No, it's habitat fragmentation, stupid

  Dear HCN,

Ranching historian Tom Sheridan's statement that the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity's Endangered Species Act lawsuits are bad for rural landscapes because they make life tougher for ranchers is a bit off (HCN, 6/8/98). In his letter, Tom paraphrases James Carville, saying, "It's land fragmentation, stupid." In fact, it's habitat fragmentation we should be concerned about. As former Arizona Game and Fish Department biologist David Brown, who is now at Arizona State University, has shown, cattle grazing in southern Arizona causes vegetation conversion which leads to a loss of native species.

If the Southwest Center's lawsuits didn't have a scientific basis, the group wouldn't have an 80 percent success rate in court. Where were people like Tom Sheridan when it came to working on Arizona's urban growth boundary initiative, which recently petered out for lack of funds? Let's work together on improving zoning in Arizona, rather than depending on a fading, environmentally destructive industry that needs $400 million in federal subsidies just to stay afloat. The problem is a lot more complicated than cows vs. condos. The cancer-stricken Marlboro Man isn't going to save us from ourselves, but the Southwest Center, currently suing on behalf of the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, which lives in rapidly suburbanizing valleys, just might.

Susan Zakin

Tucson, Arizona
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