People who care about Joshua Tree National Park and California’s desert are no doubt grateful to Judith Lewis for sounding the alarm in the cover story “What’s Killing California’s Joshua Trees?” [July 9–15]. However, she misquoted me as saying, “We think we’ve lost 40 percent of the black brush in the last 30 years and about a fifth of the Joshua trees,” and went on to state that all of that vegetation was lost to fire. For Joshua trees, these figures are much too high to attribute to fire. During the park’s drought that abated during the wet second half of 2003, some areas of the park lost significantly more Joshua trees than have been claimed by fire.

Overall, Judith Lewis’ cover story and complementary story about Joshua Tree [“The Fight for Eagle Mountain”] vividly portray how drawing a boundary on a map and declaring a national park does not make a place immune from the mass consumption, sprawl and environmental degradation that occur in adjacent areas or regionally. Accordingly, efforts to protect these and other special places for future generations require attention from us all.

—Howard Gross National Parks Conservation Association Joshua Tree


I never really take anything that L.A. Weekly publishes too seriously, but after reading Judith Lewis’ recent article about the demise of Joshua trees, I could not help but wonder how long your rag has been recklessly publishing false claims, such as attributing the destruction of these trees to rock climbers.

Maybe if Lewis was able to provide some supporting evidence — anything at all — I could keep an open mind. But to see the headlines, and read the entire article to find that such little content pertains to the grossly overstated claim on the cover, is an outrage and a disgrace to the principles of alt-weeklies. Has the Weekly completely lost touch?

Climbers are the single most active social group working to protect these treasures. We contribute money to funds that help preserve these elements. We donate our time and labor to clean, help regulate and educate the masses, who all too often do contribute to the destruction. If the masses do cause harm unintentionally, it is because they have yet to learn the consequences of their presence. Climbers help with that. Joshua Tree is a haven for so many Southern California–resident climbers, and has become a world-class destination. It’s not just a park; it’s our back yard.

—David Rosenstein Los Angeles


Lewis replies: If climbers have improved the Joshua Tree community, they have also increased the popularity of the national park and consequently strained its carrying capacity, often without understanding that their presence can be destructive. Climbers have objected to road improvements meant to contain their impact; they fought vigorously a 1998 park-wide ban on installing new bolts in pristine rock faces as if the park were indeed, as Rosenstein claims, their own back yard. Certainly many organizations exist that promote leave-no-trace principles among the climbing public, and other groups (such as Access Fund) work to balance wilderness preservation with the rights and needs of climbers. But to say that climbers as a rule practice environmentalism is about the same as saying most hunters are conservationists. I’ve had too many otherwise excellent climbing instructors expound on the “fascism” of habitat preservation, while littering the ground with their cigarette butts, to believe that skill on the rocks translates into ecological sensitivity on the ground.


It’s about time someone writing about art cut to the chase and told me what to buy. This Arty Nelson guy’s piece called “Cherries on Top” [July 2–8] has saved me from the trouble it takes to Google an artist’s résumé and figure out if they are worthy of my purchase. As Dave Hickey says, “If an art student asks which art school they should attend for graduate school, I tell ’em to take their loan money and buy a De Kooning; at least that will increase in value!” This kind of optimism is what I like to hear in a post-Saddam world market for art. By the way, I hope that football duck thing is still there — my kids would love it out on the patio!

—Hector Silverstein Los Angeles


In David Richard Bloom’s A Considerable Town article “Burning Desire” [July 9–15], he writes: “As a soldier, I understood that the bands onstage and all the people below were doing something [burning an American flag] that could never be done anywhere else but in the United States.” I will offer that you can burn the American flag anywhere in the world. In fact, I believe it is de rigueur behavior at any anti-American protest throughout the world. If Mr. Bloom meant the overall protest against American policies, I will again offer you can do that anywhere in the world. If he meant protesting against one’s own government’s policies, I can cite recent protests in France to counter that claim. Mr. Bloom will surely be disillusioned during his stint in Iraq if he continues to believe he is defending America while serving over there.

—David Friedman Van Nuys


Judith Lewis’ questions about the abuse of Jesus’ teachings for political gain [“Jesus and the Patriots,” July 2–8] need to be answered by those in power, whether in politics or within religious groups that have grown too large for their own (or our) good. Jesus, in my opinion, was a radical. Modern white male society has apparently gotten the man cleaned up, in a nice suit, with a job as CEO at some failing oil company, and made him a card-carrying member of the Republican Party. Looks like it’s up to the rest of us godless-long-haired-commie-pinko-fags to bring Jesus back to the people.

—Rob Krueger Altadena


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