Wal-Mart responds

EDITOR: More than 23 million Americans live in what are known as "food deserts," and while it's an issue of growing concern, a few are actually working overtime to block attempts to be part of the solution.

As The Press Democrat reported, the Living Wage Coalition essentially forced the Santa Rosa City Council to drop an ordinance designed to cut red tape and make it easier for grocery stores to open in these areas ("Deal paves way for SR grocery," Tuesday).

Rescinding the ordinance only adds an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to further delay healthy, affordable food choices from coming to struggling neighborhoods that need them most. Blocking economic development also cuts off access to jobs and benefits while keeping food prices higher.

At Wal-Mart, we want to help improve access to fresh food. That is why in 2011, we committed to opening 300 additional stores in federally designated food deserts in just five years. It's a cause we take seriously, and it's a shame that groups such as the Living Wage Coalition want to make it more difficult to carry out this mission.


Senior director of communications,

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Teen suicide

EDITOR: Thirteen-year-old girls don't normally carry around guns, nor do they usually have routine access to them. Why do you not mention how the girl obtained the gun she used to kill herself ("Annapolis girl, 13, uses gun to commit suicide," Feb. 7)? Particularly at this time, when these issues are so in the public's mind? I think you should reveal how the girl obtained the firearm.



School budget cuts

EDITOR: What is wrong with education these days? I am a senior at Santa Rosa High School, and I am worried for my future and of those that come after me. My education has been gradually reduced these past four years because the district had the power to choose where the money would go.

How do I know the money isn't going where it should? I have been in classes that have as many as 40 students and there were nowhere near enough seats for all of us. There have been threats of some of our electives being cut due to insufficient funds. I have noticed that the girl's bathrooms are constantly out of soap. And even lunch lines are down to the bare minimum.

I don't ask for a better school, I just ask for my education. I want my personal space where I can think, my classes that I need to graduate and the lunch that I need to keep going throughout the day.


Santa Rosa

Creating new habitat

EDITOR: Recent stories about PG&E's vegetation management along power lines seem to be missing some important facts from the public discussion.

There is growing interest in developing and preserving habitat for pollinator species within managed landscapes, such as transmission rights-of-way. Landscape conversion and habitat loss are leading causes of pollinator decline. Informed management strategies can provide a full range of habitat requirements and can act as reserves for pollinators.

Increasing habitat for pollinators is a key concern of conservation organizations, scientists and members of the agricultural community. Pollinators support the reproduction of plants and pollinate one-third of the foods we eat.

Vegetation management programs along rights-of-way result in landscapes that promote butterflies, hummingbirds and bees — species that thrive in open meadows. The removal of trees that are potential outage hazards can appear as the removal of habitat. However, on these managed landscapes it is a transition from a late stage, usually lower-diversity habitat to an early-stage, more floral landscape with increased plant and animal diversity.

The removal of trees can be an emotional issue, but from the viewpoint of an environmental scientist, meadow habitats are as important and valuable to an area's ecology as mature forests; and in some cases, more so.


Research program manager, Pollinator Partnership

San Francisco