Letters To The Editor


April 25, 2003

Shooting swans is wrong way to save the bay

As a birdwatcher for more than 40 years, I am appalled by the stupidity and cruelty of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' plan to shoot 1,500 mute swans ("State to shoot 1,500 mute swans to help rid bay of nuisance," April 22).

The state's case for this ill-advised plan of action apparently rests on two premises: First, that the birds are not native to North America. Second, that they consume millions of pounds of bay grasses. Both of these points can be easily answered.

Mute swans are not the only members of the avian community that have been introduced from other continents. Rock doves (pigeons), starlings and house or English sparrows are other examples. Their numbers and harm to the natural environment are far more significant, as they dirty urban areas and deprive natural cavity nesters such as bluebirds of nesting sites. Yet no one has proposed a mass shooting of pigeons, starlings or house sparrows. (And I pray they never do.)

As to damage to bay grasses, the now year-round resident Canada goose population, which numbers in the tens of thousands, poses a far greater threat than the mute swans, of which we have only a few thousand.

In the not too distant past, Canada geese were almost exclusively migratory birds, nesting north of the Chesapeake region and only wintering here. But the spread of agriculture and suburbanization have converted many Canada geese to year-round area residents. But, here again, no one is proposing to shoot them.

And if Maryland pursues this swan slaughter, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia apparently have no such plans, and mute swans from those states could easily fly or swim into Maryland waters.

Every time humans intervene in the natural environment in ways such as the DNR mute swan plan, they end up doing more harm than good.

DNR should find better ways to spend limited state revenues than this bird-brained plan.

Richard E. Hegner


Why not confront bay's real enemy?

Isn't it strange that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) puts so much effort (and funds) into controlling and now killing the mute swan ("State to shoot 1,500 mute swans to help rid bay of a nuisance," April 22)? Yet where are the bay-savers when miles of boulders are placed along our shores so we can build more waterfront property - and, on the pretense of saving the shore, we eliminate tons of shoreline grasses by laying riprap?

Human runoff into the bay kills more grasses than any number of birds could devour. Shouldn't DNR's efforts be focused on the bigger picture of human pollution rather than the impact of a few birds?

Is DNR only capable of saving the bay's grasses by going after birds?

The slaughter of the mute swan will not be pretty, and after the blood has dried on the docks we will find the bay's grasses are still disappearing.

Patrick Hornberger


Orwellian response to the terror threat

Thank you for printing Thomas L. Friedman's column warning against overreacting to the "terrorism bubble" ("It's time to stop overreacting to terrorism," Opinion

Commentary, April 22).

Mr. Friedman is, of course, correct in making the point that we can be reasonably vigilant against the possibility of future attacks while resisting paranoia and unnecessary intrusions on both civil liberties and societal sanity.

A local case in point: those idiotic Beltway signs urging motorists to call an 800 number to "report suspicious activities." If George Orwell were alive, he could not have imagined a better way for "Big Brother" to introduce suspicion and fright at the expense of reason and serenity.

Take them down; let us enjoy our traffic jams in peace.

Charles C. Baum

Severna Park

Robbins must accept fallout from dissent

The Sun's editorial "Oh, Canada" (April 21) suggests Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are being "demonized" for their political views.

But while no one questions their right to speak freely in a democratic society, please do not anoint them with sainthood and criticize others for exercising their right to turn them off if they choose.

Freedom of speech and the right of an individual to choose carry with them the responsibility to face the consequences of one's actions. Mr. Robbins and Ms. Sarandon have chosen their path. If they face demons along their route, that is part and parcel of free speech.

Chuck Marks

Perry Hall

Reduce the rates for local calls

The Maryland Public Service Commission gave Verizon the green light to enter Maryland's long-distance telephone market. Now it's high time for it to finish the job by lowering rates competitors pay to offer local phone service to consumers and small businesses ("Verizon starts long-distance in Md. today," April 15).

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