Mailbag: Egypt should heed lessons of Iran

I pray with Mona Shadia ("Hoping for freedom in 'my' Egypt," Feb. 3) that Egyptian people will get freedoms that have been denied to them. However, I also would like to caution Egyptian protesters about the probability of a new regime that could be more repressive. Unless the "secular democratic" opposition groups are better organized and have a plan for a new regime with specific, competent leaders, they may only make things worse, with better organized and committed groups like the Muslim Brotherhood waiting for the opportunity to take over.

During the late '70s, I was talking to a young Iranian woman student at Cal State Long Beach, holding a banner calling for removal of the late Shah of Iran. I asked her what would happen if the Muslim clergy got into power and enforced their own religion-backed dictatorship. She naively replied that "once they remove the Shah, then later they would remove the mullahs also." I told her that it may not be easy to remove religious clergy who will torture and execute opponents and justify that in the name of Allah. Sadly, my worries came true in Iran, where hundreds of thousands of opponents have been tortured or executed, and minority religions have been given second-class status at best.

Maneck Bhujwala

Huntington Beach

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Wetland not drained on purpose

I am writing in response to Lou Murray's article dated Feb. 3 ("Getting to bottom of drained wetland," Natural Perspectives). The Bolsa Chica Land Trust in no way has, or ever will, purposefully drain a wetland/seasonal pond/vernal pool. It is completely antithetical to the 18 years of hard work we have put into preserving, protecting and restoring Bolsa Chica.

I was the Stewards leader Jan. 2. On that day, due to heavy rains, water was pouring off the mesa in multiple locations, causing significant erosion and engulfing the public trail by the new pedestrian bridge at Warner Avenue. A small furrow was created. It was in no means a deep trench and did not drain any water that was not already flowing off the mesa edge.

Thierry Kolpin

Huntington Beach

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Mesa is in proper hands

I am sorry about Lou Murray's "heart attack" ("More like a 'heart attack for the mesa,'" Natural Perspectives, Feb. 10). She could have avoided it by consulting with some of the people involved in the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). However, she chose to use her column to express a temper tantrum and to write a diatribe against the Bolsa Chica Land Trust.

I know two of the preparers of the MND, Kim Kolpin and Guy Stivers. They are very competent and concerned to follow a plan to allow public exploration of the lower bench of the mesa and to make it a natural area adding to the viability of the Bolsa Chica ecosystem. I believe if she had cared to talk to these two people, she would have had many of her objections answered.

Instead, she preferred to write an invective against the Land Trust that was written in a very self-serving way. I hope you do not allow any more such slanted rhetoric; my goodness, a whole half page of it!

Nancy Donaven

Huntington Beach

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Losing trust in the Land Trust

Having served on the Planning Commission for 22 years, and as a member of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust since 1992, I was shocked by the action the Land Trust Stewards have taken concerning their proposed project at Bolsa Chica ("More like a 'heart attack for the mesa,'" Natural Perspectives, Feb. 10).

The Land Trust is the organization that initiated lawsuits on any developer that dared not prepare a full-blown Environmental Impact Report. If any developer was caught illegally moving dirt, the Land Trust made sure they were stopped.

The Land Trust made a decision that their project only needed a limited review and requested a Negative Declaration. The Land Trust determined it was OK to cut a trench to drain a vernal pond without approval. The Land Trust should be setting an example of the proper procedure of gaining approval for a project in a very environmentally sensitive, public-owned, protected area.

The action they have taken puts them in the same category they have fought for years. My recommendation to the Land Trust is pull the Negative Declaration and do nothing on the property until the project is approved.

Tom Livengood

Huntington Beach

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Column no place for vendettas

Somewhat like a simmering volcanic caldera, the anger and animosity that Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray still feel toward the Bolsa Chica Land Trust just has to erupt and spew every so often. It is palpable. Rather than wait for the public hearing or act in a more professional manner and simply contact the Land Trust, they always choose to vent their suspicions in vitriolic diatribe in column after column that they use as their own special bully pulpit. Are we to accept that if the mesa plans don't pass their assessment, it simply isn't a viable plan? And yes, we all know how very qualified they both are. We are reminded often enough. OK...what is their plan?

The Land Trust is more than 5,000 people strong. Do Leipzig and Murray really think we've all been duped in one fell swoop? The environmental community needs to hang together, regardless of old wounds. Your columnists don't contribute much to that.

Merle Moshiri

Huntington Beach

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Questions remain on Trust's plan

Those of us who have been involved in preserving and protecting Bolsa Chica for more than 40 years owe a thank you to Lou Murray for her recent columns concerning the Bolsa Chica mesa.

In November 2000, the California Coastal Commission with little discussion voted unanimously to bar residential development on the 100-acre lower bench of the Bolsa Chica mesa and to set it aside as a protected habitat. The reasons for that bold decision were clear. Due to its proximity to the Bolsa Chica wetlands, the lower bench's impact on the wetland, if it were to be developed, would have been significant. But most importantly, the lower bench had become and continues to be a critical foraging habitat for raptors and coyotes.

Now the Bolsa Chica Land Trust is proposing a 10-year project that is purported to restore the mesa's biological vitality. Unfortunately, the organization chose to present its plans in a brief document known as a Mitigated Negative Declaration. The document is so meager and sketchy in details that it is impossible to determine what impact, positive or negative, the project would have on the mesa's sensitive wildlife. Normally, a full Environmental Impact Report would be required for a project of this magnitude, the preparation of which calls in experts in various fields to methodically determine a project's impact. None of this is evident in the negative declaration.

It is unknown what effect the implementation of this project would have on the habitat values of the area during the 10 years of its operation. For example, part of the project is to plow the area periodically in order to control non-native plants and to harvest plant materials for composting. What happens to the small prey on which the raptors depend for food? This and scores of other questions are left unanswered in the negative declaration.

While we support efforts to improve habitats in Bolsa Chica, there is just too much at stake to accept a "trust us, we know what we're doing" approach. This project demands a full Environmental Impact Report.

David and Margaret Carlberg

Huntington Beach

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Public should reach own conclusion

In my opinion, it would have saved the community a lot of confusion if Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray had asked the Bolsa Chica Land Trust questions about the trust's plan for CPR of the Mesa before spreading misinformation about the trust's plan for the last three weeks. The Bolsa Chica Land Trust is sponsoring a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. March 10 at the Huntington Beach Central Library in rooms C and D.

The public is invited, and I earnestly hope that the two columnists will attend and learn the true facts about the trust's plan. It's a free Q&A, so everyone is urged to attend and listen to the plan and ask questions.

"Just the facts, ma'am" is the purpose of this meeting. Refreshments will be served.

Eileen Murphy

Huntington Beach

Editor's note: Murphy is a director emeritus of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust.

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Columnist's memory is selective

I realize that Lou Murray is not a traditional journalist and therefore is not obligated to provide all the facts when writing her opinion column. However, by selectively providing information, she engages in the same irresponsible scare tactics that politicians and media pundits are accused of.

In her Feb. 17 column, Murray writes, "the Bolsa Chica Land Trust proposes to disc, or plow, the lower bench of the mesa three times a year," which would leave "less to eat" or "nothing to eat" for the wildlife that frequent the mesa. By leaving out the fact that less than 10% of the mesa will be plowed at any one time — leaving 90% of it alone for wildlife to enjoy — Murray misleads her readers, installing a state of outrage that is unfounded in fact. The Mitigated Negative Declaration states that approximately 12 acres will be disked at any one time, not the full 118 acres all at once. Stating that wildlife will have "nothing to eat" over 100 acres, that legless lizards will have nowhere to live over 100 acres, does not fit into Murray's argument, so she conveniently leaves that fact out.

Murray also states that planting trees along Warner Avenue "probably would be a violation of the California Coastal Act" because it "would restrict the view of the people living in the condominium complex across the street." How quickly she forgets that the people who live along Los Patos Avenue enjoyed no such coastal view protection when the Brightwater houses were built, eliminating the view for those residents.

And the similar Ridge development at the Bolsa Chica bluffs proposes to eliminate a small coastal viewpoint as well. The Ridge MND stated that people could still walk a little ways to a viewpoint on the other side of that development. Well, what's good enough for the bluffs (and the residents along Los Patos) is certainly good enough for the mesa, isn't it? Just walk-bike-ride a little bit further to get to the view.

Murray goes on to quote the November 2000 Coastal Commission staff report concerning development on the mesa: "no grading will be permitted in conservation areas." Again, Murray's memory is selective.

Without disruption the massive Bolsa Chica wetlands restoration project would not have happened. In that case, Murray and many others were more than happy to endure short-term construction and development to a sensitive area in order to provide a long-term environmental benefit. Was that project disruptive to wildlife? You betcha. And yet wildlife coped for the interim and is now reaping the benefits of that disruption.

Having concerns and questions about a project is one thing. Conveying those concerns to the general public who rely on your expertise is another, if the expert is selectively leaving out information that changes the whole tone of the argument and the very reason for the concern in the first place!

The public has the right to make up its own mind based on all available information. A public talk on the project will be held at 7 p.m. March 10 at the Huntington Beach Central Library. The mesa restoration MND document is at http://www.bolsachicalandtrust.org/mnd.pdf. Comments on the plan are due by March 17 to Carla Navarro at cnavarro@dfg.ca.gov.

Julie Bixby

Huntington Beach

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As Joni Mitchell once put it…

"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot!" It seems that is what the Bolsa Chica Land Trust is intent on doing to the Bolsa Chica mesa. Instead of saving the mesa, they want to improve the mesa. History has shown us that any time human beings "improve" on the environment, the environment suffers. The improvement may look and feel right for humans, but the improvement is usually deleterious to the organisms, both plants and animals, that live in that environment.

The Land Trust cried when birds were being killed when they flew into the transparent wall built by the housing development on the mesa. Now who will cry for the birds that are killed or maimed by the windmill that the Land Trust plans to install on the mesa? Who will cry for the bats that are killed or maimed by the windmill? Who will cry for the rodents and the reptiles that will be killed or maimed by the disking of the soil? Who will cry for the plants? I will!

I beseech the Land Trust and California Department of Fish and Game to continue to save the mesa, not improve it.

Mark Singer

Huntington Beach

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