To save fox squirrel, expand the refuge...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

To save fox squirrel, expand the refuge and protect open spaces

As conservationists in Maryland, we think Joel McCord's article about the impact of Congress' conservation funding legislation on Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel ("Environmental groups fear for prospects of endangered squirrel" Sept. 10) captured the essence of the debate: Congress has an opportunity to expand the refuge and protect the squirrels, but could squander it by including "poison pills" in the legislation that could undermine its goals.

Expansion of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is by no means a given in the proposed Conservation and Reinvestment Act. In fact, one of the "poison pills" in the bill that we are concerned about would place burdensome new restrictions on federal land purchases.

This would make expansion of the Blackwater refuge much more difficult and hamper efforts to protect the Delmarva fox squirrel.

In addition to expanding the Blackwater refuge, we seek a provision in the legislation for an "Endangered and Threatened Species Recovery Fund."

Such a fund would provide incentives to landowners to protect habitat for endangered species, which could help bring the squirrel back from the brink of extinction and protect vital open space on the Eastern Shore.

Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a member of the House Resources Committee, will play a key role in these deliberations.

By ensuring that the "poison pills" are removed from the legislation and funds for endangered species' protection are included in the bill, Mr. Gilchrest can leave a lasting legacy of protected open space and wildlife in Maryland for future generations.

Daniel Pontious Baltimore

David Prosten Annapolis

Mr. Pontious is executive director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group. Mr. Prosten is chairman of the Anne Arundel Sierra Club.

Dependence on fossil fuels is already very costly

President Clinton was correct to link entrenched attitudes about energy consumption and prosperity to global warming during his recent visit to New Zealand ("Fight global warming, Clinton urges leaders," Sept. 16).

In fact, our dependence on fossil fuels and high energy consumption is already extremely costly.

Every year, one-fourth of the United States defense budget is involved in protecting our overseas oil supply.

Costs for climate change-related human health problems and reduced productivity in agriculture and natural ecosystems consume between two and five percent of the gross domestic product.

And, without significant changes, costs will only increase. A conservative estimate of the price tag of the half-meter rise in sea levels that global warming could cause is $47 billion per year.

Spending will be required to slow beach erosion and coastal states will also lose millions in tourist dollars because nobody wants to go to a beach with no beach.

But drastic reductions in pollution are possible, without dramatic changes in consumption.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international group of more than 2,000 scientists, reported that a 10 to 30 percent increase in energy efficiency is possible at no cost to consumers or to industry and 50 to 70 percent efficiency increases are feasible in many countries.

Shannon Little Washington

The writer represents Ozone Action.

Floyd disturbed the bay, much as dumping would

The voices of those opposed to dumping port dredge at Site 104 are becoming more strident and less reasonable.

Notwithstanding assurances to the contrary by responsible professionals, some remain afraid that disturbing the bay floor in any way would irrevocably disturb the bay's ecology.

After the ocean surges that accompanied the recent hurricane, they should also protest against a storm named Floyd.

M. Sigmund Shapiro Baltimore

The writer is chairman and chief executive office of Samuel Shapiro & Co. Inc.

Out-of-wedlock births fall, but not much in Maryland

A recent article in the Washington Post (Sept. 14) explains that the District of Columbia and four states will receive $20 million each from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, because they posted the five largest percentage decreases in births to unmarried women. (The Sun understandably did not report that story.)

The winners were, in order, California, the District of Columbia, Michigan, Alabama and Massachusetts.

In California, births to unmarried women dropped 5.6 percent. The District of Columbia saw a 3.7 percent drop. Maryland ranked 12th with a decrease of 0.102 percent.

In 1996, California established a multi-pronged strategy aimed at reducing adolescent pregnancy, backed by an infusion of more than $40 million in state funds.

Correlating changes in statewide rates to a specific program or initiative is very difficult. But we know that California has significantly increased its investment, has developed programs across agencies and has seen some impressive drops in unintended pregnancies.

Now it has $20 million more to spend on this problem.

Maryland, on the other hand, has not made any significant financial commitment; the percent of births to unmarried women dropped only one-tenth of 1 percent; and it did not get additional federal money to assist its efforts.

Carol Beck Baltimore

Disappointed in Reimer; pleased with Zurawik

I am disappointed in Susan Reimer. I read her column for her insights and have always admired her dedication to her children and children in general.

That admiration came to a halt, however, when I read in her column "Pageant tightens grip on ideals" (Sept. 17) that Americans are "stuck in the past" if we believe that "sexual abstinence is the only acceptable behavior for young women."

Does Ms. Reimer believe that, in the quest to be hip, our society should encourage teen-agers to risk bringing children into the world without a family?

Don't children have a right to a mature, committed mother and father, who are eager to love and raise them?

Cynthia Mumby Bel Air

God bless you, David Zurawik.

You said what so many of us have been thinking for a long time: Many TV shows are obsessed with sex (" 'Get Real' proves reckless, ill-defined," Sept. 8).

Thanks for stepping up to the plate. You hit a home run.

David Boyd White Hall

It's time for atheists to come out of the closet

I want to commend Jaime Kimpton's letter, "Everyone doesn't need religion to be moral" (Sept. 13). Atheists are perhaps the last group to come out of the closet.

It is sad that some Christians and other religious people, find it necessary to denigrate atheists simply because our sense of morality is based on something other than love of an improbable god or fear of eternal punishment at his hands.

Christians have gotten away with this unchallenged calumny long enough. Let them look to their own history when assigning blame for war, torture, persecution, murder and genocide.

Respect for ourselves and for life in general is enough to keep ethical considerations well in mind.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could compete to see who can be more charitable, less judgmental and less hypocritical, rather than passing the buck for evil back and forth?

Jerri Thistel Baltimore

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