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Let Me Explain 

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To the editor:

Since I was one of the forest preserve representatives that Name Withheld used (Letters, April 17) to illustrate the dumbness of WBEZ [Hot Type, February 20], maybe I should make clear to your readers what we mean when we compare the work we are doing here with the preservation of

the rain forest. The goal of conservationists is to preserve as much of the earth's biodiversity as possible. Since tropical rain forests contain more biodiversity than any other terrestrial ecosystem, their preservation is critically important. No temperate zone region can match the biodiversity of the tropical forests, but this does not mean that temperate zone ecosystems are not worth protecting. If they die out, the earth will lose significant biodiversity.

Among temperate zone regions, the Chicago area ranks high in biodiversity. The varied landscape of the midwest included prairies, savannas, woodlands, forests, and many different types of wetlands. With so many different communities present, many species of plants and animals thrived here. Cornfields, lawns, and parking lots have nearly obliterated these distinctive ecosystems. Many of the best surviving examples are here in the metropolitan area, especially in the forest preserve systems of Cook and the collar counties. If we do not protect them here, there is a real chance that they will vanish from the face of the earth.

Despite the flood of grim news from Brazil and Indonesia, there are still thousands of square miles of rain forest remaining. There are still places where jaguars hunt tapirs, still places where orangutans feed in the treetops. This fact gives both urgency and hope to the struggle to keep the rain forests alive. In the midwest, we consider it worth mounting decades-long struggles to protect 80-acre plots of prairie or savanna. Whole ecosystems are truly on the brink of extinction here. This gives our work a global significance that even many people too smart for public radio are not aware of.

Jerry Sullivan



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