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Voice: Study on Peirson's milk vetch is not slanted

April 14, 2002

Regarding the article on Peirson's milk vetch that was published on March 31, I thought on the whole this was a balanced, fair and informative treatment of the controversy over this listed Threatened plant found on the Algodones Dunes. There are, however, a couple of points I would like to clarify:

The Center for Biological Diversity criticized the American Sand Association report on the 2001 study of milk vetch, of which I was the primary author, because it was not peer reviewed.

Project reports are generally not peer-reviewed; publications in scientific journals are peer reviewed. We did not violate any scientific protocol by not submitting our report for peer review. When we write a scientific article for publication at the end of our studies, it will be duly peer reviewed.

The primary purpose of our study last year was to count the number of milk vetch plants and document where they were. We included exact GPS locations and maps in our report so that anyone could verify our findings. The only way our information could be reviewed was to go to our study sites and count plants, which anyone (including the CBD), could have done using the information we provided.

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The CBD's Mr. Patterson has implied that I am biased and the report is flawed because the study was funded by ASA, but I have not seen any critique by his organization of the information we presented. I would welcome his comments on the content, which would be more useful than personal attacks. I have, in fact, received very favorable comments on the study from interested government agency personnel.

I should have explained the loss of 80 percent of the milk vetch plants we found last year. Peirson's milk vetch is a short-lived perennial that flowers and produces seeds during its first winter season. It is normal for most milk vetch not to survive the following summer. In fact, I was very surprised to find 20 percent of last year's plants still alive; apparently there was enough rain during the summer to allow them to survive.

The loss of plants had nothing to do with off-highway vehicle use; they died during the summer from "heat and thirst" when no one was out there. The remains of the dead plants were still there last fall and had not been impacted by vehicles.

ARTHUR M. PHILLIPS III, Ph.D.

Flagstaff, Ariz.

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