Editor: Jane Bryant Quinn's column criticized Defenders of Wildlife as a public interest group which in 1989 spent too high a proportion of its funds on administration and fund-raising.
Like other enterprises, environmental groups have good financial years and bad financial years -- and 1989 was one of our worst. In that year we also launched a membership drive, an expensive undertaking.
Our ratio of program and overhead expenses for 1988 and 1990 were far, far better -- and well within the 60-40 percent program/overhead guidelines of the watchdog group National Charities Information Bureau. In fact, for 1988 our fund-raising expenses were approximately half that of 1989, and we anticipate our 1990 fund-raising expenses will not be substantially different than 1988.
Despite our small staff, we are proud of our record as one of the world's leading advocates for endangered species, other wildlife and habitat.
In the past six months alone we have won a major lawsuit requiring the Department of the Interior to comply with the Endangered Species Act overseas; played a leading role in a successful campaign for federal legislation limiting the use of dolphin and whale-killing drift nets; orchestrated and won an international initiative to restrict trade in tropical birds, and joined with the federal government in an effort to reintroduce endangered wolves into the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem.
It's not surprising that a snapshot of Defenders of Wildlife, taken at its worst financial moment, is unflattering. But we would gladly compare our finances over the past 44 years with that of any environmental group.
James B. Dougherty.
The writer is a vice president of Defenders of Wildlife.
Editor: Christians, Jews and Moslems around the world are speaking out against abortion. Yet many people in this country ++ refuse to take a stand in opposition to abortion. Why? It seems that in our pluralistic society the rights to privacy and freedom of choice have become so highly valued that, in the minds of some, they have assumed more importance than the right to life.
There is no right to abortion contained in our Constitution. It has been ''found'' by the Supreme Court, implied from the right to privacy and the right of freedom of choice. But a quick review of the Declaration of Independence shows that the right to life is specifically referred to there, and is the first right mentioned.
The founders of our country recognized that the right to life is the most important right, so, in listing the ''inalienable rights'' of all people, they placed the right to life first. They did so because without it, no other rights mean anything; none of them can be exercised. If the right to life to which they referred means the right to live your life from the moment of birth until you die, it must also mean that you have the right to be protected in your mother's womb; to be born. No one can arrive at the point of enjoying any rights if he or she is not permitted the right to be born.
Neither the right to privacy nor the right of freedom of choice was meant to apply to abortion; these rights were meant to shield us from unwarranted governmental intrusion into our lives. But the government has a legitimate duty to protect life, and abortion is not meant to supersede the right to life, nor to give anyone among us the right to destroy unborn life.
Anthony J. Sacco.
Editor: I am writing to address misconceptions and to raise issues concerning the local gasoline market, which I believe are contributing to higher prices at the pump.
At present, an unfair situation exists that is squeezing out small-business franchise dealers and forcing them to give up their stations.
Unfortunately, the media and elected officials seem unwilling to investigate and to disclose policies which inhibit a fair market between franchise dealers and independent station owners.
Instead the focus, particularly during the Persian Gulf crisis, has wrongly promoted independents as small and ''scrappy.'' The public should be aware that in many instances, independents are actually part of a large, wealthy and politically powerful business system.
Franchise dealers are finding it more and more difficult to compete with independents due to stringent and unfair policy set by the parent oil company.
For example, franchise dealers are unable to ''shop around'' for a competitive wholesale price, and this translates to higher prices for the consumer.
The public should also beware that many independents are selling unbranded gasoline products under a brand name station. The only disclaimer is a smaller sign on the side of the pump, and regulation concerning this business practice is not strict.