ken Fish, director of mining impacts and treaty rights for the Menominee Nation. "There are no race boundaries, no ethnic boundaries. Its all of these groups realizing that the environment is more important than dollars could ever be."
Wall Street Coat and Corporate Ties
Hoping to encourage corporate responsibility, Sierra Club members, including attorney John Klotz (left), demonstrated on Wall Street when the president addressed business leaders there in July. Bushs corporate-friendly policies include proposals to weaken the Clean Air Act and shift responsibility for Superfund cleanup to taxpayers.
Spotlight Sierra Club activism in your area by contacting Reed McManus at Sierra, 85 Second St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; fax (415) 977-5794.