Letters for the week of July 30-August 5, 2003 

Your article on the desert tortoise takes a cheap shot at citizens' litigation. Your critique of online activism ignores your own Web publishing efforts.

"Shell Game," Feature, 5/28

Sadly, the desert tortoise is headed toward extinction
The Express deserves an award for its recent story on the desert tortoise -- an award for hype and inaccuracy. Reporter Justin Berton did not talk with any biologists from conservation groups fighting for tortoise recovery, including the Center for Biological Diversity, although he did devote a lot of space to an off-road-industry attorney. Had Mr. Berton contacted us, he would have learned that the desert tortoise has suffered most from politically driven inaction due to pressure from anti-environmental interests.

Scientists know California's official state reptile has declined 65 to 95 percent across its Mojave Desert range over the last decade. We also know that habitat degradation from off-road vehicles is a leading factor in this decline, and animals that cannot get proper food and shelter due to destruction of habitat are more vulnerable to disease.

In contrast to Berton's wildly wrong assertion that 6.4 million acres of critical habitat have been "closed off," these wildlife recovery areas on public land have not been protected by agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management. The vast majority of tortoise habitat is open to off-road vehicles, yet Berton includes a completely unsupported and untrue statement from the off-road lawyer that it is closed. This is not balanced journalism, it is hype.

The article also takes a cheap shot at citizens' litigation to protect wildlife, blaming it for preventing action. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, without citizens' litigation the tortoise would not have Endangered Species Act protection or designated critical habitat for its recovery. Without litigation, wildlife gets nothing but cheap talk and lip service from bureaucrats who'd rather not protect habitat because it will upset fringe groups of public-land destroyers who have support within the Republican Party. The science-based Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan has not been implemented. Development projects continue to hack away at tortoise habitat.

Two things are for sure: The desert tortoise is heading toward extinction in the California desert, and anti-environmental politics have played a dominant role in delaying on-the-ground tortoise recovery action. Too bad the Express missed the truth about the desert tortoise.
Daniel R. Patterson, desert ecologist, Center for Biological Diversity, Idyllwild

Justin Berton responds
Mr. Patterson's claim that I "did not talk with any biologists from conservation groups fighting for tortoise recovery, including the Center for Biological Diversity" is simply bogus. Biologist and tortoise expert Kirstin Berry is quoted at length in the story. Also, I interviewed, at length, Michael Connor, executive director of the Desert Tortoise Preservation Committee. Conner, as Patterson knows, is indeed a biologist from a conservation group fighting for tortoise recovery.

"Quit Your Church," Feature, 7/2

Here is the church and here are the sheeple
I am very impressed with the time and research that you put into your article. I have stopped and listened to this radio program a few times, and it seems to attract a lot of wack nuts.

On one occasion, I was really disgusted with Mr. Camping's control over his followers. A woman had called to get advice because her husband was severely beating her. She wanted to separate from him. Mr. Camping told her firmly that it was against the Bible and a sin to leave her husband, and that they needed to stay together and get church counseling. She was clearly in danger and I felt that she was trying to get some kind of approval to at least get away from him for a short time. He told her that she needed to stand by him now more than ever to work this problem out.

I am glad that someone took the time to publish the truth behind the man that these "sheeple" blindly follow.
Sterling Ross, Pleasant Hill

"The Rise of Point & Click Liberalism," City of Warts, 7/2

Are you not online yourself?
Chris Thompson writes, "But can the Internet, even when applied in new and creative ways, really change the fundamental political dynamics of this country?"

You (Thompson and the Express) can't seriously have concerns about the use of the Internet as a legitimate means of communication regarding political action, can you? If you did, I don't think the Express would be developing articles for the Internet. You ARE using this medium to communicate, are you not?

As for so-called "Point & Click Liberalism," here are the simple facts: The mainstream media doesn't belong to the people, and very often misrepresents the views of the vast majority of Americans.

Many Americans are using the Internet because it is free and it belongs to us. Right-wing, wealthy conservatives own much of the media. The mainstream media is out of step with the views of the people of this country. Simple as that. The TV doesn't tell us who we are or what we stand for. We tell the politicians who we are and what we stand for. The smart politicians hear the American people. They listen and they act.

This is America. The people are still in charge.
Ethel Steinmetz, Post Falls, ID

"Little Miss Murder," Feature, 7/9

The horrible details (I needed to know)
Thank you for doing a fully in-depth story on this terrible tale (all the more horrible for being true and for having happened not far from where I live). I got the barest of details on this "news item" from the Contra Costa Times. Although I was horrified to the point of being seriously soul-chilled, I wanted to know more. Your article provided just that, and then some.
Diane Perry, Walnut Creek

No justice for Jenna
This is Jenna's cousin. I don't think you made Katie look good (you warned me in our last conversation of the possibility), but you did not do Jenna justice by calling her overweight, saying she wasn't smart, and making her friends and family look like shit.
Holly Zavaleta, Stockton

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