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We at the National Eagle Center beg to differ with the rather alarmist conclusion by Terrence Ingram, founder of the Eagle Nature Foundation, that bald eagle populations are declining (“Worrying signs for bald eagles,” Jan. 21). As the nation’s leading education center connecting people to eagles in nature, history and cultures, we know from our own observations and reading of the professional literature that bald eagle populations are healthy and even thriving. From our strategic location on the Upper Mississippi River, we observe bald eagles every day. From our weekly winter counts over the last 10 years at seven specific sites, we know that the numbers of eagles in a given area along the Mississippi River can vary widely, even by the hundreds, from week to week as these opportunistic predators range widely in search of available food. To draw conclusions about the overall health of the population from such observations would be misleading at best.

This is not to say that we aren’t concerned about the ongoing health of and current threats to bald eagles. For example, lead hunting ammunition has been shown to cause significant mortality in these birds. Collisions with automobiles are the most common human-made cause of death or injury. We share the concern about the unknown effects of many pesticides in the environment. Minnesota is fortunate to be the home not only to a thriving bald eagle population, but to a robust group of nonprofit organizations, research institutions and government agencies that are working to assure this population’s continued health and are committed to studying and teaching about threats so that we may never have to repeat the devastating decline of our national symbol.

Rolf Thompson, Wabasha, Minn.

The writer is executive director of the National Eagle Center.

E-CIGARETTES

They do less harm, report says — but not true for adolescents

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s report on e-cigarettes (“Report says e-cig use does less harm,” Jan. 24) brings a new wave of attention to the many unknowns tied to the increasingly popular trend of vaping. Here in Minnesota and across the country, we know that it is now the most popular tobacco product among middle- and high-school students. While scientists continue to weigh the evidence around net harms and benefits to society as a whole, it’s important that as a medical community we insist on increasing awareness among decisionmakers and the general public that these products are harmful to adolescents. Existing evidence shows that regular use of nicotine influences adolescent brain development and puts young people at risk for attention deficits later in life.

I urge us not to get caught up in the debate about benefits to adult smokers and not to forget about the importance of protecting young people from addiction in the first place. This has always been our best option when it comes to reducing the harms of tobacco.

With that in mind, I hope that Minnesota will soon take the next step toward achieving this goal by raising the tobacco sales age to 21 statewide. Until that time, though, I applaud local governments across the state that continue to act on raising the sales age in their communities. We will have these communities to thank for the long and healthy lives of our kids and grandkids.

Dr. Thomas Erling Kottke, St. Paul

The writer is president of the Twin Cities Medical Society.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Supported in many corners, but never, never at the VA

When I read that the American Legion is among those advocating for the research of cannabis for medical reasons for veterans (“Lack of backbone from VA’s leader,” editorial, Jan. 20), I knew the world had turned upside down.

Marijuana is a touchy subject at the VA Medical Center. I have mentioned it to my doctors to get their reaction, and it’s like I have summoned the devil into the room. It’s doesn’t seem to be a problem to get painkillers galore, but “pot” is bad. Of course, cannabis is illegal to the feds.

Sleep apnea was recently approved for medical-­marijuana use in Minnesota. I have two conditions that could be treated with the medication but because I am a veteran I am caught up in some crazy Catch-22. I’m laughing all the way to the grave. This is about as ridiculous as it can get in this bizarro world. I could get it on the sly and not tell the VA, but then I likely couldn’t afford it and I would have to find a private doctor to prescribe it.

I am a veteran of the Vietnam War. Cannabis is nothing new to me. Marijuana was used to fight stress during the war by the troops. If the VA doesn’t want to give it to younger vets, then it might as well give it to us old Vietnam vets who are dying off and fading away at a pretty decent pace with all kinds of strange maladies. We might as well be mellow as we fade away.

Tim Connelly, Richfield

MINING PERMIT PROCESS

Who could do anything right with an opposition like that?

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources soon will hold public listening sessions in Aurora and Duluth regarding PolyMet’s permit to mine copper deposits located near Hoyt Lakes. The Star Tribune Editorial Board (“PolyMet process is setting a high bar,” Jan. 15) thoughtfully praised the public process regarding the issuance of a draft permit for the PolyMet mine proposal.

We write to offer these comments in response to the subsequent editorial counterpoint by Kathryn Hoffman, CEO of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (“No, the PolyMet process would be setting a low bar,” Jan. 19). Hoffman writes that “one consultant went so far as to tell the DNR that ‘no other jurisdiction’ would permit [PolyMet] using a temporary dam to store waste for hundreds of years, but the DNR didn’t require PolyMet to change its plans.” She adds: “Rather than listening to its own experts, the DNR is going down a different road — one that puts the public at risk.”

Hoffman fails to tell readers that during the last decade the DNR has spent enormous sums of taxpayers’ money studying the proposed mine, yet she now recklessly charges the agency with putting the public at risk.

Hoffman then makes another laughable statement: “The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is antipollution, not antimining.” Apparently, she has forgotten that it was the MCEA that told the U.S. Forest Service in Duluth in 2006 that if the service issued prospecting permits to any mining companies, without completing an environmental-impact statement, the MCEA intended to file a lawsuit. The prospecting permits were denied, and while an environmental-impact statement study was conducted, a ban on mineral exploration on thousands of acres of federal land in the Rainy River Watershed was imposed from 2006 until 2012.

Gerald M. Tyler, Ely, Minn.

The writer is the chairman of Up North Jobs Inc.

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT

Such apparent self-regard

What boggles me most about the sexual-harassment claims that have piled up in recent months against Garrison Keillor, Harvey Weinstein, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan and others is that these crusty old cave trolls seem to actually believe that much younger women could be attracted to them.

Heidi Christenson, Stillwater