From Our Readers
“Get Off Your Land!” [Incite, November-December 2007] mentions a Michigan group called Save Our Shorelines. I own a small summer cottage on Saginaw Bay, where that group was organized. One day a member stopped and asked me why I wasn’t a member. From his wallet, he pulled a picture of a Miami white sand desert shoreline—a vast expanse with towering hotels behind it. “That’s the way we want the beach to look,” he said. He had answered his own question.
Luckily, Michigan’s Supreme Court upheld the Public Trust Doctrine allowing public access along shorelines. It was a sound rebuke to the extreme property-rights crowd, comprised of people who don’t grasp the fundamental facts that we are all merely temporary occupants of the land we claim to own and that we have obligations in addition to our rights.
Traverse City, MI
Mr. Williams’s characterization of people who face the high-handed attempts of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) as “property-rights radicals” is ill informed. His legal arguments are also questionable at best and most likely faulty. These “property-rights radicals” are not asking for anything that hasn’t been theirs in practice—the use of land identified in their property deeds.
The lot my grandfather bought on Middle Bass Island in the 1920s originally extended close to 60 feet further out into the lake than it does now. During storms in the 1970s, the cobble beach was almost completely washed away, and the mail-order cottage my grandfather built was threatened. My aunt placed large concrete blocks in front of the cottage at that time, but in the 1980s that wasn’t enough. Additional blocks were placed on top. This still didn’t solve the problem, so hundreds of tons of riprap were barged in on two separate occasions, the last being in 1997. The base of the riprap sits on the lake bottom, extending about five feet out from the high-water mark. These five feet of shoreline would have been subject to ODNR leasing requirements, even though the property used to be 60 feet further out. The riprap was originally approved by the ODNR and is home to dozens of Lake Erie water snakes (an Ohio threatened species). There is absolutely no use that anyone could get from the submerged land. Nevertheless, the proposed ODNR rules would have forced me to lease (and pay for) that land upon which some of the riprap sits.
The fact that I was fortunate enough to have a Congregational minister grandfather who built a mail-order, 490-square-foot cottage with the help of his sons hardly makes me someone who falls into a group characterized by Mr. Williams as a “gas and wind venting . . . property-rights barker.” Mr. Williams should check some reality before he characterizes people based on such ill-informed opinions.
Middle Bass Island, OH
Ted Williams responds: I did not “characterize” Mr. Hayes; in fact, I didn’t mention him. And while I have no way of knowing if he is one of the “property-rights barkers” I wrote about, he clearly has imbibed their snake oil. The “legal arguments” are not mine, nor are they “questionable” or “faulty.” They are plainly delineated in the Public Trust Doctrine, a federal and state law as old as our nation and reaffirmed repeatedly by high courts. Deeds such as those Hayes cites are bogus and illegal, as his state’s own attorney general has explained.
Replacing incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs) undoubtedly will make a contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases [Audubon Living, “This Little Light of Mine,” November-December 2007]. However, compared to other energy uses, lightbulbs are such a drop in the bucket, I find it difficult to understand why CFLs get so much press. The fuel required to create the electricity to burn a 100-watt bulb for 10 hours a day is comparable to what it takes to drive an economy car for about 3.5 miles and an SUV about 2 miles. I could burn every single bulb in my house all day for a week for the fuel it took me to drive to my grandson’s soccer game. I guess we can all feel proud of ourselves because we are doing such great things by putting in CFLs without having to make any sort of sacrifice. But we need to change that attitude. Install CFLs, but also plan your vacation and recreation close to home. Continue to recycle packaging, but cut down on buying the stuff in the first place. Put in a low-flow showerhead, and bathe when you need to, not just out of habit.
The article “Lost in the Wilderness” [Reviews, November-December 2007] resonated with me. In each issue of your magazine, birds tend to come in a distant second to stories about impending environmental crises. Are the crises real, and do they need to be dealt with? Surely. But the impression I generally receive from your magazine is one of negativity, that we’re fighting a hopeless series of small battles that can, at best, result in Pyrrhic victories. What gets me enthused about helping the environment is focusing on its beauty and diversity and on its deep spiritual and intellectual riches, and hearing positive success stories. People need to come to love something before they’ll fight for it.
PAYING FOR HAYING
Regarding “Hold the Hay” [Field Notes, November-December 2007]: The reason why hay producers mow their hay fields at the peak of bird nesting season is that forage quality is reduced as plants mature, with a reduction in digestible nutrients and protein. [But] for maximum bird benefit, hay should not be cut before the first of August.
I once located nests prior to mowing, and left small patches where there were some. I watched a fox go to each small, unmowed plot searching for nests.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has helped breeding grassland birds by paying landowners to seed fields with assorted grasses and legumes, and to maintain cover for a 10-year period. Many of these CRP contracts are now expiring, and are not being renewed due to current higher prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay.
Paying farmers not to mow hay fields is costly. Hay in the Midwest is now selling for around $125 per ton, according to Doane’s Agricultural Report. An average yield of hay is about five tons, or a gross of $625. Very few birders will want to spend that much.
Jim and Eleanor Smith
Michelle Nijhuis’s article “Dead End” [September-October 2007] left me concerned about where our priorities are. I believe our country’s long-term survival will rely heavily on our ability to secure our borders against terrorists who espouse our complete destruction. To have porous borders only makes the terrorists’ job easier.
While keeping the borders open for the very rare jaguar scouting out new territory may be nice, it pales in importance to our national security interests. To me, the better solution might be to try to establish a viable refuge north of the border and bring animals from Mexico or other countries that could be introduced as needed for genetic diversity. A refuge north of the border may be better for the animals, since Nijhuis pointed out that Mexico has overgrazing and poaching, which can threaten fragile populations, especially during droughts.
There would also be considerable benefits to our populace from an increased ability to help curb drug smuggling and to better control who can enter our country.
Somehow out of this dilemma, I pray we can come up with a win-win situation—good for animals and good for the United States.
San Antonio, TX
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