What were people thinking about the California condor at the end of the 20th century?
As one (very partial) answer to that question, I note 6 letters to the editor of the Los Angeles Times published 1995-1999.
Below are excerpts from or the entire text of the letters.
On 15 October 1995, Manuel A. Mollinedo responded to an article critical of the Los Angeles Zoo. Mollinedo, the zoo’s adminstrator, quoted from the zoo’s recent evaluation by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association:
… the collaborative California condor breeding/recovery program is a model and the zoo is to be commended for undertaking and maintaining it …
A trio of letters were published on 2 November 1997. First, from Jim Blomquist, a representative of the Sierra Club:
Wildlife tourism and eco-tourism have become big business worldwide … And the California condor is what many biologists call a “charismatic megafauna” – a large animal that always manages to draw a crowd….
If we spend $50 million for restoration, and the condor population stays healthy for just 20 years, it will require only 2,000 wildlife visitors a year, spending $1,250 per trip, to amortize the cost of recovery. And I believe the actual numbers would be a lot better.
Is the condor worth saving? As an environmentalist, I say yes; all species deserve to live. But for Southern California, the condor also means business.
Given that he was president of the Society for the Preservation of Birds of Prey, I was surprised by J. Richard Hilton’s middle-of-the-road view:
The late Carl Koford … held the view that any eventual recovery plan [for the California condor] should emphasize the environment, multiple coexisting species and the needs of the habitat, rather than the more expensive capturing, captive-breeding and release-monitoring efforts that have prevailed.
Matters of cost to date, future expenses and how money is used should be carefully evaluated, especially since extinction for a “difficult” species is a constant evolutionary process, perhaps unworthy of financial excess and extraordinary intervention.
John F. Schacher wrote to criticize the shutdown of a wildlife rehabilitator. But he referred to the California condor in the process:
It is almost sardonic to ask … whether saving the California condor is worth $20 million and then consider that [the wildlife rehabilitator] can be denied permission to save 2,000 birds of other species each year, mostly at her own expense.
On 7 July 1999, Robert A. Carson wrote an open letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) mocking its efforts to recognize a critical habitat area for steelhead (trout):
It seems painfully apparent that the NMFS has failed to recognize that there is not any identified habitat for the California condor anywhere in southwest Ventura County. These poor birds are in worse shape than the steelhead. Not to belabor the point, but the saber-toothed tiger is in pretty dire circumstances without a significant hectare to call its own.
Finally, Patricia Kaiser responded on 24 September 1999 to a recent article, offering a lighter take:
Since the condors invading Pine Mountain Club, Calif. were all born in captivity … perhaps [they] are simply trying to get back into “captivity” in order to build nests and breed. Your article states that these condors have not yet reached sexual maturity, but the condors might not agree with this opinion. Maybe they just want a bedroom of their own.
For more letters to the editor, continue with the post Letters to the editor of the Los Angeles Times: early 1990s.