'The Politics of Endangered Species': Readers appreciated the evenhandedness of our cover story. "It's refreshing to read a news publication that deals with conservation and politics and is not overly partial to either side," commented one reader. Some were alarmed by the blurry political reality behind listing species as endangered. One said, "Now that the polar bear is officially a threatened species, can those members of Congress who oppose strong, fair, science-based legislation to combat global warming be far behind?"
Critters Caught in the Cross-Fire
Your June 9 cover story, "The Race for Survival," showed the face of the 21st century's canary in the coal mine. Most of us migrated from Africa about 60,000 years ago. Since that time, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere never—until the industrial age—exceeded about 230 parts per million (ppm). We've adjusted to the resulting climate. In 2007, CO2 levels reached 385ppm. The earth is heating up. As Jerry Adler writes, "[Interior Secretary Dirk] Kempthorne showed satellite imagery indicating that the Arctic ice cover last year fell to the lowest level ever recorded, 39 percent below the long-term average." In his book "Collapse," Jared Diamond describes what happened in the past when once thriving civilizations—the Maya, the Greenland Norse, the Easter Islanders—destroyed their environments. Other warning signs abound: Hurricane Katrina, the Burma cyclone, an estimated 35,000 deaths in Europe from the heat wave in 2003, a global food crisis caused in large part by failed crops due to drought. The polar bear is a reminder that we're next if we don't change our ways.
Stanley G. Thomas
What gives us the right to determine that it is OK to wipe scores of species off the face of the earth so we can have more recreational snowmobiling and better long-term profits for industry? If we can't make accommodations to allow the existence of other life forms, what does that say about humans' ability to stave off extinction? Thank you for spotlighting yet another area where politics has replaced scientific facts in government.
Global warming and cooling have been facts in all the earth's history. In the past 15,000 years, an unfathomable amount of ice has melted on our planet. Self-appointed and -educated environmentalists need to do something that matters rather than keep up the mantra of "the sky is falling." It seems the earth has done just fine in these last 15,000 years. If the ice finishes melting, it will just be time for something else to replace the polar bears.
Craig A. Eisenhart
Thank you for "The Race for Survival." Even the listing of the 60 species classified as endangered or threatened during the Bush administration came about for the most part because of litigation. I suspect the same will occur if John McCain becomes president. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall say the reason they are slow in listing species is that they have to spend their time and resources on petitions and lawsuits. The article should have mentioned that if the Fish and Wildlife Service had been given adequate funds and then allowed to make the decisions based on science instead of politics, as the Endangered Species Act requires, there likely would have been few lawsuits. The biologists want to do their jobs, but since they are understaffed without adequate funds, it is very difficult.
Highlands Ranch, Colo.
It saddens me when I hear that an endangered species has become extinct. With the population of the world growing at an alarming rate, there will be more animals that fall into this category. Pretty soon the only animals left on earth will be humans. How boring is that?
Paul Dale Roberts, Branch Supervisor
California Department of Fish and Game
License and Revenue Branch
Elk Grove, Calif.