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Going To Seed

To the Editor:

Regarding Susan Zakin's "Great Ironwood Massacre" (January 4), if Pima County wants to protect habitat for the pygmy owl and other desert species, it must address the problem of non-native invasive grasses, the most serious being buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare). This is what carries those spectacular fires on "A" Mountain each Fourth of July, but also covers Tumamoc Hill and is found in Saguaro National Park, Tucson Mountain Park, and Sabino Canyon. This invasive grass was introduced in the 1940s from southern Africa to improve Southern Arizona rangeland, and is still widely planted today in the neighboring state of Sonora, Mexico.

Buffelgrass is also ubiquitous locally on roadsides --grading opens the soil for invasion and rainfall flows off roads and concentrates here. Once established, buffelgrass can spread into adjacent undisturbed desert. The problem is that like most grass, it is adapted to fire: Burn it and it re-sprouts. Many of our distinctive desert plants, the saguaro and palo verde specifically, did not evolve with fire and are killed when burned. Fires that start along roads (i.e., by carelessly tossed cigarettes) get carried into the desert by this encroaching grass. Buffelgrass returns immediately after fire and spreads even easier, lacking competition. In contrast, Sonoran Desert vegetation can take decades to reestablish following disturbance.

Many biologists fear that over time more frequent fires will transform the Sonoran Desert into something vastly different from our desert today, a non-native grass savanna. Like many introduced species, the natural forces that control buffelgrass in its homeland are absent here (in this case, herds of grazing ungulates).

Pima County Transportation Department must act now to eradicate buffelgrass from roadsides and reestablish native vegetation to make these areas less prone to invasion. Arizona DOT and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument have had success in removing buffelgrass; the county should coordinate with other agencies locally who have begun to work on the problem.

Setting aside habitat for the pygmy owl and other species is important. However, our unique desert must also be protected from the threats posed by non-native grasses so that they can provide the necessary habitat for all species. This also preserves what Susan Zakin refers to as the true value of the Sonoran Desert.

--Mark Holden


On The Offense

To the Editor:

As a person of Latin American origin living in Tucson, I found many of Diza Sauers' assertions in her review of Pipian's restaurant ("Good Morning Americas," January 4) at best ill-informed and at worst offensive. To correct some of them:

Brazil does not have a Spanish heritage; it was in fact conquered and colonized by the Portuguese.

According to the article, the "culinary rule of thumb" is "the hotter the weather, the more intensely flavored the food." I am at a loss trying to understand why Sauers would expect this rule to be applied to much of Latin American cuisine, since Latin America possesses a variety of climatic regions, including highlands, deserts, tropical forests, plains, etc.

By using words such as "shores," "tempting," "exotic," "primitive," "foods of the sun," "heat" and "wild" to qualify Latin American cuisine, this article succeeded at reproducing offensive stereotypes of Latin America as a tropical paradise populated by simple people who eat spicy foods.

I am an avid reader of the Tucson Weekly and I normally find it to be a valuable source of alternative information and social criticism. I hope that in the future, whether you print a restaurant review or a piece of news concerning Latin America, your paper contributes to a better understanding of the diversity of peoples, geographies, histories and cultures that make part of the place called Latin America and avoids reproducing mistaken generalizations.

--Martha Santos


Money Talks

To the Editor,

I wish to thank you for publishing Kari Redfield's "Seeing the Forest for the Trees" in your November 16 issue. The importance of serious information being passed through the alternative media system is invaluable to those of us in agreement with "alternative viewpoint" issues and activities.

The Tucson Weekly does, by exposing the community to "successful alternatives," enable us to participate and support these "alternatives". In doing so, we empower those directly involved in the various efforts to save the forests, the air and the waters. These are clearly accepted areas of concern among almost all communities.

Peaceful change occurs when we, the conscientious consumers, peacefully redirect the cash flow. As consumers, we might consider not purchasing products and services from corporate businesses, which do not participate in the preservation of our forests, do not prevent the pollution of our air and waters, and do not help to bring an end to the deprivation of our inhabitants.

As more of us are exposed to alternatives, more of us recognize that supporting the alternatives is the REAL BIG VOTE!

Voting with our dollars could bring an end to a world being dominated by corporate greed and environmental disaster, and we could succeed in the first peaceful, non-violent revolution known to man. Without our money, the destructive corporations will go unsupported and unable to continue to exploit the world's people.

--Daniel Fourwinds
Capulin Effort


On The Wrong Track

To the Editor,

In "Railroad Blues" (January 11), D.A. Barber brings out a great number of facts about rail service in and through Arizona. But he states, "Interestingly, there is no commuter rail service between Tucson and Phoenix because Amtrak feels that stretch of track is unsafe for passenger trains." That is an error.

The Arizona Rail Passenger Association based in Phoenix, of which I am a board member, has been fighting for the restoration of passenger service via Amtrak's Sunset Limited in and out of Phoenix. When Amtrak curtailed service to Phoenix, the reason was the trackage west of Phoenix (to Yuma on the old SP line). The trackage between Tucson and Phoenix is in serviceable condition and serves as the Union Pacific's main route to the capitol of our state. Since Phoenix is served by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) from the north, there is a freight change interchange available as well.

As a sidelight, Amtrak is considering re-routing the Texas Eagle from its present terminus in Los Angeles to Phoenix in the future. This would give Arizona its third passenger train--currently the Eagle runs as a concurrent train with the Sunset Limited on its run through the state.

--Robert A. Lindley Jr.


Sport Check

To the Editor,

Tucson Citizen sports columnist Steve Sharpton keeps referring to the Tucson High girls' basketball team as the defending 5A South region champion or the two-time defending region champion, including in his December 28 letter in the Weekly. This is not a fact.

As Tom Danehy correctly pointed out ("Full Court Press," December 7), Flowing Wells is the defending champion in girls' basketball and Amphi won the region championship in the season prior to last year.

Tucson is the defending winner of the 5A South region tournament. But it's the regular season, not the region tournament, that determines the region champion. The region tournaments in basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball and softball determine seeding for the state playoffs and nothing more. The region champion and the region tournament winner are two different things.

--Craig Whaley
Flowing Wells Athletics

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