I have really appreciated Ashley Ahearn’s contribution to the news with some longer more in-depth pieces exploring topics that we are all interested in. But the recent piece, “Sagebrush under Siege” had a troubling, and huge omission.
Just the fact that the BLM, their “ecologists” included, call the sagebrush steppe habitat “rangeland” hints at this omission: the huge damage that running livestock on arid western lands does to the ecosystem. To suggest that the invasion of cheatgrass is only due to fire and climate change is dead wrong. The invasion of non-native species into the sagebrush steppe (I refuse to call it “rangeland;” it is not inherently there to be used by livestock), is primarily due to the damage done by cattle grazing. Certainly climate change, and the associated increase in fire have contributed to the issue, but did not initiate the problem.
Here are just a few quotes from a paper distributed by University of Arizona college of Agriculture: “Disturbances such as excessive livestock grazing can reduce native bunchgrass cover and damage biological soil crusts, increasing the amount of bare soil and freeing up water and nutrients for invasive species establishment, particularly exotic annuals like cheatgrass.” And, “Over time, the void left by herbaceous perennials wasn’t completely filled by sagebrush and other shrub species; it provided an opening for exotic annuals adapted to heavy grazing pressure. In addition, policy makers did not understand the limitations of sagebrush and other semiarid ecosystems when they formulated policies to encourage settlement of the West.” There is a huge amount of research and documentation of the effects of livestock grazing on sagebrush steppe.
For there to be a nearly full page spread about invasive species in this habitat and not a single mention of the damage that cows and other livestock do to the arid landscape is not telling the whole story. I am truly disappointed in all the “ecologists” interviewed as well, how they could miss this point is beyond me!
Anaka Mines, Twisp
Be aware of Lyme disease
Guess what the most rapidly growing disease in America is. Ask your doctor to guess too. If they don’t respond with the correct answer, politely smile, then go find a good doctor. The answer is Lyme disease. Closely correlated to climate change, ticks carrying Lyme are becoming more prevalent as North America warms and temperatures and habitat increase. In the United States, Lyme is currently the most common vector-borne (transmitted by animal or insect) disease. In addition to the cases that get reported in the United States (35,000 each year) there are all the cases that don’t, due to doctors in denial.
Lyme disease can be fatal. If caught early Lyme symptoms may never occur. Lyme is transmitted through body fluid of infected insects, animals, and humans. Now, think of all the untreated people “doctors in denial” are enabling to infect others.
While the single greatest thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to be aware of the signs and symptoms of early infection, I suggest the second-greatest thing you can do is to only accept a “denial”-free-doctor to provide your health care. Today’s corporate medicine practitioners are tentacles of two major contributors of infectious disease spread and pharmacological derived flora imbalance: Big Pharma and Big Insurance. They tie the hands and muzzle the voice of mainstream medical practitioners.
Neurotransmission in your brain is dependent on the quality of fuel it receives from the foods you eat, which is dependent on your gut flora balance regulating digestion and nutrient uptake quality. If your doctor prescribes a drug, ask: What it will do to upset your gut flora, your neurotransmission; and what you can do to offset that. If you get the “doctor in denial” blank stare response, you know what to do next.
The first onset of Lyme if delivered by insect or animal is a bullseye rash, you’ll know it when you see it. The second, gut flora disruption; you’ll know it when it happens, it’s not giardia. Get tested for borrelia, a Lyme indicator. Western medical practitioners are “allowed” to acknowledge borrelia.
Brandon S. Sheely, Okanogan/Twisp
Big and tiny questions
I must admit I am not up to speed on the zoning debate about tiny homes in Winthrop and Twisp, but nevertheless I’d like to make an observation. The debate seems to rage on about whether tiny homes will ruin a neighborhood or create too much clutter (lack of outbuildings to store all your “stuff” in). Meanwhile, I’m detecting increased size creep in upper-end homes in the valley. Why is there a debate only about homes too small and not the same debate about those too large? Can you really say that a tiny home with cars and stuff outside is more of a blight than a 9,000-square-foot concrete structure on top of Stud Horse Mountain? Zoning is zoning. Good zoning helps neighborhoods and communities, there is no doubt, but why should the focus be only at the bottom? Makes you wonder.
Darlene Ford, Twisp
Lower the limits
Coming back from the coast yesterday, I noticed how bad the road was between Winthrop and Twisp: frost heaves, potholes “fixed” with new asphalt, center and shoulder lines just barely visible. This part of Highway 20 is in so much worse condition than the entire Skagit County parts, the center and shoulder lines of which right now are being repainted. The populous parts, between I-5 and Newhalem, have 50-55 mph speed limits outside town limits. But our stretch of the highway is marked 60 mph.
I asked someone at Twisp Town Hall about possibly lowering the speed to 50 or 55 and I was told that Washington State Department of Transportation would not do it because long-distance truckers need to “make time” to make money. I believe this road is unsafe at 60 mph. Ditto the road over the Loup. Ditto Highway 153 to Methow. Is anyone else of this opinion? Let me know — 55 mph limit lowers carbon emissions!
Carolanne Steinebach, Twisp
The value of treatment
Imagine falling into a depression; your life quickly crumbles around you. Maybe you’re going through a divorce or a loved one died. You start drinking and eventually you can’t stop. Do you think that you should be treated and helped or punished? I imagine that most people would answer yes. However, if instead of alcohol, another drug was used, then you’d be arrested. Why is there this double standard?
When addiction was being heavily studied in the 1960s, by far the most common method was to isolate the rat in a cage with drugged and normal water. The rat chose the drugs the vast majority of the time. Rats are, in nature, very social beings though, so Bruce Alexander — a former psychology professor — created an experiment (dubbed “Rat Park”) that adjusted for their energetic behavior. It included other rats and toys. He found that when the rats were in a more suitable environment, they did not consume the drugged water. Their addiction was merely a manifestation of the isolation they felt — this is paralleled in human history. One example is how, in Vietnam, about 20% of soldiers abused heroin. However, when they returned home, 95% quit.
So what can be done to help addicts? Well, treat them. Decriminalize drugs so that If someone is arrested for possession (not dealing), they would be put in rehab. Opponents might argue that this method is too costly, but in reality it’s actually cheaper. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, we spend $27.8 billion a year on the war on drugs. If we use the EU as an example, we would spend only $19.68 million on treatment. In fact, drug decriminalization could actually spur economic growth in poorer, drug-filled communities. When someone is sent to prison — According to the Prison Policy Initiative — their lifetime income is cut by 41% when compared to their non-incarcerated counterparts. So, if the addicts of younger generations would go to rehab instead of prison, that money would go back to the community.
Ladies and gentlemen, please contact your representatives today.
Michael Dufresne, Twisp
Limiting our waste
Climate change is the defining issue of our generation, and the way that we approach this multifaceted problem will determine the course of humanity and the future of our planet. Each citizen of the world contributes to climate change through our cumulative actions, and we must ask ourselves how we can make small lifestyle changes to limit our individual and community-made carbon footprint. Even the most minute changes can be impactful if we can mobilize as a community to subscribe to a certain level of sustainable living. We believe that limiting single-use plastic expenditure in the Methow Valley will be a positive step to amend the destruction of our planet.
The mass consumption of single-use plastic straws is an epidemic. By 2050, scientists estimate that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Not only is plastic polluting our oceans and other natural spaces, but the production of these items is detrimental to the environment in other ways. Plastic straws are produced using petroleum, a natural gas that is nonrenewable. The refinement of petroleum emits tons of fossil fuels that contribute negatively to the greenhouse effect.
We propose that individuals look into how each person can limit their waste. Doing this is simple: One can purchase bamboo/metal/paper/etc. straws, refuse straws at restaurants and educate others on the impacts of single-use plastic straws on the health of our environment.
Although this might seem insignificant, and this simple change could be perceived as worthless in the face of such a great issue such as climate change. However, small changes can make a difference. By changing consumption patterns on a large scale, we can begin to influence our country’s culture of destructive consumerism, hopefully motivating corporations to change production patterns to be more sustainable.
We must stop deferring the blame of climate change to others. We must begin to accept our individual responsibility to be the change we want to see. We must stop perceiving climate change as an issue of the future because action must be taken now, and it must be taken by us: the citizens.
Greta Laesch and Liv Aspholm, Liberty Bell High School
Better treatment for softball
Softball should be treated the same as other sports. Many other sports that are provided for us at our school have an announcer and PA system, and we don’t. It would be amazing if we had someone calling out our names, numbers and positions. It would let our audience know who we and the opposing team are. If somebody wanted community service hours, Athletic Director Michael Wilbur said that it could be a good idea.
The baseball team has much more than we do. An announcer, padded seats with cupholders, and an actual parking lot. Our field is far from the school, even my mom has asked multiple times where the softball field is. Where cars park they can be at risk of foul balls flying down and hitting their car. The stands are located at the side of the dugout, and not behind the plate like they are supposed to be for better viewing. The success of our project is essential to the fairness our team deserves.
Mr. Barber (our civics teacher) suggested this could be under the Title IX issue. “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” After Peyton Lawrence and I researched it we both agree that our project could be considered Title IX. When talking to Michael he told us how someone anonymous offered to buy the boys an electric billboard, but they didn’t accept it because the girls wouldn’t get one. We feel that we are not recognized as much as them.
There is a window in the shed next to the field. If it gets cleaned up along with the PA system and someone to volunteer, we can have an announcer. We already have access to a PA system to make it easier. This softball field means a lot to us participants if we could help improve it and make it better — then it would be beneficial for us and are fans.
Hannah Binning, Liberty Bell High School