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Opposite Sides of Burning Question Over Kangaroo Rat

November 28, 1993

I'm writing in regard to the article "Ire After the Fire: Victims Say Endangered Rat Got More Protection Than Their Homes" (Nov. 16). The idea that " . . . animals are more important than people" in this case is idiotic. The kangaroo rat is an endangered animal and should be saved instead of 29 homes--not people.

The people who owned the homes can start over, but if the kangaroo rat was destroyed, it could not start over whatsoever. And the fact that dozens of builders complain over the rodent is great, because there are too many buildings and streets and not enough wildlife in this state. People should give the poor creature a chance.

SHAUN KIRSTEN

El Segundo

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While visiting constituents in the fire-damaged areas, it became evident to me that (at least) several of these homes would have been saved if adequate fire breaks had been maintained around the properties, as required by county ordinance. However, the threat of violating the Endangered Species Act kept them from complying with fire abatement laws.

This is wrong; there is absolutely no good reason why the ESA should prevent people, indirectly or otherwise, from adequately protecting their homes.

Immediately after the fires, I wrote Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, asking him to take administrative action which would allow homeowners in fire hazard areas to take whatever reasonable actions may be necessary to maintain a proper fire break around their homes.

I am not talking about excuses to disc entire fields or grade whole hillsides which may contain sensitive habitat.

But we ought not begrudge our citizens the relatively minimal 30-foot barrier which county law requires for purposes of fire protection. We must make sure that the safety of our citizens is not compromised, endangered species notwithstanding.

Rep. AL McCANDLESS

R-La Quinta

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