Published letters to the editors of newspapers offer a historical record of the concerns and views of the public. Here are excerpts from 10 letters to the editor of the Los Angeles Times regarding the California condor.
Most of these letters are responses to articles published previously in the newspaper.
For some letters, I include my comments (in this font) before or after the excerpts.
Dale B. King – “An Expert on Condors” (20 July 1934)
If they haven’t found the last California condor again. Just about every so often, for the last thirty-five years, some one has been finding that last survivor, and for thirty-five years I have seen more condors the next year.
Two or three years ago … my brother, my children and myself jumped a flock of condors feeding on a dead cow. There were thirty-five birds in this one flock …
Frederick G. Hehr – “Close-up Looks at Giant Condors” (21 March 1949)
It was about 1938 when I drove up the Big Sur highway at night in the usual fog. Suddenly I was startled to see what seemed at first to be a small plane which glided low over the car, traveling in the same direction.
As this thing got more light from the headlights it turned out to be a monstrous bird, its span fully as wide as the highway or slightly wider….
The writer goes on to describe seeing California condors flying not far from downtown Los Angeles.
Cyril S. Robinson – “A Condor Refuge Preferred to More Oil Exploitation” (2 February 1950)
… oil operators are concerned over the possibility of the creation by the government of a condor sanctuary that “may encompass at least 40 square miles.”
If the oil operators are concerned, there are many more other people who are deeply moved and sincerely hopeful that this particular territory may be preserved for posterity and the California condor in particular.
Frederick Blunt – “Friend of Condor” (13 February 1950)
Some months back you ran a story on the California condor complete with a page of rare pictures. This article was the deciding point with me – two weeks later I was hiking 7000 feet up to Thorn Point Lookout in Ventura County to see these magnificent creatures.
Since the first settlers arrived in this country we have lost many birds and animals – for all time to come. Some of these would have vanished in any event, but the record speaks for the majority – victims of ignorance, shortsightedness, persecution, and greed.
H. M. Hill – “Move to Cage Condors Hit by Wildlife Man” (23 February 1953)
A program to preserve the California condor in its native haunts has been instituted under the supervision of the best qualified ornithologists and conservationists in our country, and a breeding sanctuary has been established. Now the very heart is about to be cut out of this project by the granting of permission for the capture of two of the few remaining birds …. This might be a setback from which the condor population can never recover.
This whole controversy actually boils down to this: is it more important that we continue our efforts to maintain the condor as a part of our heritage of the outdoors, or is it more important that we try to maintain the condor as a curiosity in zoological parks?
Lewis W. Walker – “A Naturalist’s Efforts to Save Last Condors” (4 May 1953)
… America’s largest flying bird is on the way out unless they are artificially fed within the preserve or propagated artificially until such time as a breeding stock could be introduced to an island, such as Guadalupe with its goats, or Socorro with its sheep.
This lengthy letter goes on to make the case for captive breeding of California condors.
Robert J. Lagomarsino – “Condor-Dam Controversy” (6 March 1965)
This writer, a California state senator, addressed the controversy over the proposal to build a dam in the heart of condor habitat.
This is indeed a serious and complex problem. Finding the answer poses many difficulties.
Personally, I feel the condor and the dam are compatible.
Sanford Wohlgemuth – “Condors’ Dim Future” (16 August 1966)
The sad conclusion of most impartial observers is that the greatest threat to these magnificent birds is not lack of food or even poisoned bait but bored, uneducated, irresponsible, trigger-happy hunters.
If there are 40 birds left and only one is shot a year and a pair of birds lays one egg every other year – the arithmetic isn’t very encouraging.
A. Scala – “Breeding Condors” (17 November 1976)
I do not believe [that captive breeding of California condors] would work. I do believe that basically this problem is one of availability of food for a very shy bird….
The Department of Fish and Game should initiate a feeding program whereby carcasses of deer, sheep or cattle are provided on a periodic basis….
Carl M. Levin – “Saving Condors” (21 August 1981)
I couldn’t understand why, in face of a $56 million state budget cut affecting health care for the poor in Los Angeles County, the state … is considering … a request … to spend $20 million to save 20 California condors from extinction…. Evidently, human health and lives are more expendable than remnants of a 70-million-year-old species that once fed on the carcasses of mastodons and mammoths.
Levin goes on to argue that politics is at play, with the president of the Los Angeles Zoo having personal connections with associates of the recently-elected President Ronald Reagan.
I plan future posts with more-recent letters from the Los Angeles Times and letters from other newspapers.
In a previous post, I noted Newspaper opinion pieces from the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers.