Letters to the Editor: February 25, 2015

Allan Savory no Galileo; Farewell to Ralph Benson

A Dubious Plan

To compare Allan Savory to Galileo and germ-theory pioneer Ignaz Semmelweis is ludicrous and dangerous (“The Heretic,” Feb. 18; web edition). The grass-fed beef communities certainly rejoice at Savory’s theory, as it plays right into their profits; the only thing missing is the science. It is scientifically proven that 10,000 years of livestock grazing has transformed global grasslands into degraded deserts. Savory’s proposal of intensive grazing of a significantly increased number of cattle worldwide is a risky proposal that could have devastating results.

Many issues arose during Savory’s charter grazing trials, including cattle losing so much weight they were practically unsellable for beef. But more significantly, the critics stated the trials “failed to produce the marked improvement in grass cover” and came to the same conclusion as the overwhelming majority of scientists studying this issue: “No grazing system has yet shown the capacity to overcome the long-term effects of overstocking and/or drought on vegetation productivity.” Savory admitted that attempts to reproduce his methods had led to “15 years of frustrating and erratic results.”

Just as the fossil-fuel industry loves it when a politician denies climate change, ranchers and meat lovers salivate at Savory’s indifference to the facts, but you cannot deny science, and Savory’s dubious plan would create a devastated and unlivable planet.


So Long, Ralph

He doesn’t act like a lawyer and doesn’t talk like one either, but Ralph Benson’s skills as a lawyer enabled him to make the Sonoma Land Trust a force to be reckoned with in the local and national environmental movement. During his tenure as executive director, he helped preserve more than 30,000 acres in the North Bay. He’s moved on and left a big hole in an organization that once seemed sleepy and that’s now all fired up. Perhaps because he didn’t sound like a fiery eco-warrior and perhaps, too, because he could and did talk to just about everyone, no matter what their views, he managed to get a lot done.

Nobody really has a bad word to say about him, and that’s not just because they’re polite and he’s retiring. At Regional Parks, Caryl Hart loves him, and so does Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin. For years he’s lived much of his time at Glen Oaks Ranch in Glen Ellen, where he’s entertained winemakers, grape growers, farmers, hikers, backpackers and flaming environmentalists too. He cooks, he keeps the conversation moving, and for the most part he stays in the background.

When he wasn’t hunkered down at his desk or at a meeting, he might be found walking alone or with friends in the Mayacamas. Mountain lions never did frighten him. So long, Ralph, we’ll miss you, whether or not we attended land trust events and even if we never wrote a check. May you wander in wetlands, parks, forests and wildlife preserves.

Santa Rosa

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Sonoma County Library