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California Congressman, Committee Chairman Responds to a Pick of the Week

In response to Irene Messina's article ("Keeping It Wild," City Week, April 6), I'd like to set the record straight on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the need for its improvement.

The story quotes Nancy Zierenberg, who claims that not many rare and endangered plants have been listed on the ESA. I guess that depends on what you consider "many."

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Web site, as of today, there are 599 plant species on the endangered and threatened list, although some really shouldn't be. For instance, Johnston's frankenia was added to the list because there were believed to be only 15,000 left. However, once searches for the plant commenced, biologists found as many as 9 million--and called it quits.

Johnston's frankenia isn't an anomaly in having been put on the list by mistake. So are a number of other plants like Hoover's wooly star, the Maguire daisy, the cuneate bidens, Truckee barberry, Lloyd's spineless hedgehog cactus, Tumamoc globeberry, Rydberg milk-vetch, Eggert's sunflower and the McKittrick pennyroyal. Each one of these mistakes represents tens of thousands of dollars in paperwork costs just to put them on and take them off the list, absorbing funds from species that are really in need of protection.

Prospects for species that are legitimately on the list don't look much better. In the FWS plan for the decurrent false aster, the agency anticipated the plant could be recovered by 1997 for a cost of $58,000. Yet, here we are in 2006, nine years later, and more than $600,000 past its projected recovery time and cost, and the FWS is just getting around to reviewing the species' status.

As far as habitat protections go, Ms. Zierenberg again doesn't quite tell the whole story. Yes, the bipartisan House-passed bill does propose to eliminate the requirement to officially designate critical habitat--but so did the alternative bill that any member who didn't vote for the bill that passed, voted for.

However, the article doesn't explain that such habitat would still be protected by other regulatory mechanisms the FWS relies on now. In fact, this is the reason why the FWS--under both the current administration and the Clinton administration--has consistently stated that the law's critical habitat provisions are a waste of money and too often a source of conflict and litigation.

After more than 30 years, it is evident the ESA is not as effective as it can and should be, which is why it's time for this outdated law to be improved. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report that confirms the ESA is not working effectively and is in dire need of modernization after decades of implementation without substantial improvements. The House has taken the necessary steps to provide much-needed improvements to it.

Links to reports from the GAO and Office of Management and Budget, as well as to other detailed reports on the program's flaws, are available at resourcescommittee.house.gov.

I encourage your readers to visit the Web site and then ask themselves if the status quo really embodies America's "will to bring back endangered species."

Chairman Richard W. Pombo
House Committee on Resources


Oregon's Secretary of State Responds to ... Danehy?

Tom Danehy's rant on Vote By Mail (Jan. 26) is itself an affront to American ideals and principles. He appropriates images of foreign devils, implying that Vote By Mail is somehow less than American, asserts that he could write volumes about fraud and assumes that he knows how election fraud is perpetrated--but fails to note that Vote By Mail has more significant safeguards against fraud than polling places--and dismisses both the convenience of Vote By Mail and the Oregon experience.

Tucson and all of Arizona should read Danehy for the alarmist that he is, and should thoughtfully consider the benefits of Vote By Mail: a low-tech, voter-friendly democracy.

Arizona's Vote By Mail initiative is modeled on Oregon, where Vote By Mail has proved both reliable and popular. In fact, more than 80 percent of Oregonians prefer Vote By Mail to any other method of voting.

Critics claim that Vote By Mail invites fraud. But signature verification of every voter before a ballot is counted is an effective safeguard against fraud, and a stronger safeguard than that found at most polling places.

Vote By Mail is voter-friendly, and high turnout in every Vote By Mail election shows that voters like the convenience. Oregonians receive ballots in the mail two weeks before Election Day, allowing ample time to research issues, review and mark the ballot, and eliminating the need to stand in long lines waiting for a polling booth. Voters have consistently reported that their votes are better informed when they have more time to study the issues.

Voters are busy, but voting fits their schedule if they may return their ballot at any time during those two weeks and up until polls close on Election Day. Nostalgia for the polling place fades when voters are faced with taking time off work to stand in long lines.

Without polling places, Vote By Mail eliminates the expensive and time-consuming recruitment and training of poll workers. As a result, the cost of a Vote By Mail election is nearly 30 percent less than the cost of a traditional polling-place election. The cost savings are even higher if you factor in the expensive touch-screen machines. Tom Danehy doesn't like the idea of saving taxpayer dollars by building a more efficient election system, but your county commissioners probably do.

With Vote By Mail, each and every voter can be confident that the voting system suits their needs, runs smoothly and fairly, and, most importantly, protects their votes. And we're willing to prove it: Any Arizonan is welcome to come to Oregon and watch how our Vote By Mail elections work.

Tom Danehy would make it harder for you to vote. He wants voting to be a privilege, something that only people who think like him have access to. But voting isn't a privilege; voting is a fundamental constitutional right, and it's a right that should be easily accessible to all of our citizens, whether they agree with Tom or not. Vote By Mail makes voting more accessible, and that means that more citizens can exercise their right to vote. In my opinion, that is democracy, and that is the very foundation of American ideals and principles.

Bill Bradbury
Oregon Secretary of State


We'll Wrap Things up With a Note on Insects

A few years back, I was enrolled in a fiber arts class at Pima Community College. One of the things we focused on was dye processes. A classmate brought in samples of cotton dyed with cochineal, a beautiful color which we all envied.

To my recollection, these bugs are tiny. As a soy-beverage consumer, the fact that Trader Joe's was using a naturally abundant colorant should be applauded ("Bug Juice," Currents, April 6). It is our western bias against bug eating, so heavily engrained in our psyche, that is the real problem. Should Trader Joe's go to an unnatural source for pink milk? I bet there are even some health benefits to eating the little buggers!

Then again, I still eat animals.

Liz Weibler


Correction

In the April 13 Nine Questions interview with Justin McLamarrah, the Weekly erroneously stated that McLamarrah was a member of The Napkins and of Johnny Balls and the Vibro Thunderballs. We apologize for the miscommunication error.

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