Letters to the Editor

MONEY TALKS

To the Editor:
Ray Hartmann overlooks at least one interesting angle on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals' finding that big campaign-contribution money is actually a form of speech ("Commentary," "Money Doesn't Buy Politicians?" RFT, Dec. 2): Even if it is, might it not be considered obscene? What if it's going around saying something really filthy? I mean, you don't know where that money's been. A few years ago, officials found that a high proportion of the paper currency circulating in California -- the actual bills -- had traces of cocaine on them. It really makes you think. Maybe Californians should launder their money more frequently, for hygiene's sake. Or maybe we should ask our money who it's been shaking hands with.

Jesse Cohn

DOUBLE INDEMNITY

To the Editor:
What is it that Jeannette Batz has against insurance companies?
First, we hear the insipid sob story of a probable felon being turned down for HMO coverage ("Exclusion No. 39," RFT, Nov. 11). Now, it's a couple who leave several thousand dollars' worth of high-depreciation-factor music equipment in a very stealable (but underinsured) car overnight, and who are really surprised when the insurance company turns them down after it all gets stolen ("You're in Grabby Hands," RFT, Dec. 2).

Here's a big shock, everyone -- insurance companies aren't welfare. They are in business to turn a profit. And they don't make profits if they pay out on claims that turn out to be crimes because they know that they won't recover the cash.

If you buy a policy, you should read it first. Then you don't have to be surprised when something happens and you find you aren't covered.

Someone needs to give ol' Jeannette a reality pill. Then we won't have to be subjected to stories of people who cry "victim" because they don't want to work for a living or are too stupid to clean their cars out at night.

Anne C. Young

THE RIVER'S EDGE

To the Editor:
Thanks to Melinda Roth for her article "Of Wetlands and Wal-Marts" (RFT, Nov. 25). My, how time flies. It seems like just yesterday we were up to here in sandbags. Suddenly we all knew about the folly of building and rebuilding in the wetlands (at taxpayer expense).

Even 140 years ago an engineer tried to tell the Army Corps of Engineers that same thing. The pressure to "keep that water away from our businesses" put the levees up and sent the water down to the next town to worry about.

Now if we could just direct some of the team spirit I saw during the Flood of '93 into saving our environment!

Joan Murphy

WILD WEST (COUNTY)

To the Editor:
I read your "Commentary" on our deer problem ("Send in the Doe Boys," RFT, Nov. 25) here in Town & Country. I have always been a big fan of yours, so, needless to say, you really disappointed me on this one.

Your trivialization of our problem out here was too much. Gardens aside (and that's a whole other topic), to me the biggest problem is one of safety.

I was very lucky. My deer collision only resulted in the destruction of the front section of my car. The couple that was killed out here on Highway 40 by a deer collision wasn't so lucky. I found your smart-alecky approach really repulsive.

Joe Keller

To the Editor:
The outcry of some people against depopulating nuisance wildlife, especially to cull deer-herd size in Town & Country, is disingenuous. The fact is that hundreds of wildlife creatures are already killed annually in our community by disease, malnutrition and human intervention, and now many die because deer are destroying the habitat of their co-creatures. Deer/vehicle accidents inhumanely destroy about 80 deer every year, and this problem both escalates and is exacerbated by a deer population already three times more dense than the state Department of Conservation recommends for healthy populations and desirable suburban environments. Dozens of Bambis are killed or maimed by the sudden, severe application of sharp vehicle metal and other parts to deer bodies.

Even the most radical animal protectionists agree: Something must be done about the overpopulation of deer in Town & Country. Most folks tell us to "do whatever you have to do to cull the herd -- we have too many."

Neither torturous death by bumper nor slow starvation in a new location is humane. So, why are these options so preferred by some Town & Country residents to the swifter, less painful alternative of culling the herd using professional "bolting" techniques from the meat-packing industry? And why is translocation (an inhumane, almost always ultimately fatal process of removal to another location so they can be hunted and killed) an acceptable option for those who oppose skilled bolting?

One answer to both these questions is that "do nothing -- let nature take its course" and "translocation" allow their proponents the political, emotional and moral luxury of denial. Unwilling (or unable) to face up to honest solutions to a human and deer crisis that, in 1997, accounted for two human deaths, dozens of human injuries and hundreds of thousands of dollars of property damage in our small municipality, the denial crowd screams "bloody murder" and "deer holocaust" when elected officials struggle to reach humane decisions. These officials heed not only the diverse voices of their constituents but also the multiple voices of state conservation officials and deer experts so we can authorize the most humane method of depopulating our out-of-control deer herds. The inhumane, lethal alternatives of "death by bumper" and "death by starvation and/or death by hunter in a distant county" seem to absolve those in denial to their own satisfaction of any "blood debt" for the deer.

As a Town & Country alderman and former mayor, blessed with a keen love of the outdoors and of both wildlife and people, my preference is for an overall "master plan" for humane community wildlife management. I support a combination of methods: direct, swift, professional culling of our exploding deer herd, along with an experimental component. I reluctantly support translocation, despite its intrinsically inhumane, lethal and expensive character, and it also deprives people of the opportunity to contribute much-needed protein to area food pantries, because translocation could also lead to the crucially necessary thinning of the deer herd.

However, I decry the rhetorical, hypocritical excesses of the denial crowd, including those of Mayor John Marx, who rise to oppose responsible civic actions about deer and return home (hopefully safely) to a steak dinner. We can only be thankful they have not yet noticed the beautiful symmetry of spiders.

Peggy Symes

To the Editor:
Your coverage of city issues over the years has been thoughtful and enlightening. Your newspaper is a welcome addition to the journalistic diversity of St. Louis.

The article "Grim Harvest," by Jeannette Batz (RFT, Nov. 25), provided thorough coverage of the recent meeting to discuss the urban deer issue in Town & Country. It leaves readers with some misperceptions about the Missouri Department of Conservation, however.

The author expresses surprise that conservation "often means hunting." Indeed, it was the hunters and anglers in the state who, in the 1920s and '30s, became concerned enough about the precipitous decline of wildlife to take action to establish a nonpolitical state conservation agency. For 40 years, they financed the effort to bring back wildlife populations. Missouri's restoration of deer, wild turkey, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, paddlefish and many other species has been successful, thanks to public support and a scientific approach to wildlife management.

Some of these animals -- deer and turkey, for example -- are game animals that can be hunted during regulated seasons. Hunting helps keeps wildlife populations at healthy levels; deer overpopulation is healthy neither for the animals nor for the people.

According to a 1996 Gallup survey, 24 percent of Missourians consider themselves hunters. The author attempts to make a distinction between being an environmentalist and a conservationist. We don't consider these mutually exclusive, but it is interesting to note that 67 percent of Missourians consider themselves environmentalists, while 90 percent approve of hunting game animals for food.

The Conservation Department is concerned about the loss of habitat that is squeezing wildlife into smaller and smaller areas. We're committed to working with citizens throughout the state to find good solutions to the resulting wildlife conflicts. A "good" solution is one we define as safe, efficient, economical and causes the least trauma to residents and the wildlife to be controlled. No matter what solution is chosen, it will not please everyone.

The author of "Grim Harvest" opposes hunting, and this bias is evident in the article. The Conservation Department hopes readers will seek information that helps them make up their own minds about urban wildlife issues.

Readers who would like to learn more are invited to subscribe to the monthly magazine referenced in the article, the Missouri Conservationist. It is free to adult Missouri residents. They may write to: MDC, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City MO 65102-0180; phone 573-751-4115; or access our Web page at www.conservation.state. mo.us.

Readers are also invited to visit Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center, 11715 Cragwold Rd. in Kirkwood (phone 301-1500), to enjoy the rewards of their support for conservation.

We hope you'll continue your coverage of wildlife and other nature-related topics relevant to the St. Louis environment.

Kathy Love
District Administrator
Missouri Department of Conservation

To the Editor:
I loved your "Commentary" about the Town & Country deer "problem." It was so funny and right on the mark.

I have an idea. Maybe one solution would be to relocate a large percentage of the Town & Country population so that some of the land can be returned to the deer and there will be less residents to complain about them. Surely there is a tract of land where a sanctuary can be established for a population of whiny and selfish ex-residents of Town & Country. We could truck in all the modern appliances and electronic gadgets to make sure the sanctuary can accommodate them in the style they are used to. Of course, this wouldn't be cost-effective, so maybe euthanasia would be best. We could send the meat to homeless shelters in the city. I bet their meat would be really tasty (and nutritious, too), since they can afford to eat a well-balanced diet. Maybe it's time for the wealthier residents of the metro area to (literally) give a little bit of themselves to help the deer and those less fortunate.

Amy Shehi

To the Editor:
Your recent article "Grim Harvest" and correspondence from elected officials has prompted me to become a more informed citizen regarding the deer-management issue. It seems that there has been much wrangling among the key parties over the last few years, with a definitive resolution. Until now....

The mayor and the members of the (Town & Country) Board of Aldermen have a golden opportunity to do what the will of the people has expressed, as compiled in the survey. A record 792 responses were tabulated from across the four wards. It is very clear that the citizens support deer-control efforts that are humane (77 percent) and nonlethal (72 percent). It is interesting to note that of the 792 respondents, 66 percent have had some damage from deer eating their gardens, yet they still voted in favor of nonlethal methods and to continue seeing deer (64 percent).

What concerns me is that the Missouri Department of Conservation has promoted sharpshooting and other lethal methods of "harvesting" (let's tell it like it is -- killing the deer herd). In other words, lethal, inhumane methods. Their local representatives have scared residents and certain members of the board into thinking that "trapping and releasing is expensive -- up to $600 per deer." When pressed, their local representative gave a figure of "$300 per deer to euthanize them." Two individuals who translocate deer for a living have given a cost of $150 per deer plus expenses (perhaps $180 per deer). Several individuals have come forward expressing an interest in the deer. And the local MDC representative has stated publicly that "MDC will do whatever we want them to." Just think, if the Board of Aldermen could actually listen to the residents who elected them, there could be an actual "win-win" situation!

I applaud the concerned citizens who graciously came forward offering private funds to help translocate the deer. If I could, I would thank them personally. Hopefully they will be remembered in the years to come as having had the vision of promoting humane deer management that could be studied and replicated on the state, maybe even the national, level.

Barbara Ann Hughes

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