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Doggone!” [November-December 2009], about farmers and ranchers killing prairie dogs with Rozol, is another example of people who want to live out in nature but don’t give a hoot about it. Prairie dogs are food for 150 other species, as the article points out, and so it’s not just the prairie dogs that suffer but the other species that will starve or die after eating the poison ingested by their prey. The fact that Rozol can take days to kill an innocent animal by causing them to bleed out until they die is unconscionable.

Elaine Hanak-Hall
Battlement Mesa, CO



As a wildlife biologist who did field research on wild birds and mammals in Israel for more than 20 years, I appreciated “Crossroads” [November-December 2009]. Not only does the country support an incredible array of wild native and migratory vertebrates from three continents (Europe, Asia, and Africa), it also contains an array of natural and modified habitats representing four biomes. The area’s well-documented historical layers also offer a unique opportunity to understand mankind’s past and present influences on individual species, biotic communities, and biodiversity patterns—all within a limited geographic area.

Research findings by many biologists in Israel have been incorporated in pragmatic wildlife and habitat conservation programs. Moreover, shared concerns for the future of regional natural resources have led to collaborative conservation efforts between Israelis and their Palestinian Arab and Jordanian counterparts. As your article suggests, birds may do their part to promote a friendlier and more biologically diverse neighborhood in this part of the Middle East.

Phil Alkon, PhD
Adjunct Professor of Wildlife
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM


My jaw dropped when I read “Crossroads.” Despite a cover billing as “Israel’s Peace Plan,” it managed to describe birding opportunities throughout the country without once ever mentioning Palestinians, or Gaza, or the West Bank, or any other aspect of the ecological and human-rights calamity that is modern Israel. Ornithologist Yossi Leshem can run a program called Migrating Birds Know No Boundaries, but Palestinian refugees and Israeli Arabs and entire villages isolated from their lands by the separation walls and Israeli settlements certainly know many boundaries. It is debatable that “a real birder won’t smell the sewage; he’ll just see the birds,” but real members of the Audubon Society, as conscientious citizens of this world, will smell and see and attempt to understand and change so much that was entirely ignored in this article.

John Cloud
Silver Spring, MD


Rene Ebersole responds: As John Cloud’s letter makes clear, the intention of this article was not to report on or analyze the complexities of human conflicts in Israel, as many other publications do. Rather, it was to showcase the importance of this embattled region for migratory birdlife, efforts to preserve birds, and the potential for Israel to build nature tourism programs that might help provide a more stable and sustainable future for all people and wildlife. This article, like “Washing Away War” (Audubon, July-August 2008), set in Lebanon, illustrates a point seldom mentioned in everyday coverage of the Middle East: that the region’s natural places provide an important reservoir in which people from all walks of life can “invest their hope.”


I spent a fascinating summer on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, adjacent to Israel, three years ago conducting bird surveys with the British NGO Operation Wallacea. I also got to work with a talented group of Egyptian university students, some with bitter feelings toward Israel due to the tragic longstanding conflicts in the region. Many of these students were thrilled at having the first opportunity of their lives to study birds, and would love to continue, but resources for such study are very scarce in Egypt. By contrast, Israel has made remarkable scientific contributions to ornithology, embodied in part by the inspiring work and personality of ornithologist Yossi Leshem. We have a wonderful opportunity here to use our collective fascination and admiration for birds as a way of trying to heal some of the deep social wounds in the region. I would love to see community projects involving bird study and bird tourism in this region that make a point of bringing bird enthusiasts from Egypt and Palestine together with Israelis. I understand that exploring opportunities to promote collaborative efforts between the Palestinian Wildlife Society in the West Bank and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is a goal of U.S. Forest Service International Programs.A link to more information about their work in the Middle East can be found here.

Nico Dauphine, PhD
Project Manager
Zoological Society of London
Regent’s Park, London
United Kingdom



If I were not a fisherwoman, I would have thought that catch shares for commercial fishing sounded wonderful and were the answer to our problems. But there is another side to the issue that “The Friendliest Catch” [Field Notes, November-December 2009] did not address. Catch share systems bestow a percentage of a public fishery resource to a select group of commercial fishermen, based on their catch history, to harvest for their own personal gain. The commercial entities pay nothing back to the public for the permanent property right to harvest a public resource.

Recreational anglers have been frustrated for years because of the allocation of fish between them and the commercial fishing industry, which has refused to use sustainable practices. This is currently a serious problem on the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington, and recreational fishermen requested that the Coastal Conservation Association come to the Pacific to address it. Catch shares may have a place in the toolbox, but there needs to be a thorough analysis of the impacts on “all” sectors in the fishery, prior to the initiation of a catch share system.

Lynda Estes
Battle Ground, WA



The photograph that appeared with “Recycle This,” in Audubon’s green design package “Building for the Future” [September-October 2009], misrepresented the Dobson House B&B in Taos, New Mexico. The structure shown was an outbuilding and not part of the inn. To see the inn, and its unique construction from materials such as discarded car tires, bottles, and aluminum cans, visit the Dobson House.


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