Barking up the Wrong Tree?

In the August/September issue you quoted from The Wall Street Journal, “There are people prepared to let women die to save trees.” (See Balance Sheet.) As the environmental group leading the effort to properly manage the Pacific yew tree and the old-growth ecosystem in which it is found, we would like an opportunity to clarify the Journal’s erroneous statement.

It is the goal of the Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC) to ensure that the maximum amount of the cancer-fighting drug taxol, derived presently from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, is made available for all those who need it, both now and in the future. To accomplish this goal, we need to exploit fully the available bark source, without waste, and immediately bring other natural or artificial sources of taxol on line. But most pressingly, we need to immediately change forest management policies that have been wasting vast quantities of yew trees and taxol on our national forests and other public and private forest lands.

The Pacific yew grows very slowly, principally in the shade of centuries-old Douglas fir forests in western Oregon and Washington. Currently, on federal forest lands, there are tens of thousands of acres of old-growth forests containing Pacific yew that are under contract to private lumber companies and are slated to be clearcut, and in most cases, to be later burned. While the Pacific yew can often resprout after it is cut, burning kills its thin bark, eliminating the Pacific yew from future forest stands and for future cancer needs.

This last spring, the ONRC threatened to go to court if the Willamette National Forest in Oregon did not go back and recover Pacific yew bark that was to be burned or wasted following clearcutting.

Conservationists believe the Pacific yew should be utilized and sustained. Because of the great human need, our priority has been to try to eliminate the waste of the yew tree in our national forests.

But the reality remains: Future supplies of yew trees for the production of taxol are finite. The good news is taxol and other similar compounds are also contained in the needles. If properly managed, the Pacific yew and its life-saving chemical taxol can be sustained.

Wendell Wood Oregon Natural Resources Council Eugene, OR

Unnecessary Procedure

Craig M. Collins stated in his review of The Litigation Explosion (“The Invisible Fist,” Aug./Sept.), “Fix the substantive law, and procedural law will no longer be a problem.” I disagree. Civil procedure is not alike in all jurisdictions. Like the frog that will jump out of the pot if dropped into boiling water, but will stay and be slow-cooked if the temperature slowly rises, California civil procedure has become a pressure cooker which slow-cooks alive all who must deal with it, including judges, attorneys and their staffs-and most of all the legal consumers, who must not only wait longer for justice, but must pay more for the unnecessary and time-consuming paper shuffling. Like the doctor who must order every conceivable test to avoid charges of malpractice, so must the California attorney file every conceivable paper.

In addition to rules of civil procedure common in most states, local court rules can vary widely. In Florida the rule book, which applies uniformly to courts statewide, had about 28 pages when I left. By contrast, there is no one book and no one set of forms that can be used to practice in California. Not only can every county have different forms and rules, but branches within counties have different rules, and courtrooms at the same branch can have different rules-often unwritten! The local rules for just five Southern California counties takes up an entire bookshelf. Replacing pages with the latest updates is a constant chore. Secretaries fill up entire notebooks trying to keep track of minor details, such as how to format exhibits.

But judges with fiefdom complexes are not the worst part of the problem. Large law firms control the state and county lawmakers. Forms that are required by only one county in the state have often trapped an attorney from a neighboring county, protecting the “local boys” and furthering injustice to the unwary attorney’s client.

Legal consumers large and small are seeking out alternatives to litigation. I own a mediation business. I assist clients to resolve their disputes without litigation. My sole business objective is to keep myself and my clients out of the courthouse and its degrading and dehumanizing system of justice for which the California legal establishment should be filled with shame.

Dagny Sharon The Mediation Alternative Tustin, CA

The Natives Are Restless

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