Slaughtering Sacred Cows

Vanishing wetlands: I appreciate your tenacity and courage to uncover what is happening with our wetlands ["Draining the Swamp," by Josh Harkinson, January 13]. I have been watching the demise of the forests up my way (Spring) for some time, the clear-cutting, replacing dirt with concrete slabs.

I used to work for the state EPA in Jackson, Mississippi -- not as a regulator, but as a graphic artist -- and as hard as we worked to get the message across about the wetlands, I am surprised to see the demise of what I thought was a "sacred cow."

Another sacred cow I learned of from a Sierra Club promotion was Bush's wishes to do some timbering in Sequoia National Forest -- I think it was to be timbering of the big sequoias. That is another area I thought was preserved for all time (although they do timbering in the national forests that surround the park). I also got from the Sierra Club news of drilling for oil in Alaska at the location of habitats of endangered species. I know that since these proposals do not directly affect Houston, you probably won't run any articles about either one.

Your article seemed to have more to do with the court system and the changes and far-reaching implications on the wetlands. The main reason I wrote you is that I am sick to death about this. Tell me what I can do to help.

And again, thanks for your courage and tenacity in producing a thorough, well-thought-out article.

Marilyn Ellis

Wasteful losses: The problems detailed in Josh's article result from irresponsible capitalism (bulldozing and development versus protecting and leveraging natural capital), where the consequential cost of wetland destruction is pushed onto society (taxpayers). Two quick examples are the 446 beach closures between 2001 and 2003 and skyrocketing costs for floodwater management.

Wetlands attract ecotourism, sustain biodiversity, retain floodwaters and clean polluted water -- for free. Conversely, they are prohibitively expensive to imitate or reconstruct.

Decisions to remove wetlands are increasingly based on politics over science. And the agencies charged with protecting the wetlands face reduced funding and downsized staffs with overburdened workloads, which render them impotent. Our political leaders aren't offering much help.

Here's a quote from Congressman Tom DeLay with an ironic ultraconservative reference: "There appears to be a regional problem from overzealous enforcement and ultraconservative delineation of wetlands." Bush has only committed to "no net loss of [jurisdictional] wetlands." Does that mean we'll pave over some wetlands and rebuild others elsewhere to achieve the zero net loss? A savvy conservative would recognize that as a wasteful use of taxpayer money.

James Balkite

Eve of Disaster

Horrible -- in or out: Hair Balls hit on only one aspect of the failed Forbidden City "event": those who were left holding useless tickets ["Do Not Enter," January 13]. Those who gained entry to the event didn't fare much better.

The "world-class" entertainment failed to materialize, the prices were high, as well as the cover, and the promoters provided a worse-than-club atmosphere. Patrons in the VIP area received nothing promised, no food, no massage, and as for getting a "free" drink, well, forget about it. Many resorted to paying for drinks on the general-admission side.

True, the event has "nowhere to go but up," but I think "away" would be more appropriate.

C.J. Allen

The New Creed

Wince not: Well, you may have winced when Creed came on the airwaves, but 30 million other people went out and bought the CD [Night & Day, by Steven Devadanam, January 13]. A lot of bands are probably hoping you wince when they come on the radio; it's a good sign.

Rosemary Dassel
Roebuck, South Carolina

The Spruce Juice

Cashing in on Hughes: The Aviator sounds like just another high-budget scam tied to a name ["Crash and Yearn," by Robert Wilonsky, December 23]. I think I'll outsource my movie allowance to buy a six-pack and go piss on Howard Hughes's grave.

Name withheld by request


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