Shooting swans will not remedy the bay's woes

Mike Slattery of the Department of Natural Resources clearly cannot defend the state's mass killing of mute swans scientifically, because he chooses instead to obfuscate the issue by calling swan advocates "wacky fringe groups" looking to "get publicity" and "make a buck" ("Serious threat posed by swans demands serious response," Opinion Commentary, Aug. 5). It is sad that our state's public servants have sunk to such a level.

Mr. Slattery alleges that the "swans double their population every four years" and that in a decade there would be 20,000 swans voraciously destroying the Chesapeake Bay.

He apparently hasn't read his agency's own mute swan management plan, which flatly concedes that the state's mute swan population has declined by 10 percent in just three years -- from approximately 4,000 in 1999 to 3,600 in 2002.

So where is this population explosion we keep hearing about?

If the Ehrlich administration really wants to save the bay, it should stop obsessing about a tiny population of mute swans and start focusing on the major corporate polluters such as the poultry industry, which is dumping tons of chicken waste into our waters.

Michael Markarian

Silver Spring

The writer is president of the Fund for Animals.

State must reduce swan population

Mike Slattery's column "Serious threat posed by swans demands serious response" (Opinion Commentary, Aug. 5) was right on the mark. He pulled no punches for the left-wing fringe groups or the inconsiderate individuals who treasure their viewing pleasure over the health of the bay.

It's time we accept the facts presented by wildlife management professionals rather than the tear-stained pleas of self-professed animal rights supporters and get the problem under control.

That doesn't mean no mute swans. It means there won't be too many.

W.C. Harsanyi


I commend Mike Slattery and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for their responsible approach to the mute swans in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. But I would add two points to Mr. Slattery's comments.

One is that the eating habits of mute swans are very different from those of the native tundra swans that winter in the bay. Tundra swans feed commonly in agricultural fields in early winter and also feed heavily on clams in late winter. These swans are not in the bay during the summer when the bay grasses are growing.

Mute swans, which are not migratory and are here 12 months a year, eat the bay grasses by pulling them up roots and all, thereby removing the grasses from the bay.

The second is the issue of aesthetics. If the mute swan had the aesthetic attraction of, say the nutria, the destructive alien rodent that is a nuisance in the bay ecosystem, the concern over its removal would be essentially nonexistent. We do not see organizations attempting to "save the nutria."

It is unfortunate that the mute swan is present in the bay; its rapid proliferation is threatening the bay ecosystem.

The mute swan population must, at the very least, be substantially reduced.

David H. Pardoe


The writer is chairman of Audubon Maryland-D.C.

Ashcroft is right to rein in judges

Hurrah for our U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft, and Congress for taking a stick to our corrupt liberal judiciary ("Eroding justice," editorial, Aug. 8).

Keeping a list of soft-on-crime judges for later action is one of the best ideas I've heard. And I hope they go a whole lot further. I hope the administration also starts a list of judges who legislate from the bench.

And better yet, that we remember that Congress has the authority to decide the jurisdiction of the courts and rein them in so that they respect the original intent of the Constitution, as defined by this nation's Founding Fathers.

Michael N. Ryan

Bel Air

Razing vacant homes improves city's future

Finally, Mayor Martin O'Malley is taking a step I feel confident will benefit not only the west side of town but all the surrounding neighborhoods as well ("Program razing vacant homes" Aug. 8).

I will gladly pay taxes knowing that a portion will go to acquiring and razing vacant homes, and, I hope, constructing new homes for the next generation of people setting out to build themselves a decent way of life.

Build it and they will come.

Shirley A. Selin


Palestinians also must compromise

Unfortunately the gracious, but totally unnecessary, release of 334 Palestinian Arab prisoners, most of whom belong to terrorist groups, will come back to haunt the Israeli government ("Israel frees 334 Palestinians, angering both sides of conflict," Aug. 7).

As The Sun's article mentioned, the "road map" to peace did not require this action, but does require the dismantling of terrorist groups by the Palestinian Authority. Yet instead of being grateful for the prisoner release, the Palestinian Authority only indicated displeasure while refusing to make any reciprocal gestures of goodwill.

Negotiations cannot be conducted when only one side makes concessions and the other refuses to do so. This wrecked the Oslo accords and will certainly doom the current road map to peace.

Nelson Marans

Silver Spring

Peace Now isn't a pacifist group

In "17 militants detained in Arafat compound" (Aug. 3), reporter Uli Schmetzer of the Chicago Tribune incorrectly described Peace Now as "Israel's main pacifist movement."

While Peace Now may be the largest organization in Israel's peace movement, it is not pacifist. It was started by Israeli military officers opposed to the 1982 war in Lebanon.

Unlike some other Israeli peace groups, it now officially encourages those in the armed forces not to refuse to serve in the occupied territories.

But because Peace Now sees Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza as major obstacles to peace and to Israeli security, the group has made opposition to such settlements a major priority.

Bob Jacobson


Liberal inquiry lets diversity flourish

I take exception to the letter which concluded that "diversity, as liberals define it, means nothing more than different-looking people who all think identically" ("College liberals stand opposed to true diversity," Aug. 7).

The true aim of "liberal" professors is the cultivation of knowledge in their students. We feel that more knowledge means that they will make better choices, and that better choices translate to a better world. And since when did broad-mindedness, tolerance and generosity become the antithesis of true diversity?

Dennis Kaplan


The writer teaches English at Goucher College.

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