From Our Readers
QUÉ PASA, KENN?
In “Gentle Giant” [July-August], why is there no mention of Roger Tory Peterson’s excellent book Field Guide to Mexican Birds, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1973 and coauthored with Edward L. Chalif? That particular book took a long time to complete, but it turned out well, and I am pleased to have a signed copy. When I recall the years Chalif spent writing about those Mexican birds, and the visits he made to Peterson’s home to ensure that it was all correct, I am disappointed that no acknowledgment is given to Chalif, who wrote the descriptions of the birds that Roger painted. Chalif was also a serious birder and a marvelous person in his own right!
Patricia M. Bothwell
Kenn Kaufman responds: I didn’t mean to slight any of Roger Tory Peterson’s coauthors or any aspect of his work. In trying to describe one particular angle—his influence as an environmentalist—within limited space, I necessarily wound up omitting mention of several of Peterson’s books, including his Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe (coauthored with Guy Mountfort and Phil Hollom), Field Guide to Wildflowers (coauthored with Margaret McKenny), Field Guide to the Birds of Texas, The Bird Watcher’s Anthology, Penguins, How to Know the Birds, The Time-Life Book of Birds, and others. I agree that the Field Guide to Mexican Birds was a wonderful book—I still have my original copy, which I bought (as a rabid teenaged birder) as soon as it was published. And I agree that Eddie Chalif was an impressive person with a variety of talents. I got to know him in Arizona during the time that he was president of the Tucson Audubon Society, and he was introducing many people to birding there just as he had earlier in New England. Chalif deserves a lot of credit for getting things going on the Mexican guide, writing much of the text, and pushing Roger to get the book completed.
“A Tale of Two Habitats” [July-August] correctly points out several likely causes for the alarming decline in wood thrushes, such as habitat loss, acid rain, and nest predation encouraged by forest fragmentation. Unfortunately, it left out one additional factor—the out-of-control whitetail deer population found in much of the Northeast as a result of decades of poor game management and a lack of apex predators. In Pennsylvania, for instance, countless acres of contiguous forest that should be prime wood thrush habitat have been so overbrowsed that the native shrub and tree understory the birds need is all but gone. Sadly, the woodland pictured on page 50 of your article shows one of the surest signs of excessive deer browsing with its dense, monotypic fern-dominated herbaceous level. Clearly something has to be done about the deer overpopulation problem if we are going to protect our woodland nesting species. Protecting the forests from development alone is not going to be enough.
Upper Black Eddy, PA
I agree with Ted Williams that building a wall along the Mexican border is an exercise in futility [“Paradise Lost,” July-August]. But I support efforts like the E-Verify program to reduce illegal immigration into the United States, as well as strong penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants. We also have to drastically cut back legal immigration if we hope to create a sustainable society. Already, some 303 million Americans fail to live in a way that shares the landscape generously with other species or that maintains essential ecosystem services for future generations. Increasing human numbers will inevitably increase pollution, resource consumption, habitat conversion, and species loss.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, our population is set to triple to approximately 900 million people over the next hundred years. National environmental groups have a responsibility to honestly address immigration and population as it impacts birds and the environment.
Associate Professor, Philosophy Department
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO
Ted Williams responds: Were Mr. Cafaro to pool his opposition to illegal immigration with that of Lou Dobbs, the sum might equal a quarter of mine. As I observed, this blight will never be controlled if we allow politicians to squander limited resources on non-solutions designed to appease constituents. And just for the record, according to our research, the Census Bureau estimates that at current immigration rates, the U.S. population will hit 571 million in the next 100 years.
It is gratifying to see an interest in conservation maintained in Lebanon, a country that has been in turmoil for many years [“Washing Away War,” July-August]. The sidebar “Making the Trip” does not mention one issue that people planning a trip should know, however. Visitors will not be admitted if their passport has any Israeli seals, stamps, or visas. The same holds true for entry into many other Middle Eastern countries. Except in rare instances Jews—Israeli or otherwise—will be denied visas to Saudi Arabia. A way around the Israeli visa issue is to have it stamped on a loose page that can be removed from your passport.
Gerald S. Golden, MD
STOP THE SLAUGHTER
“Fowl Play” [May-June] was an eye-opener, and two things disturbed me: 1) the breeding of genetically altered pigeons for sport, which is abhorrent because it serves no purpose, and 2) the killing of raptors that are doing what is instinctive for them. More people need to be made aware of this issue, and hopefully the laws can be changed to stop this slaughter.
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