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Our Opinion: Waging battle for the birds

August 02, 2001

With all the talk about the need to save the Salton Sea, it can become easy to forget what fueled the most recent effort, which dates back to mid-to-late 1990s.

It was then that a die-off that left thousands of birds dead captured the attention of the nation.

If we ever forget the reason there is so much effort being put into saving the sea, every summer we are given a clear reminder.

This summer is no different. As many as 200 brown pelicans have died since May, when a jump in temperature gave rise to the avian botulism, which can wipe out birds that depend on the sea for a food source.

As we write this, state and federal wildlife workers are trying to save the lives of birds by removing sick, dying and dead birds from the sea as quickly as possible. Those birds that can be saved will be saved. Unfortunately, as we have already seen, many will die.

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Yet there is hope. The die-offs in recent years have led federal and state officials to take a close look at what it would take to save the Salton Sea and just what is the problem that is creating a deadly environment for wildlife. While there is no simple answer, one key problem is the salt concentration in the sea.

Officials know from recent research they have to attack the salinity if they want to save the sea. A great deal of money has been funneled toward the sea to conduct pilot projects that would lead to salinity reduction.

We are pleased to see so much effort going into the research and it looks like a solution could come in the near future. But it will cost a great deal of money. We've heard figures reaching as high as half a billion dollars to carry out a salt-reduction program. When a plan to save the sea is ready, we can only hope the federal and state governments will be ready to supply the necessary funds.

The Salton Sea is important to both the state, nation and continent and it should be saved. Until then, we likely are going to continue to see massive bird die-offs. And while most of us simply sit back and watch it happen, a group of people is working nobly every day to save the wildlife.

It is no easy job to try to recover sick and dying birds, but it is one such people do day in and day out. Each day those workers save lives. And one sick bird removed from the sea can prevent other birds from becoming sick.

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