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Letters to the Editor 

Week of August 14, 2002

Going Native

Dog owners barking up the wrong tree: Thanks to Matt Smith for the interesting read about the conflict between native habitat restorationists and dog owners ("The Nature of Politics," July 24). Conflicts over the city's limited space are to be expected, but the antagonistic tenor of the dog owners is disappointing.

The California Exotic Pest Plant Council commends the work of San Francisco's Natural Areas Program. By engaging volunteers in science-based stewardship [of] the unique habitats that still exist within the city, the program cultivates an understanding of natural processes and a deeper connection to place.

Other California cities look to San Francisco as an example of innovative natural areas management. The city should be proud of its visionary program. Dog owners and other open space users no doubt value the city's unique natural heritage, and they should negotiate respectfully with those working to maintain it.

Doug Johnson
Executive Director, California Exotic Pest Plant Council

To be fair, we asked a snowy plover for comment, and he said the same about you: I was outraged to read Matt Smith's column. In reference to his comment "In short, Rec and Park formally established one of the most dog-friendly leash policies in urban America": This is farcical. Did he even read the proposal? Pets would be relegated to tennis-court-size pens when -- and more importantly, if -- Wreck and Park found the money to build them. The ticketing for off-leash activity would take place immediately, of course -- no waiting on the building of the tiny pens.

I care about my dog and his freedom to run and play with his friends. I love the camaraderie with other dog owners, and this is my major form of recreation. I do not care about snowy plovers or native plants; they could all disappear tomorrow and my life would not be affected one whit.

I will continue to exercise my dog off leash in areas safe for him and useless for pretty much anything else -- most specifically Fort Funston. I will pay fines, go to court, or even go to jail, I don't care. The ranger station at Fort Funston flies the American flag. That and the taxes I pay give me the right, not the privilege, to use those lands as I see fit as long as I do them no harm and bother no one else.

The Army knew 50 years ago that ice plant is the best way to prevent erosion, yet I see the Natural Area envirofreaks out there ripping it up. Insanity. If they're not stopped, in 10 years there will be no Fort Funston. It's just a stupid hobby to them, and if they succeed in getting rid of all the off-leash dogs out there, the druggies will move in.

There are so many areas people can go if they don't like dogs (hell, for one). I just don't understand why, in the city of St. Francis, we can't have just a couple of beaches to let man's best friend run free and play.

Martin Fieldhouse
San Bruno

It's a lovely wish. Been in S.F. long?: What an excellent piece of investigative journalism. It is a pleasure to find someone actually going out and getting the facts and observing things for himself.

What we are dealing with is competition over limited open space. I wish there were an open forum where both sides could unemotionally look at the whole picture, understand what possibilities are available and what the consequences of various actions will be, and thus be able to act responsibly. Your article is a very good start.

Margo Bors
Potrero Hill

There are no bad plants, only bad behavior: As a longtime California native plant gardener, I really enjoyed Matt Smith's "The Nature of Politics," and I hope this won't be the last we hear from him on the subject. My experience has been that there is a critical lack of public awareness about conservation in general and species invasion in particular. I never cease to be amazed at the number of Bay Area residents who can look at areas overgrown with eucalyptus, ivy, and Scotch broom and think that they're looking at nature, when in fact they're looking at an ongoing environmental disaster that has annihilated ancient ecosystems and crowded many indigenous plants and animals into extinction.

Kurt True
El Cerrito

Hundreds of people can't be wrong: Matt Smith's article is almost comical in its preposterousness: rife with inaccuracies, opinions stated as fact, and perhaps most notably the positing of a laundry list of people who are all, per Smith, self-interested and wrong on the issue.

What are the chances that hundreds of people from several diverse community groups, public officials, and a respected Chronicle columnist would all question the conduct of the Natural Areas Program if in fact there were no problems?

I would suggest that Mr. Smith do better research next time, but my strong guess is that he is simply using "shock jock" techniques to gain notoriety and has no interest in journalistic integrity.

Vicki Tiernan
Cole Valley

A shrub hugger's lament: Thank you for your calm and objective article on the Natural Areas Program; I hope the hate mail you will inevitably receive from dog and feral cat "advocates" won't be too nasty. I volunteer for the National Park Service's Presidio Park Stewards program and, as you pointed out, the work we do has been subjected to the same nasty rhetoric and ridicule.

I was born and raised in S.F. I have come to believe that what existed before there were San Franciscans deserves to exist today. If I can do that by restoring some tiny habitat for native plants, then that is my choice and my responsibility.

Perhaps it's true that not many of us testify at public hearings. It's no wonder; these "hearings" are not designed for thoughtful discourse. They are shameful kangaroo courts where advocates for natural resources find themselves being shouted down, booed, and insulted.

I'm distressed that our supervisors, like so many politicians, allow themselves to hear only loud, angry voices and refuse to get the facts for themselves before making up their minds. Rather than [being] anti-dog or anti-tree, the good folks doing restoration work are thoughtful people. Despite the ridicule and insults, I shall persist in trying to protect the few remnants of San Francisco's natural history.

Name Withheld
Richmond District

Eat This

Fed up with our food critic: Thank you once again for writing one of the worst restaurant reviews I have ever read in my life ["Mack Daddy," Eat, July 24, on Chez Papa Bistrot]. Even when you're trying to give a good review, all you do is complain. Get over yourself, and get a job you're qualified for while you're at it.

Chris Edmundson
Glen Park

A Butoh Bouquet

It sounds fun. Does Arthur Murray have a butoh course?: I wanted to say how much I enjoyed your article ["Dancing With the Butoh Masters," July 17]. By focusing on Hiroko [Tamano] (rather than trying to write about butoh in general, as is often done), capturing her unique strangeness (rather than editing it out), and writing from your own experience and feelings, you created a very colorful picture and gave me some new insight into my own encounters with butoh.

John Michael Doyle


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