Archive for March, 2008

While Newsday reporters celebrated their winning a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1970 for an expose´ of corruption involving public officials and Republican Party figures on Long Island, one of the crooks who had been exposed showed up.

Republican leader Freddie Fellman, who would subsequently go to prison, “lived up to his reputation as a big talker, taking the floor and catching the attention of the assembled journalists. “Wait a second,” he said to the surprised revelers. “You couldn’t have done this without me!”


The story is from a new book, Pulitzer’s Gold by Roy Harris Jr., senior editor at CFO magazine. I mentioned it here five weeks ago because the book, which has been selling well, devotes a chapter to The Point Reyes Light’s 1979 gold medal.

Now that I’ve had time to read the book at a leisurely pace, I find myself frequently recounting stories from it, such as the Freddie Fellman tale. Anytime a book does that for me, I figure it’s pretty well written.

Another story I love from Pulitzer’s Gold recounts how Raleigh, North Carolina’s News & Observer won the Public Service medal in 1996 for revealing environmental problems from the state’s burgeoning hog industry. It illustrates the circuitous routes that newspaper investigations often take.

While looking into malfeasance at the North Carolina State Fair back in 1995, two News and Observer reporters discovered the state veterinarian was taking gifts from pork producers. They then looked into the hog industry and discovered that although it had become huge in North Carolina, this “had happened mostly out of the public eye,” the book relates. “And so had the pollution that came with it.”

250px-sow_with_piglet.jpgNews and Observer staff eventually wrote that a “megalopolis” of 7 million swine had sprung up in North Carolina, with each pig producing two to four times as much waste as the average human. What’s more, the newspaper reported, this megalopolis of pig pens has no sewage-treatment plants. All the wastes are simply flushed into open pits and sprayed onto fields.Not surprisingly, groundwater was becoming contaminated.

Still another good story from the book, this one containing a public-relations lesson, concerns The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s winning a Public Service medal in 1990. The prize was for revealing “how the American blood industry operates with little government regulation or supervision,” in the words of the Pulitzer Board.

In 1989, a business reporter at The Inquirer gave blood during a drive at his office. Afterward, he became curious about what happened to the blood next. Planning to write a routine business story, the reporter contacted the local Red Cross director and started asking routine questions: How much blood is in the blood bank? What is the dollar value of the blood?

But the director cut him off, saying, “We don’t have to tell you that.” The reporter told author Harris, “I was taken aback, and my journalistic antennae went up.” Suddenly suspicious because of the director’s stonewalling, reporter Gilbert Gaul eventually determined that 61 percent of the Red Cross’ business was blood, not disaster relief, and that “red cells are really a commodity, and they’re sold that way.”

Gaul revealed a secretive, nationwide market in blood, which was being repeatedly sold and resold. His series brought about more federal inspections of blood brokering nationwide, as well as more attention to keeping AIDS out of the blood supply. And it all began with the Red Cross director in Philadelphia refusing to answer some routine questions prompted by a blood drive.

pulitzerfamily.jpgPulitzer’s Gold is also wonderfully rich in quotations from a variety of writers. Some examples that I’ve found myself repeating:

• “What I try to do in my paper is to give the public part of what it wants to have and part of what it ought to have, whether it wants it or not,” Herbert Bayard Swope, executive editor, New York World.

• The Jazz Age had had a wild youth and a heady middle age¦ the most expensive orgy in history. It was borrowed time anyhow “the whole upper tenth of a nation living with the insouciance of grand dukes and the casualness of chorus girls.” F. Scott Fitzerald on the 1920s

• Every reporter is a hope, every editor a disappointment.” Joseph Pulitzer (Pulitzer’s son and grandson are seen above with a bust of the legendary publisher)

In looking at 88 years of competition for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, which Joseph Pulitzer considered the top award, author Harris recounts some fascinating events in American history. And what makes the telling itself fascinating is that it’s history as seen through the eyes of reporters who covered the events, whether Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, or the desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas, schools.

The book is also packed with interesting tidbits about the awarding of the prizes:

•  Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, for example, once wrote dismissively about the prizes although he himself had lobbied Pulitzer jurors on behalf of The Post. (In recent years, Bradlee has spoken more highly of the prizes.)

• In 1918, the Public Service prize went to The Milwaukee Journal for a campaign against “Germanism in America.” The campaign included opposition to German-language classes.

royharris-portrait.jpg• Columbia University in New York City houses the awards program, and in 1972, university trustees tried to block the gold medal’s being awarded to The New York Times for publishing the Pentagon Papers. The trustees objected that the papers were stolen, but Columbia president William McGill convinced them not to intervene.

• Much of the New Orleans Times-Picayune coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which won a Public Service award in 2006, was published only online because the newspaper building was flooded.

The Point Reyes Light won its gold medal in 1979 for an expose’ of violence and other wrongdoing by the Synanon cult, but even though my former wife Cathy and I then owned the paper, I hadn’t known what went on during the judging until I read Pulitzer’s Gold. According to Los Times media reporter David Shaw, who is quoted by author Harris (above), members of the Pulitzer board and jury told him “they honored The Light” more because it was a small paper whose editors had shown great courage, at considerable financial risk, than because the paper’s stories were necessarily better than the three other finalists in the Public Service category.

All thought The Light stories excellent. But Shaw quoted Michael O’Neill, then editor of The New York Daily News and a member of the jury, as saying that “if you took the names of the newspapers off the entries, I would definitely have voted for The Chicago Tribune series on the problems of the aged.” Shaw also quoted an unnamed board member as saying of The Light’s Dave and Cathy Mitchell: “The job that couple did was damn good, but the guts they showed, with Synanon just a few miles down the road, that’s what the Pulitzers are all about, that’s what won the award.”

Shaw of The LA Times accuses board members of sentimentality for reasoning this way. In contrast, Bob Woodward, The Washington Post writer of Watergate fame, “proposes that “degree of difficulty” should be factored into standards used for the Public Service Prize,” author Harris notes. “To some degree,” he adds, “the Pulitzer board already does that when it considers the long odds faced by a small newspaper.”

Pulitzer’s Gold, University of Missouri Press, 382 pages plus 90-page appendix, $39.95.

A little Madness in the Spring/ Is wholesome even for the King” — Emily Dickinson

We’re only four days into Spring, and already the world looks brighter. Of course, the return of Daylight Savings Time has probably helped. In any case, here are five faces that have brightened my cabin in the past few days.


My houseguest Linda Petersen’s dog Sebastian among the daffodils.

Deaf and legally blind, Sebastian will turn 15 in May. Linda’s daughter Saskia 10 years ago found the Havanese-mix filthy, matted, and hunting through garbage in the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Saskia managed to locate Sebastian’s owners, who not only were willingly to give him to her but even had a few veterinary records for him.


A wild turkey showed up a few mornings ago just outside my kitchen window. The tom was displaying for some hens under the pine tree.


Neighbor Didi Thompson in early afternoon called excitedly to say a bobcat was in the Giacomini family’s field, which is next to her property and mine.

Another neighbor, George Stamoulis, had previously seen the bobcat on our hill, and Cat Cowles of Inverness while driving to work at Hog Island Oyster Company had spotted it walking up Campolindo Road downhill from our homes. Finally, it was my turn to see it, if only from a distance.


Vamping for cannabis: Seeva Cherms (daughter of Linda Sturdivant of Inverness Park) and her friend Michelle from Hollywood.

The two are working in the drive to qualify a ballot initiative that would legalize the use of marijuana and the cultivation of its non-euphoric cousin hemp. Please see Posting 104 for that story. While touring the state, they dropped by at sunset to say hi.

Government officials’ wanting to sound “green,” rather than science and common sense, seems to be behind the growing number of restrictions on West Marin’s woodstoves. (In fact, a number of environmentalists have complained that the new restrictions on woodstoves are actually un-environmental, for they encourage the use of fossil fuels for heating while restricting the use of a renewable resource.) Two months ago I wrote Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey about my concerns, and this week he “belatedly” responded to my comments and answered questions for this blog.

On Jan. 20, I had written: As a constituent, I’m asking that you and the Board of Supervisors speak out against the broad-bush limits on woodstoves proposed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. [The county has a seat on the district’s governing board.] As I’m sure you recall, in 2003 you shepherded an ordinance through the board that required us to replace our woodstoves with EPA-approved versions by 2008. At that time, I objected in The Point Reyes Light that what might be needed in the San Geronimo Valley was clearly not needed in windy areas.


As was reported here last May, a recognizable apparition of Jesus (or is it Moammar Khadafy?) appears from time to time on the glass door of my woodstove after there’s been a fire. Whoever he is, he’s clearly saddened by what the world of his woodstove is coming to.

There just isn’t a smoke problem in the windy areas or open countryside of West Marin. The San Geronimo Valley’s problem, which is what prompted the ordinance, is that the Valley acts as a bowl for smoke. As the Air Quality Management District noted at the time, “When there is no wind to dissipate pollutants, they become trapped under this inversion layer, building up to unhealthy levels.” The operative phrase is “when there is no wind to dissipate pollutants.”

Despite published objections from environmentalists such as Mark Dowie and Michael Stocker, from The Light, and from others, the ordinance passed without making allowances for parts of the county where it isn’t needed, such as in Point Reyes Station. So as a good citizen of Marin County, I spent more than $4,000 last year to replace my Franklin stove with an EPA-approved model.

logo_baaqmd.gifNow along comes the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and proposes banning the use of woodstoves on the West Marin coast if there is air pollution in, for example, Oakland. Why should smoke building up somewhere that’s a mountain range and a large bay away keep people from using EPA-approved woodstoves in rural areas along the coast from Sonoma to San Mateo counties? Doesn’t the County of Marin, which has already made rural residents spend thousands of dollars on EPA-rated stoves, now have an obligation to defend the use of those stoves?

From a strictly financial standpoint, heating with propane or electricity is enormously more expensive than with wood. I fear the Air Management District board has the provincialism of those hooked up to natural gas. Because of storms each winter, there is always plenty of firewood for sale here, making fallen trees a resource rather than a disposal problem. On the other hand, there are heavy environmental costs from the refining and transporting of propane, the damming rivers and using fossil-fueled plants to create electricity.

So as a constituent, I am asking that the County of Marin — after forcing us to install expensive, EPA-approved woodstoves — will now secure an exemption from the Air Management District’s proposed ban on heating with wood on bad-air days.

It would not be difficult, to determine which parts of the Bay Area have inversion-layer problems and which don’t. If everyone wanted to, the problem areas could be overlaid on zoning maps the way the Coastal Zone is. The district previously said it had the equipment to monitor air anywhere it was requested to do so, so this is not an extravagant suggestion. Forcing hundreds of thousands of people to unnecessarily stop heating with wood in cold weather is extravagant.

To me, it seems only fair that county government take a stand after already making us spend more money than most of us can easily afford. Nor would it be healthy to force families who can’t afford expensive heating to shiver through cold days because 75 miles away some town has an inversion layer.

100_5259.jpgSupervisor Kinsey (left) responded: The issue of windy areas is one I researched we researched when we were considering the County ordinance five years ago. The BAAQMD and others provided us with clear information that pollution created in Marin ends up impacting the East Bay and the Central Valley. I believe that if all counties and cities act together we can substantially reduce air pollution in the region, as well as addressing the immediate concern of areas which have inversion layers.

DVM: Under a four-year-old county ordinance, which you sponsored, homeowners in West Marin and other unincorporated parts of the county, by July 1 of this year have to replace their old woodstoves and fireplaces with EPA-approved units. Do you feel that should be sufficient to meet the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s goals?

Supervisor Kinsey: I believe that our ordinance has taken appropriate steps to meet the BAAQMD’s goals related to air quality impacts related to wood smoke. The county ordinance provided a five-year voluntary program, and the board provided a rebate program to financially help people who need to upgrade their wood stoves. Given that those who have only a wood-burning source for their heat are exempt from the BAAQMD ban during “Spare-the-Air” events, as long as they are using dry material for their fuel, I believe that our ordinance is consistent and adequate to meet BAAQMD goals.

DVM: The main alternative to wood for heating in West Marin is propane, and it is derived from other petroleum products during oil or natural-gas processing. With the cost of natural gas expected to rise by 20 percent this year and the cost of oil already high and rising, wouldn’t this seem to be a bad time to be forcing people to burn more propane?

100_6971.jpgSupervisor Kinsey: The proposed regulations do not force West Marin residents to switch to propane. Wood burning remains a viable option, although some homeowners will have to pay the price of converting to an EPA-certified stove. I agree that petroleum-based fuels will continue to become more expensive and have their own environmental consequences, even if their impacts occur remotely. Our board is strongly advocating the development of additional renewable energy capacity in our county, and I am very pleased with the operation and cost savings that I am realizing from my own photo-voltaic installation.

DVM: Do you think the Air Quality Management District recognizes differences in rural, suburban, and urban wood heating? Should it?

Supervisor Kinsey: The BAAQMD considers air quality to be a regional responsibility, and I doubt that they differentiate between remote, low-density communities and larger, more urban ones, because they recognize the interconnectedness of the atmosphere. Having said that, I also doubt that their enforcement activities will focus on the lower-density areas where problems and complaints will be fewer. I also think that by exempting wood-burning smoke when it is the sole source of heating for a residence is an acknowledgement that there are differences in the character of communities.

I believe that we all live in the same fragile bubble, and that we are equally responsible for the quality of our air, whether we live in West Marin or an urban area. At the time that the Marin County ordinance was enacted, many local residents agreed with me, and some cited their own health problems related to smoke. That said, I also believe that when regulations are implemented the cost must be taken into account, and I applaud the Air District for proposing a rebate program, similar to Marin County’s rebate program, which will help people make the transition.

DVM: Should the county ask the Air Management District to make exceptions for EPA-approved woodstoves? For homes in sparsely populated areas? For woodstoves not in the vicinity of bad-air-day problems?

Supervisor Kinsey: For the reason mentioned above, I do not think that the Air Management District needs to make additional exceptions for low-density communities.

100_0940_115179878_1_2.jpgDVM: In general, what should the County of Marin’s role be in all this? What position is the board taking?

Supervisor Kinsey: Marin County seeks to be a leader in reducing health risks and climate change consequences related to pollution of our air. We were in the lead on requiring improvements to wood-burning appliances, without taking an arbitrary position of banning all woodstoves. We also have tried to ease the financial impact of change for individuals. I expect that our board will endorse the proposed regulations, but we will not take an active role in enforcing those regulations.

Our objective has been, and will remain in a supportive role, to help homeowners convert their stoves and to meet the county code. In the upcoming county budget process, I will be requesting that my fellow supervisors support renewed funding for the county rebate program to help homeowners with the costs associated with conversion.

A couple of Supervisor Kinsey’s answers make me suspicious. He talks about “pollution from Marin” having an impact in the East Bay and Central Valley. That’s “Marin,” not “West Marin,” the territory that makes up most of his district and which is on the other side of the coast range from the East Bay. In fact, he acknowledges, “I doubt that the [Air Management District officials] differentiate between remote, low-density communities and larger, more-urban ones.”

I’m also suspicious when a politician says, “Don’t worry about this law I’m backing. In your case, it’ll never be enforced.” Either you have a bad law or a prediction you can’t count on. Supposedly, as long as you don’t have other ways to heat your house, you’ll be able to fire up EPA-approved woodstoves on “Spare the Air Days.” Of course, you won’t be able to do so if you have propane available — even if you can’t afford to use it.

I like Supervisor Kinsey, but his citing the “interconnectedness of the atmosphere” and our all living “in the same fragile bubble” as arguments for restricting this coast’s woodstoves strikes me as a wondrous rhetorical leap — not empirical science.

Although the official comment period on the Air District’s proposed woodstove restrictions expired back on Dec. 10 (well before most of the public was aware of them), readers can still email suggestions to district staff or directors at

Half the frontier towns in Northern California contain buildings that, if you believe local lore, were once bordellos. I can’t count the number of times someone in Point Reyes Station has assured me that either the Grandi or the Western Saloon used to be a whorehouse.

I once asked the late Lefty Arndt, who had lived in Point Reyes Station since the 1920s, if there really ever was a brothel in town.

He told me there once had been one, but it was neither the Grandi nor the Western. Rather, it was a small building that once was on the main street and became a brothel after being moved to Mesa Road, where it is now a private residence. For the sake of the residents, I won’t identify it. Arndt, who had not been a patron, said it was his belief that only two women worked there, and noted that the town didn’t pay too much attention to it.

198px-eliot_spitzer.jpgIn contrast, it would be hard to imagine higher-profile prostitution than the Emperors Club VIP where New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (right) was a patron.

As the FBI revealed Monday, the governor had been frequenting the call-girl operation before it was raided a few weeks ago. From listening to folks around Point Reyes Station, however, I get the impression that people here are less interested in Spitzer’s high-priced call girls than his hypocrisy.

From 1998 to 2006, Spitzer was New York’s attorney general, and during that time he “prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized-crime taskforce,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported. “In one such case in 2004, Spitzer spoke with revulsion and anger after announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a high-end prostitution ring out of Staten Island.”

Government hypocrisy toward prostitution, however, is traditional and may never have been more bizarre than at Mustang Ranch, once the best-known brothel in the United States.

An oasis of mobilehomes amid 440 acres of sand and sagebrush located 10 miles east of Reno (and in a different county), the ranch offered security, cleanliness, and mirrors on the ceiling. The women who worked there were required to use condoms and get weekly medical checkups.

Although Nevada law permits bordellos in most counties, it insists that their operators — bizarrely enough — be of good moral character. But what in other people would be considered an expression of good character – such as civic-mindedness – can in the case of a brothel owner be criticized as grasping for legitimacy. In the 1970s, Mustang Ranch owner Joe Conforte found himself in that situation.

While he could easily have been considered a scoundrel merely because of the way he made his money, Conforte instead came under attack primarily because he was considered too involved in civic affairs for a brothel owner. Leading the attack was the local press, and in 1977, Warren Lerude, Foster Church, and Norman Cardoza of The Reno Evening News and Nevada State Journal shared a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing for denouncing Conforte’s influence in the Reno area.

100_6952_2.jpgReading about all this in California, I was surprised by Conforte’s rise to national prominence, especially when he was written up – complete with an Annie Leibovitz photo (at right is a toned detail from it) – in Rolling Stone magazine. Equally surprising was his subsequent fall.

In 1990, a federal court took control of Mustang Ranch after Conforte missed a $75,000 monthly tax bill. When word of the takeover reached the bordello, “prostitutes panicked and fled, customers were thrown out, and the doors were slammed,” The Chronicle reported at the time.

Given government’s usual repression of prostitution, one might have expected officials to be pleased that the brothel had closed. Not so. When a federal bankruptcy judge turned Mustang Ranch over to US Bankruptcy trustee Jeri Coppa, she considered it her top priority to immediately get the bordello back in business.

As her office saw it, the closure could not have come at a worse time. The Reno Air Races were to be held that Saturday, and normally this would be the busiest weekend of the year at Mustang Ranch. The whorehouse could not afford to lose so many potential customers if it was to pay off the IRS and its secured creditors.

I’m trying to get the girls back, straighten out the business licenses, insurance, and work permits, blood tests – and get the place back open,” Ms. Coppa, the federal bankruptcy trustee, told Chronicle reporter Kevin Leary three days before the Air Races. “It’s a new experience for me. I’ve never run a whorehouse before. But about 20 girls have signed up so far, and the bar manager and floor maids are anxious to get back to work.”

In any case, the federal government with unusual alacrity managed to reopen Mustang Ranch just in time for the Air Races. Later the ranch was sold at auction, where it was purchased by an associate of Conforte.

Notwithstanding prostitution’s being legal throughout much of the state, even in Nevada it carries a stigma. Onetime Harper’s editor Sallie Tisdale in Talk Dirty to Me: An Intimate Philosophy of Sex (Doubleday, 1994) notes that prostitutes in Nevada cannot live and work in the same town, go into casinos or bars, or be in the company of men in public places. Still for women willing to put up with the stigma, working in a brothel at least pays fairly well and is relatively safe.

The same is not true for their sisters who walk big-city streets. My former employer, the old San Francisco Examiner, in 1995 reported not only that rape, robbery and beatings are a daily risk for the city’s streetwalkers but also that few of their attackers are ever prosecuted. Hitch-hookers, who ply their trade in strangers’ cars, face particular danger.

Fearing the AIDS epidemic, streetwalkers nowadays generally try to get their customers to use condoms, but hypocritical laws actually discourage this. If a woman is found to be carrying a supply of condoms, many courts in both the Great Britain and the United States allow that fact to be used as evidence against her should she be charged with prostitution.

There was a time back in the late 1970s when people lived upstairs in Point Reyes Station’s derelict Grandi Building although the county considered the place unsafe and eventually kicked everybody out. A couple of years before that happened, however, sheriff’s deputies began to notice that each evening, one of the Grandi’s female residents kept going across the street into the Western Saloon, picking up men, and then taking them back to her room. In the course of a night, she might do this two or three times.

Suspecting she was soliciting, officers began keeping an eye on her, only to discover she was not a prostitute, just very promiscuous.

Not exactly the Emperors Club VIP where Gov. Spitzer (who is scheduled to resign Monday) spent up to $80,000.

A San Francisco Chronicle headline and an Economist ad published in recent days provide worrisome evidence that a significant minority of Americans aren’t bothered by their government’s use of torture. In fact, more than a few Americans get off on it.

175px-raustadt_photo_of_mccain-1.jpg“McCain Urges Bush to Veto Waterboard Bill; Senator Is Against Torture But Doesn’t Want CIA Limited,” noted a Chronicle headline on Feb. 21. The accompanying AP story explained:

“Arizona Sen. John McCain [right] said President Bush should veto a measure that would bar the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods on terrorist suspects. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, voted against the bill, which would restrict the CIA to using only the 19 interrogation techniques listed in the Army field manual.

“His vote was controversial because the manual prohibits waterboarding — a simulated drowning technique that McCain also opposes — yet McCain doesn’t want the CIA bound by the manual and its prohibitions.”

ag19.jpgAs McCain sees it, when our government is torturing someone, the torturer needs to be on the CIA payroll and not the Defense Department’s — a distinction that may be lost on victims such as the Abu Graib prisoner at left.

There are, of course, people who defend the CIA’s use of torture. Some make lawyerly arguments for it, but an uncomfortable number are gleefully sadistic in its defense. A spot check of online debates nationwide found a number of comments along the lines of these sent to The Anchorage Daily News:

capt10.jpg“We have a new breed of extremely violent men with knowledge of extremely deadly plans. Do what you need to do to make them bare their souls. If waterboarding is too harsh for you bunny huggers, do it how Poncho Villa did it? Tie them to a post, pull their pants down, and put a hungry calf in front of them. Problem solved.”

capt4_thumb.jpgOr: “Water boarding would be better if we used rats’ blood instead of water.”

Such remarks from more than a few members of the public raise the question: What kind of person does the CIA hire to do the torturing?

And how does our government find educated people willing to work for an agency known worldwide for its sadistic abuse of prisoners?


Answer: The CIA recruits its spies with ads in The Economist, in other publications, on television, and on the website YouTube where it solicits both conventional spies and computer techies interested in electronic spying. The Economist ad above reads:

“Be part of a vital mission that’s larger than all of us. The CIA’s National Clandestine Service seeks qualified individuals to serve our country’s mission abroad. Our careers offer rewarding, fast-paced, and high-impact challenges in intelligence collection on issues of critical importance to US national security.”

ag25.jpgOf course as a practical matter, CIA employees must either be able to indulge in sadism that would turn the stomachs of most people — or at a minimum be comfortable working for an agency that indulges in such horrors.

On Saturday, March 8, President Bush, as expected, followed Senator McCain’s advice and vetoed Congress’ attempt to bring the United States of America back into the civilized world.

These four photos of captives at Abu Graib being tortured by our government are from The fact that they are so horrible to look at demonstrates how much our government’s use of torture — whether pain, fear, or sexual degradation — offends most Americans’ sense of decency.

The Park Service’s hired hunters are assaulting not only wildlife but the value systems of West Marin residents as disparate as ranchers, deer hunters, animal-rights advocates, and merchants.

watching-over-the-heard3_1.jpgUntil now, the administration of Point Reyes National Seashore Supt. Don Neubacher has managed to avoid most of the criticism it deserves by repeatedly giving out misleading information regarding the need for the slaughter, how quickly it would proceed, and what would become of the venison.

Until the press found out, for example, many fallow deer were left where they dropped, slowly dying of gut wounds. Axis-deer carcasses were carted off in Waste Management dumpsters, one garbageman has reported.

Fallow-buck photo by Janine Warner, founder of

Wildcare has organized an email petition drive to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Barbara Boxer, calling for a moratorium. I urge readers of this blog to please take a few seconds to sign the petition by clicking here.

Among those offended by the park’s latest round of deer killing is Kathy Runnion of Nicasio (seen below). Many of us know Kathy from her job at the Point Reyes Station Post Office and as the head of Planned Feralhood. This weekend she wrote this message to the press:

I am devastated by the slaughter of the fallow and axis deer, and I’ve wanted to organize some kind of event that will allow the community a way to express our grief and horror.

I spoke with Ella Walker this week and was moved by her story. She lives in the heart of Olema and has spent time in the National Seashore confronting the White Buffalo hunters. Other Olema residents have seen helicopters terrorizing deer out of gulches into the open where they could be shot.

100_6910_1.jpgI sure would like to see the press embrace this story and stay on it until we can figure out how the Point Reyes National Seashore was allowed to eradicate axis and fallow deer when so many citizens are against it, including leading politicians. Park Superintendent Don Neubacher’s response to any query is that we all had our opportunity to comment.

Did anybody really listen to our input or respect it? I don’t think the Point Reyes National Seashore was ever very concerned about the community’s feelings.

The axis and fallow deer are a part of our community, whom we have loved seeing as we go about our daily business. I don’t see them anymore and I miss them.

Had the National Seashore not given the public so much misinformation, the public opposition up to now would have been far louder. We were told that the deer were not scheduled to be totally eliminated until 2020 and that there would be time for changing this approach to managing them during the intervening years. But already, the axis are virtually gone, as are a large percentage of the fallow deer.

Trinka Marris, Richard Kirshman, and many other Marin County people have worked hard to stop the killing, and I, like Susan Sasso said in her letter a few weeks ago, thought this group would be able to carry the fight for us. However, the slaughter has been so fast and furious, and there has been so much deception that more of us need to be heard.

dsc_0021_2.jpgNow that we are hearing the horrible truth about White Buffalo’s barbaric practices, it seems their contraception program is, in fact, merely one way they track herds to kill them.

A fallow doe, her head jangling with a tracking collar and tags that pierce both her ears. While all this is supposedly to keep track of which does have received contraception, the tracking collars are being used by hunters to find and kill the does’ herds. Photo by Ella Walker.

Many people in our community complain in private about the abuses they have witnessed but have remained silent out of fear of the park’s ability to retaliate against their business or the home and ranch they lease within the park.

People who know the reality of the culling and contraception program need to speak out and tell the public and our political leaders what has happened to the fallow and axis deer. Silence is complicity when a holocaust surrounds us.

Ella Walker has witnessed White Buffalo boss Anthony DeNicola, his clothes covered in blood, driving across the Vedanta Retreat, where there was not going to be any deer killing, the park had said. At the very least, White Buffalo appeared to be using the retreat as a staging area for killing deer nearby.

A lot of information is coming out now about White Buffalo’s disturbing tactics in communities all across the country. I wish we could have had an opportunity to learn something more about them, to be a part of the process that determines life and death in our homeland. I thought West Marin’s concerns were supposed to be significant.

Not only are we in West Marin part of the public that owns the park, we are a key part. The National Seashore is part of our community, and more than most Americans, we are aware of what is occurring within it. We in West Marin are its caretakers as much as the Park Service employees who get assigned here. And we demand a stop to the killing.

over-the-shoulder2.jpgI’ve lived here 35 years. This land and this community have been the love of my life, my healing place, my home. Now I wake every day with a pit in my stomach, knowing my animal friends have been terrorized and murdered. I feel sick.

The Point Reyes National Seashore needs to know a very heavy toll has been taken on this community. We wish the park would have shown us some respect and considered our feelings about these innocent, majestic animals.

Why the blitzkrieg after the park said it would proceed gradually? Like the deer, we as a community never had a chance. To the Point Reyes National Seashore I say, “Shame on you!

Kathy Runnion
Nicasio & Point Reyes Station, 662-2535

Photo of fallow does by Janine Warner, founder of