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California Gnatcatcher

July 20, 1993

"How Wilson Got Snookered by Babbitt in the Gnatcatcher Deal," by Hugh Hewitt (Opinion, July 11), is good entertainment but short on facts. His portrayal of the California Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) as unworkable is inaccurate. In partnership with the threatened species listing of the California gnatcatcher, the NCCP provides an unprecedented opportunity for cooperative planning and long-term solutions to environmental and development needs. Delays will be minimized by treating many projects at once. Also, contrary to the extreme views of Hewitt, working with the wildlife agencies on land protection will make Southern California a much better place for people as well as animals to live.

Regarding his unsubstantiated doom and gloom predictions for the economy due to protection of the gnatcatcher: How many thousands of homes are approved and ready to go, but are not being built because there is currently no market for them? By endorsing and strengthening the NCCP, Secretary Babbitt did us all a big favor.

DAN SILVER

Endangered Habitats League

Los Angeles

* If all development is good regardless of the impact on our environment and landowners' rights prevail above any consideration to our surroundings, then of course Hewitt is right, our governor got snookered. On the other hand, if all of us thought as Hewitt does and whoever owns, let's say for instance, the rain forests continues to burn and bulldoze them at the current rate, our children will be left with a planet that will have problems of global warming.

Whether it's the gnatcatcher or the rain forest, man as guardian of the planet must learn to respect his surroundings. The gnatcatcher may be just a little songbird and therefore insignificant in Hewitt's eyes, but the time has come for all of us to change our way of thinking. Major landowners must share in the responsibility of protecting our environment.

FRED SCHWARTZ

Irvine

* As one of the few surviving planning representatives to a major property owner in Southern California, I applaud Hewitt's clear depiction of the gnatcatcher debacle.

What is especially disconcerting is the fact that the real implications of the gnatcatcher listing are not fully understood by the industry at large or those whose livelihoods are indirectly tied to a recovery in this sector. The building industry is evidently exhausted by the current downturn and the previous fight to forestall listing of the bird. The NCCP was tacit retreat from the beginning. It is now a nail in the coffin of the industry which will prove exceedingly hard to pry loose.

One would expect that the current economy would have acted as a clarion call to a comatose bureaucracy whose jobs are also in jeopardy. The regulatory agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are now a juggernaut gaining momentum, and pose a real threat to hundreds of thousands of jobs--long term! If the economy as a whole has the real estate industry on the rocks, the gnatcatcher debacle has sent it to the bottom.

RICHARD P. DOUGLASS

Calimesa

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