Comments from our readers
MISSING THE MARK?
We appreciate Ted Williams's article "Bad Shot," on the deadly effect of lead ammunition on wildlife. It's a large-scale preventable crisis that the Center for Biological Diversity has worked tirelessly for years to solve, and we'll continue to do so. Unfortunately, Williams took potshots at the Center that were false, uncalled for and need to be addressed.
We were the first national organization to call for a nationwide ban on lead in ammunition and fishing tackle and have organized a coalition of 120 groups in 36 states supporting a ban. Our advocacy, public education, litigation, policy work and coalition building have jump-started the campaign to get the lead out for wildlife.
Williams’s insinuation that we are some kind of for-profit litigation factory making money from attorneys' fees "far in excess of anything we spend" is patently and demonstrably false, and could be easily disproven by viewing our publicly available annual statements. The assertion sounds suspiciously similar to the right-wing talking points of Karen Budd-Falen and other "wise-use" groups.
Williams confuses the Endangered Species Act and Equal Access to Justice Act and misunderstands conservation litigation involving timelines versus substantive regulatory issues. It's not clear what his critique really is, other than to try to discredit the Center. Williams's claim that we are "preventing the management of species in desperate need of protection" is more right-wing fodder inconsistent with our extensive record of effective legal and policy protections for endangered species.
The story also touched on the pesticide rotenone, which is irrelevant to the lead poisoning issue, and Williams appeared to defend the Environmental Protection Agency's policy of failing to evaluate pesticide impacts on endangered species before registering pesticides for use in sensitive habitats.
We value our close relationship with the American Bird Conservancy and are confident that their quotes regarding our efforts on the lead petition were either misquoted or taken out of context.
The fact is that the Center played a major role in securing lead-free hunting regulations in the condor range in California and continues to work tirelessly to end the use of lead ammunition nation-wide. No one group or one individual can accomplish this important task alone; we are all going to need to make our voices heard-loud and often-in order to make it happen.
Center for Biological Diversity
Ted Williams responds: I don’t take “potshots.” I needed to show my readers how the NRA was able to spike the center’s petition. Because the center’s counsel is either staff or provided pro-bono the attorney fees it collects are indeed far in excess of anything it spends. While I lacked space to report other sources of attorney fees tapped by the center including but not limited to the Citizens Suit Provisions of the Endangered Species Act, I certainly wasn’t “confused” about them. The fact that this information has been widely reported by anti-environmental groups doesn’t make it incorrect. Environmental groups, including Audubon, have made the same complaints. This, for instance, from Audubon’s former lobbyist, Amos Eno, who came to us from Interior’s Endangered Species Office and went on to run the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation: “The center makes money suing on endangered species, and is one of the reasons the ESA has become so dysfunctional—you never get to the finish line...If you total the federal expense of responding to CBD lawsuits, you could probably recover and delist three dozen species.” The recent lawsuit (about rotenone, probably the safest and most studied of all pesticides and the only practical way of saving imperiled fish from being hybridized off the planet) is relevant because it illustrates that some of these actions squander biological diversity. I didn’t have space to report that in earlier litigation the center derailed full recovery of the rarest trout in North America, the Paiute cutthroat, by obtaining a settlement requiring the Forest Service to abandon long-planned rotenone use. Another point I needed to make is that the center’s refusal to limit its lead petition to hunting ammo as per the pleas of the correctly quoted American Bird Conservancy has made any federal lead regulation highly unlikely.
Add your comments about “Bad Shot” here.
“Food Culture” [March-April], about genetically modified organisms, provides an interesting picture of genetically modified (GM) organisms, though with several important errors.
Roundup Ready crops have increased herbicide use by 383 million lbs. in the 13 years from 1996 to 2008, not reduced it as claimed. The cited reduction in corn herbicide use (1995-2005) is due to greater use of low-dose herbicides, not Roundup Ready corn, which was not introduced until 1998 and comprised at most 26% of corn by 2005.
Roundup Ready crops do not reduce tillage or soil erosion, as claimed. Use of conservation tillage rose (and soil erosion declined) from the 1980s to the mid-1990s; both leveled out from 1997-2007, the decade when RR crops were introduced and heavily adopted.
FDA review of GM crops is voluntary, not mandatory as stated, leaving GM crop developers in charge of judging whether they are safe or not.
Audubon readers should understand that biotechnology is chiefly about herbicide-resistant crops that, while making weed control more convenient in the short-term, in the longer term foster a toxic spiral of increasing herbicide use by accelerating the evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds.
Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst
Center for Food Safety