Good Guys

(This column was first published in the September 10, 2001 Buffalo News.)

This region has had a run of bad publicity. The Oklahoma City bomber, the Jamestown man who infected a series of young women with AIDS, the obstetrician sniper. You begin to wonder, who next?

But perhaps things are finally turning around.

It is not often that a major national magazine includes admiring pieces about two Buffalonians. Yet the September-October issue of Audubon Magazine does just that.

First is an article entitled "Faulty Towers" about bird deaths at communication towers. It features Art Clark, vertebrate curator of the Buffalo Museum of Science who has studied this problem for 35 years. The author of the article, David Malakoff, tel ls of visiting Art's walk-in freezer in his small museum lab. "There behind the remains of a seven-foot sturgeon caught in nearby Lake Erie and those of a young gorilla from a zoo, were stacks of carefully labeled boxes. They held most of the 20,514 tower -killed birds Clark has collected since he started his tower study in 1967."

A full-page photograph shows Art holding the body of a brown thrasher behind boxes containing dozens of other species.

"Once researchers might have dismissed Clark's collection as merely an ornithological oddity," Malakoff continues. "But it now offers compelling evidence in a growing debate over the threat that the nation's 75,000 radio, television, and cell-phone tow ers pose to birds, particularly to the 300 or so species that migrate by night...."

The article concludes: "Meanwhile, Art Clark is preparing for another season of pilgrimages to his towers. It is unglamorous work -- hauling the folding ladder he uses to check for bird bodies on rooftops and getting someone to mow the fields so that t he casualties can be found. Not so long ago he considered giving it up, because the task was getting expensive and producing fewer specimens for his museum. Now, though, he's...looking forward to those occasionally cloudy morning commutes. 'It's getting e xciting,' he told me recently. 'It would be wonderful if all this effort eventually helps solve the problem.'"

The other article is a profile of Buffalo News cartoonist Tom Toles entitled "Pointed Pencil."

"Whether the issue is global warming, energy misuse, urban sprawl, species extinction, SUVs, acid rain, ozone depletion, mining and logging rip-offs, population control or predatory politicians, Toles has tackled it," says the article's author, Robert H. Boyle. "And with the Bush administration, there should be plenty of new material for Toles and his pen. 'I try not to think of bad news in terms of a bonanza,' he says. 'But you might call it that if the administration continues to play the way it has. ' Indeed, he has wasted no time getting his licks in: A cartoon that ran just days after Gale Norton was sworn in as Secretary of the Interior on January 31 has her saying, 'We cut down the trees, then we grazed away the grass, then we stripped out the mi nerals and sold off the water. Now we're down to bedrock conservative values.'"

But the article makes clear that Toles is not just down on Republicans. It goes on to tell how his fight against the rampant commercialization of Niagara Falls after drawing no satisfactory response from Governor Cuomo finally is gaining support from G overnor Pataki, who, Boyle says, "is talking about restoring the park in keeping with Frederick Law Olmsted's original design."

As one of those who has followed Tom Toles' cartoons since he first wrote for the University at Buffalo Spectrum with almost universal approval -- a near impossibility for a political cartoonist -- I found this profile dead on.

Two of our good guys, appropriately celebrated.