From Our Readers
THE TREES FROM THE FOREST
While Ted Williams’s article “As Ugly as a Tree” [Incite, September-October] makes some valid points, it sends the wrong message at the wrong time—when our country is mainly in denial over global warming and looking to justify and continue our wasteful, CO2-producing, and materialistic ways.
There are clearly situations where planting the wrong species on the wrong site for the wrong reason is counterproductive. However, the real issue is that we are replacing millions of acres of vegetative cover of all types (including trees) with asphalt, concrete, shopping malls, huge energy-consuming homes, and corporate farms that pollute the soil. If we hope for a future on earth, we must recognize the threat and respond accordingly. Restoring and protecting forests—the lungs of our planet—has to play a critical role in countering the continuing warming.
East Troy, WI
Ted Williams’s article reinforced my opinion that many trees being planted are harmful to the surrounding ecosystem. My neighbors plant nonnative ornamental shrubs and trees, which provide no food or nesting materials for our native birds. However, I’d like to see Williams cover the worst offense of all: these vast green lawns covering every inch of “developed” land everywhere in this country. The need to fertilize, water, and clip these lawns has created an environmental disaster, removing natural habitats and leaving toxic residues that are killing our birds and other wildlife, our pets, and ourselves.
Sharon J. Davis
Ted Williams’s article missed the biggest point of all: Planting trees only creates a temporary carbon sink. As soon as the tree rots or burns, the carbon is once again released to the atmosphere.
It was as if someone punched me in the gut when I read “As Ugly as a Tree.” People and children planting trees is a first step in making them aware of ecological issues. Plus, it gives birds a place to nest, to hide their young, eat their berries, and a myriad of other things.
Cudjoe Key, FL
“As Ugly as a Tree” came across as mean-spirited by deliberately oversimplifying the intentions of other conservation organizations. Of course, voluntary measures aren’t the only answer to combating climate change—but does that mean we shouldn’t even try? Aren’t 200,000 native trees for tiger habitat better than none at all?
I was very excited to read Ted Williams’s article on trees. My dissertation research was on the negative effects of trees on grasslands, so I’ve been a tree hater for quite a while. In the last month I’ve been asked to give two talks at statewide natural resources conferences on the evils of trees in grassland landscapes.
It’s ironic that Ted Williams’s article lambastes what he says is a one-size-fits-all approach to tree planting, since he takes the same approach in pointing a finger at tree-planting groups. Yes, American Forests is “guilty” of planting more than 25 million trees to reestablish damaged forest ecosystems. We give grants to local organizations that have detailed native species to be planted, pre- and post-care, and planting benefits. Our tiger project, which Williams mentions, was proposed by the Russian Academy of Sciences, which employs premier Russian tiger experts.
Unlike Audubon, which takes Conoco-Phillips money with one hand and pays Williams with the other, we are up-front about our corporate partners. We don’t do absolutions but encourage energy conservation as well as tree planting.
Williams’s tone doesn’t suggest an interest in civil dialogue. Rather, it is singleminded and maligning: discrediting tree planting, tarnishing groups as selfish and lacking integrity, and characterizing volunteers as naïve and ill-informed.
No one from Global ReLeaf was contacted for what is basically the same column Williams wrote over 15 years ago. He has a long-standing dislike for tree-planting projects, and low esteem for those involved. We wonder why Audubon felt this screed was worth publishing.
Deborah Gangloff, Ph.D.
Ted Williams responds: Ms. Davis has it right about lawns. I wrote the article she suggests in the July-August 1981 Audubon. Instead of “sending the wrong message,” my tree piece merely addresses a subject different than the worthy one R.W. Shepherd suggests. Mr. Straus needs to read more carefully; he makes the same point I made. How did Mr. Ficks divine that I am against planting trees? I plant trees myself. Ms. Masterson asks: “Aren’t 200,000 native trees for tiger habitat better than none at all?” Yes, they might provide one percent of the habitat required by one tiger. Finally, if American Forests benefits Russia’s tigers with tree planting, how does Ms. Gangloff explain the fact that the scientist leading the effort to save these animals—Dale Miquelle of the Wildlife Conservation Society—writes: “One adult resident female requires 450 square kilometers of habitat, more than the project would ever plant, so even increasing available habitat by one tiger is unlikely”?
Editor responds: The National Audubon Society is proud to have relationships with responsible oil and energy corporations, including those that advertise in the magazine, thereby underwriting Ted Williams’s work.
Michelle Nijhuis’s article [“Dead End,” September-October] provided a timely portrait of the threats to Arizona’s wildlife and public lands by the impermeable border wall construction called for under the Secure Fence Act. It is important to note, however, that Congress has provided more than $1 billion for construction, money that is currently being used to plan and build six segments in Arizona within protected areas, including the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. As the article points out, there is near unanimity among federal land managers, and even many within the Department of Homeland Security, that walls do not make sense in many areas. Yet everyone feels their hands are tied by the Secure Fence Act and the unprecedented environmental waiver provisions of the REAL ID Act.
The answer lies with Congress, which unfortunately has thus far been unable to move comprehensive immigration reform across the finish line and to the President’s desk. In the meantime, conservationists should lend their support to the Borderlands Conservation and Security Act (H.R. 2593), introduced in June by Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). H.R. 2593 would let the DHS decide the appropriate methods of border security, emphasize the use of low-impact technology and wildlife-friendly barriers on protected lands, restore environmental laws, and provide funding for restoration of damaged areas. Grijalva’s bill provides an urgently needed change of direction and is an important step towards a very achievable goal: integrating environmental protection into our border security efforts.
Defenders of Wildlife
“Dead End” left me concerned about where our priorities are. While keeping the borders open for the very rare jaguar may be nice, it pales in importance to our national security interests. Somehow out of this dilemma I pray we can come up with a win–win situation that’s good for animals and good for the U.S.
San Antonio, TX
While conservation measures are imperative, they can only retard the depressing decline in bird numbers [“Common Birds in Decline,” July-August]. More important, we must identify and address the problem’s root causes: a growing human population and its demands on nature. Obviously, more people mean more impacts on our environment, yet we seem oblivious to this simple fact. Perhaps most people regard humanity’s relentless growth as impossible to stem and thus live in denial of the consequences. In the last half-century, our country’s population has doubled, to 300 million, while the world’s has more than doubled, to about 6.5 billion. If our present growth continues, nature will soon impose its own cruel controls. We need widespread concern to initiate major action.
The July-August “Green Guru” incorrectly suggested using eastern mosquitofish to control mosquito larvae in garden ponds. Both species of mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis and G. holbrooki) are native to the United States only from the Rio Grande in New Mexico east and south of New Jersey. Introduced mosquitofish have caused the decline of rare and endangered species such as the Gila topminnow in Arizona and the barrens topminnow in Tennessee. Almost any native species of fish introduced into a garden pond will control mosquito larvae.
“Maryland: Best-kept Birding Secrets” (September-October, page 88) should have been labeled “Special Advertising Section.”
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