Minnesota is home to almost 400 species of birds. A number of them, such as the bobolink, a pretty cream-and-black prairie bird said to look like it has a tuxedo on backward, are becoming quite rare. Bobolinks, with their tinkling song, have been recorded in Lebanon Hills Regional Park — but not for 17 years. It, as many species, needs larger tracts of unbroken habitat to find enough food, harborage for home and protection from predators.

Trails, of which Lebanon Hills has plenty, fragment habitat. Fragmentation is problematic for the bobolink and for many smaller animals such as snakes and turtles looking for food or a place to lay their eggs. Unbroken, suitable habitat has become rarer and rarer; less than 1 percent of Minnesota’s savanna remains, and prairie is below 5 percent.

The bobolink, which weighs about 1½ ounces, has one of the most remarkable migrations of Minnesota birds, traveling almost 12,500 miles round-trip each year. Lebanon Hills has trails for hiking, horses and mountain biking, some of which are paved and many of which are wide and flat, suitable for alternate forms of mobility. The park has a campground large enough for RVs. Outside of Lebanon Hills, there is asphalt aplenty in the form of streets, sidewalks, parking lots and running tracks.

The proposed master plan suggests spending almost $12 million on more hard cover and less than $3 million on habitat restoration. I’d say “reasonable accommodation” for humans has been made (“A Lebanon Hills to serve all users,” Feb. 26). Let’s restore accommodations for the bobolink and its kin.

Catherine Zimmer, St. Paul


Start with licensure of surgical technicians

The release of Minnesota’s latest report on surgical errors confirms what surgical technologists have known for years: We’re not doing everything we can to protect surgery patients (“Taking the steps to do no harm,” Feb. 26).

Minnesota has no education, training or licensure requirements for surgical technologists — the professional hospital staff members who stand next to the surgeon and assist before, during and after the surgery. Under current law, anyone in Minnesota, including every reader of this letter, is fully authorized to enter a hospital surgical suite and assist in the surgery. Everyone in the operating room except surgical technologists is licensed by the state.

Obviously, people without training make mistakes. Reviews of past adverse-event reports find that hospitals using surgical technologists who don’t meet national standards have a 40 percent higher adverse-event rate than do hospitals, like the Mayo system, that require their surgical technologists to meet national standards. Since the average surgical error costs $39,000, according to JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, we are all paying for the lack of state standards. And some patients are getting substandard care.

If you or a loved one are scheduled for a surgery, find out before it’s too late if your hospital is using surgical technologists who meet national credentialing standards. And tell your legislator that Minnesota needs to enact a state licensure standard for surgical technologists.

Sara Vodnick, Minneapolis

The writer is director of the Surgical Technologist Program at Rasmussen College and is a member of the Association of Surgical Technologists.



But who’s actually working the land?

While it is heartening to read that graduates of the University of Minnesota’s agriculture school have outstanding job prospects (“Ag grads harvest a bumper crop of jobs,” Feb. 26), after reading the article one is left with a nagging question: Do no graduates intend to actually farm?

George Woytanowitz, Minneapolis



What would nation’s first president think?

What would George Washington say about Congress inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before it about the subject of Iran’s nuclear intentions? Would this excerpt from his 1796 “Farewell Address” stand in for him?

“[Spirit of party] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Melvyn Magree, Duluth

• • •

A Feb. 25 letter writer wrote about Iran: “Historically, nations with atomic weapons are reluctant to use them because it would be suicidal to do so.” That has been true for the past 70 years, but as my kids tell me, “get into the 21st century.” A “nation” would still face retaliation, but if some group like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or Al-Qaida were to get (from Iran?) and use the atomic bomb on Israel or the West, where would the retaliating nation drop the “retaliation” bomb? Choices are numerous — Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen — but it’s a new world. Today’s terrorists neither care about nor fear a retaliatory bomb because they know that most of the casualties would not be them and because they don’t answer to anyone.

Richard Trickel, Crosslake, Minn.



Let’s graciously welcome the attention

The Twin Cities rarely gets mentioned in the national media except when the temperature drops way below zero. So when the Atlantic magazine prints a very favorable article about the Twin Cities, how do community leaders respond? By loudly expressing discontent that the magazine chose not to highlight our racial disparities (“The qualified ‘miracle’ of Minneapolis,” Feb. 25).

Is there another community in the United States so committed to self-deprecation? Minnesota’s racial and economic disparities arise from a number of complex factors, including our willingness to welcome impoverished refugees from around the world. I also doubt that there are many communities that express more guilt and are putting out more effort to address inequality.

Compliments about the Twin Cities from outsiders are rare. How about just saying “thank you” to the Atlantic?

Jerry Anderson, Eagan