Letters to the editor

Don’t let the heritage of Shelton Laurel be sacrificed

High on the steep slopes near the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, at the very headwaters of Madison County’s scenic Shelton Laurel valley, stand some beautiful old trees. They’ve been growing in the special, rich soils there since before the first pioneer families settled our area, when legend has it the first Shelton spent his first winter living in a huge hollow poplar.

These trees are on our land — the national forests — managed for us and future generations by the U.S. Forest Service. Apparently, these trees and their old-growth community are considered pretty darn special by experts who know the ecology of North Carolina’s forests the best.

Yet you would never know this from reading the Forest Service’s recently released 87-page environmental analysis of the “Stateline Project,” a document whose entire purpose by law is to disclose environmental consequences to the public and help land managers make good decisions.

Instead, the analysis hides Sugarloaf’s ecological significance and attempts to justify a costly logging plan (Alternative B) that would punch expensive new logging roads to the very top of the mountain and log 160 acres, much on steep, wet and scenic slopes of Sugarloaf, plus 69 acres on Mill Creek. The analysis projects $254,025 to be spent (including over $40,000 to spray herbicides on 229 acres) to make only $265,509 on the timber sale.

Digging through the “project record,” I found a February letter from the North Carolina Natural Heritage saying the forests on Sugarloaf have been identified as a “Significant Natural Heritage Area,” one that harbors a rich diversity of rare plant and animal communities … “among the best examples known in this portion of the state.” The state biologist said, “The Stateline Project as outlined has significant conflict with Natural Heritage resources.” New and reconstructed roads and logging “would be detrimental to the ecological value” of this special natural community and would open the area up for an invasion by the uncontrollable weeds that now follow bulldozers everywhere they go.

Also in the project file, I found what was pressuring the Forest Service to push ahead with logging plans: about two dozen form-type letters written this spring to President Bush’s secretary of agriculture by timber supporters from outside our area, complaining that Ranger [Paul] Bradley is not cutting enough trees to suit them! Meanwhile, here in Shelton Laurel our local loggers and mills are keeping plenty busy, cutting trees on private lands. Loaded log trucks run back and forth all day, providing needed jobs, income to private landowners, and money to our economy.

Do you think it’s right for the Forest Service to cut down our natural heritage? Do you think it’s wrong for them to try to hide the significance of the special ecological areas we stand to lose? Parts of the Stateline Project may make sense, but parts of it are an outrage. All hands on deck! Demand that the Forest Service protect the old growth and all 264 acres of the Sugarloaf Natural Area. This project (like others across our region) is now on the fast track under Bush’s “Healthy Forests/No Trees Left Behind” initiative.

You have until Aug. 25 to let the Forest Service know how you feel about the Stateline Project. Call Ranger Paul Bradley at (828) 682-6146 or write him at P.O. Box 128, U.S. 19 Bypass, Burnsville, NC 28714. Thanks!

— Mary Sauls Kelly

Best customers in the West

Thank you for the kind words on West Asheville [“West of the moon,” July 21].

One thing I forgot to mention are the customers. In the 10 years that I’ve been in retail, I’ve never encountered a nicer bunch of people than those that frequent my store [Orbit DVD]. Most of them are genuinely concerned about me and my family and the welfare of my business. Retail is a thankless job sometimes, but they’ve made it a true joy in the nine months that I’ve been open.

— Marc McCloud
West Asheville

Taylor message oxymoronic?

Charles Taylor must be running for U.S. Congress again. He’s mailing out his slick, oversized post card printed by the thousands, all “prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense,” hand-delivered to your mailbox and guess what? You paid for it (whether you wanted it or not), not the multi-millionaire congressman. This is our representative, a man who bends the laws to promote himself. He states, “People know far better how to use their hard-earned money to help their families than government ever will.” Oxymoronic?

Taylor says he is “protecting Western North Carolina families.” We have the highest divorce rate ever, more homeless unwanted children, more single moms trying to make ends meet, more senior citizens without medications, more hatred and violence than ever, a failing economy, 1.8 million jobs lost. Taylor is part of the $7.4 trillion national debt problem, not part of the solution.

How are we protected when he and his Russian business partner build thousands of homes for people in Russia, or when his banking practices come under scrutiny by the U.S. government? Sounds like the only person in WNC he is protecting is himself. Wonder if he has business buddies in Iraq?

— Robert L. Plemmons
Horse Shoe

Taylor’s time should be up

Grant Millin’s letter in the Xpress on Aug. 4 and his guest commentary in the Asheville Citizen-Times on Aug. 5 were most enlightening. The electorate desperately needs this kind of factual analysis, and we thank him.

It is not news in WNC that Rep. Charles Taylor has at his disposal significant assets. Even subconsciously, they would undoubtedly be used for his own benefit as a congressperson. What is less well-known and more troubling has been revealed by Mr. Millin. Surely the investment in Russia to the extent of bank ownership should be spotlighted by the State Department as a serious conflict of interest. Again, even subconsciously and most probably overtly, Rep. Taylor would endeavor to sway American foreign policy for his own economic interests.

The Republican Party should call Taylor to account and request that he step down or relinquish those foreign investments. The citizens of the 11th District of North Carolina must vote him out. Every day it is more evident that the concerns of our state and of our district will be best served by Patsy Keever in Congress. Let us pledge Patsy our help and financial support.

— LeGrand Smith

Bring back phone booths

I just can’t ignore this problem anymore! Considering the hugely detrimental effects of cellular-phone technology, not only due to that dastardly device being held close to one’s brain, but also, despite mediating gizmos, due to the toxic effects on brainwaves and nervous systems of [people] regularly hit by the beam of microwave towers. I’m appalled at how cell phones have taken over our culture to the point that the phone company no longer finds it profitable to maintain public phones in most of the places they used to be. Very few gas stations have public phones anymore, and most phone booths in Asheville and Black Mountain are now empty shells.

This is a conspiracy to ruin our health! Can’t the city (or county) pitch in here and work something out with the phone company so that those of us who are protecting our brains and bodies from toxic technology can still make a phone call when we need to? It’s basic public safety to ensure that folks can make emergency phone calls without having to participate in a particular private service.

Cell phones, as convenient as they seem to be, turn people into mind slaves — chattering through the ethers when they should be paying attention to the road, and walking around looking for all accounts like the nut cases who used to walk through the streets of my home town, talking to themselves and laughing out loud. Can we bring back a little sanity here?

If folks doubt that cell phones and microwave towers are harmful, there’s plenty of accessible research to prove that they are. Not everyone experiences the effects blatantly, which is even more scary. People of child-bearing age and children are the most vulnerable — with nervous disorders, cancers and reproductive anomalies at the top of the list of problems that are being created.

— Arjuna da Silva
Black Mountain

Don’t make me vote Nader

To Sens. Edwards and Kerry: I am writing you as a voter from the swing state of North Carolina. I am writing because I would like very much to vote the Kerry/Edwards ticket come Nov. 2. I want to vote for you, but I feel compelled to vote my conscience. I am unwilling to trade a Republican version of the war on Iraq for a Democratic version.

Like the 82 percent of Democrats who are against the Iraq war, I see that war is terrorism. This war has claimed the lives of over 900 American servicemen and women. This war has claimed the lives of approximately 12,000 Iraqis.

To the Iraq family who has lost daughters, sons, husbands, wives: Is hope on the way?

To the Iraq man without a job, without a way to provide food, clean water and medical care to his family: Is hope on the way?

To the Iraq people who continue to be shot at, rounded up and disappeared: Is hope on the way?

For our servicemen and women put in harm’s way in Iraq, being forced to fight a war they know is a mistake: Is hope on the way?

After the Democratic National Convention, the polls showed that your popularity declined. Do you know why? I think it’s because you offer no clear alternative on this important issue of the war on Iraq.

Who will you ask to be the last man to die for a mistake? John Kerry, John Edwards, don’t make me vote Nader. I will vote against this war.

— Lola La Fey

Time to guard the Fox house

This summer’s conventions will help us decide the most important election of our era. So why did “fair and balanced” Fox News show so much less of the Democratic convention than its cable peers?

Instead of letting us hear the Democrats’ vision for America, Fox News continually interrupted the speeches to give more air time to their own pundits.

Serious news outlets give their viewers every opportunity to decide for themselves, especially when it comes to how they’ll vote. Fox News seems intent on only giving us one side of the story.

— Joann Schmahlfeldt

Democratic convention stirs local chorus

[Editor’s note: We have grouped under one heading a number of short letters from Kerry supporters immediately after the Democratic Convention.]

John Kerry is a man who stands up for the liberal values of freedom and responsibility on which our country was founded.

The Republican attack machine disgusts me. The label they’re giving him of a “flip-flopper” is simply election year propaganda. In one breath they accuse him of being the most liberal senator, and in the next they contradict themselves and call him a “flip-flipper.” So which one is it?

In actuality, he is a man who champions the workingman’s interests, like health care and job security, while keeping in mind larger needs, like national security and education. He is a liberal with a good head on his shoulders, no whimsical “flip-flopper.”

— Julie Broxterman

For the first time in my life, I am actually excited to vote in a presidential election. It will be a proud and honorable moment when I cast my vote for the only candidate who has a clear vision for making our beautiful country strong, safe and respected again.

I am going to use my vote to choose hope over fear, unity over division, optimism over doom, prosperity over recession, and compassion over torture. I am voting for John Kerry and John Edwards.

— Timothy Burgin

As I watched the Democratic Convention, I was proud to be a Democrat. The convention was about hope. It was about standing up for our country. It was about real issues. It was about inclusion. And it was about standing shoulder to shoulder with all of our fellow Americans.

For years now our country has been headed in the wrong direction, but the tide is finally turning in America. It’s time to put Democrats back in the White House and Congress, and get this country back on the right track.

— Sharon R. Connolly

I don’t like the direction that President Bush has taken our country. I don’t like the way he deceived us into a frivolous war while alienating all of our potential allies. I don’t like the way he gave tax cuts to the rich and bailed out his corporate friends. And I don’t like his assault on our individual rights.

Now that I’ve seen more of John Kerry, I can see that he represents so much that Bush doesn’t. Kerry has wisdom and intelligence, integrity and courage. He has experience and strength, morality and principle. Kerry is a strong leader who can steer our country back on course through these difficult times. John Kerry will put our priorities back where they belong.

— Michelle Dorf

Not surprisingly, President Bush waited only until after the Democratic convention to try to turn around public opinion. The November election is still three months away. No matter what Bush promises or what changes he tries to make at this late date, all of us voters must remember that he led the country into an unnecessary war.

It has been said that there is no “just war.” Those who lost relatives during the war (and more lives are lost each day) must remind others of the terrible cost in lives [and] must remind others not to support those who led the country into war.

The November election is crucial to our times. America must regain its standing in the world and must regain our moral authority.

If you’re wondering where the money for housing, education and social services went, the monetary cost of this war is another consideration. Please stand up for what you believe!

— Leah R. Karpen

For months, the Bush campaign has been spending millions to paint John Kerry as a flip-flopper. But anyone who saw Kerry’s speech at the Democratic convention should be able to see right through those attacks.

Throughout his life, John Kerry has always stood up for what was right, whether it was popular or not. He is a strong man, a man of integrity, and a man of character. Negative character attacks can only work if we can’t see the truth for ourselves. But anyone who saw Kerry’s speech knows that he speaks the truth loud and clear.

John Kerry will restore respect, honor and credibility to the White House. If Bush was so proud of his record, he wouldn’t be bashing Kerry.

— Bob Mazzeo

John Kerry said it best in his speech: “It is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.”

“Family values” means providing jobs and health care for all Americans. It means supporting education and sending our kids to college. It means real prescription drug benefits for our seniors, not benefits for drug companies. And it means not cutting pay and benefits for our soldiers and veterans who so nobly serve our country. John Kerry is the candidate who truly understands family values.

— David Turner

At the Democratic Convention, former President Clinton said it well: “Strength and wisdom are not opposing values.”

President Bush’s policies can seem strong, but they are terribly unwise. We simply can’t afford four more years of mistakes under the guise of strength. We need a president who will use both strength and wisdom as guiding principles. John Kerry will be that president.

— Jennifer Williams

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