Restoring cougars would help forests
One need look no further than the Department of Environmental Conservation’s 2010 Strategic Plan for Forest Management to find the rationale to restore cougars to the Adirondacks. The plan details the destructive impacts and biodiversity loss of New York’s forests from superabundant white-tailed deer, a herd now estimated at more than one million.
Throughout much of New York, forest regeneration is in full arrest. Step into your nearest woodlot, state park, or forest. Notice the deer browse-line five feet high, the absence of seedlings and saplings, the carpets of deer-resistant ferns and invasive plants. Estimates of the Adirondacks’ whitetail herd are more than double the number per square mile that the strategic plan finds sustainable for the ecosystem.
One hundred Adirondack cougars, each taking thirty deer a year, won’t dent the whitetail population. What they will do, as study after western study has demonstrated, is change whitetail browsing behavior. Like border collies rotating sheep from pasture to pasture, cougar presence allows over-browsed vegetation to recover. In Zion and Yosemite National Parks, vegetation recovered in lockstep with cougar recolonization; beaver, fish, frogs, birds, and butterflies followed. Cougars, like wolves, guard and regulate ecosystems.
The support and rationale for recovering native species, especially one as critical to the state’s ecosystems as the cougar, is, in part, the very reason for DEC’s existence. Restoring cougars is the easiest, least expensive, and most seamlessly natural intervention DEC can implement to begin recovering the public forests they are entrusted to protect.
Christopher Spatz, Rosendale
Spatz is president of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation.
Cougars and people can coexist
Mountain lions have permanent populations in a majority of the land area of California—pretty much anywhere there are scrub or trees and deer. The Santa Monica Mountains, which are in large part in Los Angeles, have a population of twenty-plus lions and growing. Conflicts with humans are very rare.
These lions are not transients. They live here, breed here, and coexist with humans here. We just never see them.
The road density here is far greater than in any part of the Adirondacks. The Santa Monicas are cut up by canyon roads every five miles or so and come alive every weekend with traffic. I’ve been riding and driving those hills for thirty-five years. Never seen a lion.
How would lions and people in the Adirondacks do together? With a much higher deer population, and a much lower people population than in LA, I can only assume we’d both be fine—and hardly ever see each other.
Dexter Ford, Manhattan Beach, CA
A sundew by the wrong name
In your photo essay “Paddles and Petals” [May/June 2011] you pictured a sundew and identified it as Drosera rotundifolia, the round-leaved sundew. I would suggest the plant is Drosera rotundifolia, spatulate-leaved sundew.
Jim Spencer, Camillus
Ecologist Raymond Curran says Jim Spencer is correct. The sundew appears to be Drosera intermedia as the leaf is more oval (spatula-shaped) than round.
Story set unsafe example
Having been a trauma surgeon in Vietnam, I was dismayed to read the Explorer story describing entering the woods during hunting season without wearing hunter orange [“Falling for the Jessup,” Annual Outings Guide]. All I saw in the photos were green and light-blue shirts. Yes, a red shirt, but it’s similar to the changing maple leaves.
Talking loudly is not a substitute for being safety conscious. The experience level and judgment of the bear hunters in the area was also an unknown. High-velocity missiles do massive damage, and if the victim survives, I doubt there are many like me in the area who have the experience to care for the unfortunate patient.
Readers tend to absorb published information by a respected author as the basis for their actions. Please be more careful in the future.
Gus Kappler, Amsterdam
Take a break from stocking
Nicholas Karas makes excellent points in opposition to stocking brook trout [It’s Debatable, May/June 2011]: the wild ones will come back if left alone for a while. The Department of Environmental Conservation should establish at least some waters where no stocking occurs and the stream is closed for five or so years. I understand this has worked in Michigan streams over the last decades.
George Patte, Ithaca
Fire hit home featured in ‘Explorer’
Your article “Few Options for Elders” [March/April 2011] describes life at the Clifton-Fine Boarding Home, owned and operated by Cathi Ford. Unfortunately there was a fire at the home in early May. All of the seniors who lived there and the staff got out safely. It happened during daylight hours, and it probably started with an electrical short in the ceiling above the kitchen.
Residents were relocated, and the last I heard Cathi Ford’s plans for the future were uncertain.
Jennie Scott Rose, Halfmoon
Editor’s note: The article misidentified the boarding-home resident who had been Cathi Ford’s teacher at Harrisville Central School. The former teacher was Jane Scott Aldous.