Readers Who Run with Wolves You ask, "Can we learn to dance with wild things again?" ["Wolves at the Door," June] Unfortunately your article didn't question our continued dance with domestic livestock, which has led to the elimination of wolves throughout most of the lower 48.
You gave considerable space to those within the environmental movement who would have the public believe that caving in to ranchers' demands that wolves be shot whenever they take a few sheep or calves is essential to the success of the wolf in the West. But you ignored those scientists and environmentalists who argue that wolf control in the name of domestic livestock protection is not compatible with recovery.
Your readers should understand the high cost of public-lands ranching to both the environment and taxpayers. First, the 20,000 or so ranchers who occupy public lands in the West pay only $1.35 per cow/calf pair for the privilege. Fifty percent of this fee is returned to the rancher for maintenance of fences and other structures. (Ask yourself how much you pay to feed your dog or cat each month and you will see how ridiculous this fee is.) In return, the taxpayer provides predator control, monitors the effects of livestock grazing through various agencies, and pays for the recovery of numerous threatened plants and animals placed on the endangered species list in large part because of overgrazing.
Our organization hopes that in the future, Discover will provide readers with the viewpoint of those of us who argue it is time for public-lands grazing to end. Until we allow native wildlife to go unmolested on our public lands, there will be no true recovery for the wolf, grizzly, or countless other species that have suffered at the hands of a few who would use our public lands for their own benefit and give nothing in return.
Craig Axford Program Director, Utah Environmental Congress Salt Lake City
I live in Alaska, the only state that has retained its native wolf population. Because of my strong interest in their preservation as a vital part of a healthy wilderness, your article about the wolves in Yellowstone and Oregon caught my eye.
This past legislative session saw the overturn of a ban on airborne hunting that had been voted into place in 1998 by Alaskans. This overturn, advocated by the largest trappers' association as well as Alaska's largest hunting organization, now makes it legal in some areas to use airplanes in locating and pursuing wolves. More than 1,700 pounds of aluminum against 100 pounds of flesh and blood; a plane capable of speeds of more than 100 mph against an animal running through snow at a top speed of 20. Legislators point out that state law requires that any such hunter first land and fire from no closer than 300 feet, but enforcement agents are few and far between, and some hunters pursue to exhaustion or shotgun from planes. As though this were not enough, our state game board recently made it legal in some areas to use snowmobiles in hunting wolves.
The concept of "fair chase" has been abandoned in Alaska at the behest of a small but influential group of trappers and hunters who, having the ear of our legislature, believe, like some of the ranchers in the lower 48, that the "only good wolf is a dead wolf." I fear we in Alaska may learn too late the lesson the rest of the states have learned and are now trying to reverse.
Art Greenwalt Fairbanks, Alaska
My father-in-law once lost 3,000 sheep to the Burlington Northern Railroad as its train plowed through his herd. Were there any attempts to ban, shoot, or destroy the BNRR for killing his livestock? I believe he would have much preferred wolves to the railroad.
Gordon R. Cavana, Ph.D. Berkeley, California
Solstice in the States I think people here in the Hawaii sovereignty movement were glad to read that "in the United States the sun never reaches a spot directly overhead" [Sky Lights, June]. It does here, twice a year.
I guess we're not part of the United States after all. I wish someone had told me before I sent in my Federal income tax.
H. Doug Matsuoka Honolulu
Editor's Note: The sun never appears directly overhead in the continental United States. The qualification was inadvertently omitted.
Errata In "Why Has Our Weather Gone Wild?" (June), the date of the infamous Buffalo blizzard should have been given as 1977.
The photograph on page 30 of the July issue should have been credited to Satish Parashar/Dinodia Picture Agency. The photographs on page 12 should have been credited to (from top to bottom): Ohori, Karen Wright, and Cheung Ching Ming.