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Improved road network a threat to wildlife, say environmentalists

Ask the average Fantasy resident or tourist, and chances are they'll say our new road network is the best thing since sliced onions! But some folks are up in arms -- or maybe we should say wings! -- about these miracles of medieval technology.

"For years, we had a simple, on-demand bridge system," explained an outraged protester today. "The traveller could cross a chasm by simply finding a rope, a bow and arrow, and some nails, leaving minimal impact on the environment as he went on his way. Now, all of a sudden, there are roads and bridges all over the place. The main north-south path is now at least three feet wide, and sometimes there are no less than two people using it in the course of a single day. Mark my words, we are trampling the unspoiled natural beauty of this land beneath our sandalled feet."

The thing which has angered environmentalists most is the new rope bridge which crosses the North River. The bridge is set almost directly above the only nesting site of the seriously endangered Giant Eastern Roc. For reasons which are still unknown, the roc population has fallen dramatically in recent years, from two hundred and sixty-seven adult birds down to a mere two.

"Conservationists have been following the breeding patterns of this bird very closely, and there is a lot of concern that increased traffic and construction in the area will have an adverse effect," said Dr. Lemuel Corvidae, who has been living near the site for many years to study the species. "Rocs need a lot of space, and the North River Cliff breeding pair are crucial to the survival of the species. After all the funding and research we have put into finding an artificial substitute for roc feathers in magical spells, this is a disappointing step backwards."

Dr. Corvidae added, "I have no confidence that people will use the bridge quietly and avoid disturbing the rocs. Sadly, there is an element of hooliganism in this part of the country. It seems like every time I leave my hut for a day of roc-watching, I come back to find items stolen, my wind chimes tangled up, and my furniture rearranged."

However, the Department of Transport is sticking firmly to its view that rope-and-plank is best for the realm of Fantasy, despite widespread support for the magic portals which have become popular elsewhere. "Although we are deeply concerned about the Giant Eastern Roc, we frankly cannot afford a portal-based transport system at this time," said a spokesman for the Department. "We thoroughly examined all the options, and called in a firm of highly qualified consulting magicians from Larosis to see if their system would work for us. But tests showed it was not a workable solution. We constructed two platforms on a trial basis, but they had no positive effect on traffic patterns or roc population. In fact, there are even fewer rocs now than there were before the trial."

"This is crazy," said a spokescentaur for the Save The Endangered Giant Eastern Roc Society. "Sure, they set up some trial portals -- in the Bog of Desolation and the other side of the Mountains of Unclimbability! And then they have the nerve to say not enough people used them! Those things are still there, and I'm sure they'll be a big help to the one person in twenty years who might want to go to either of those places." The Society, whose members boycott the use of the North River Bridge, has announced that it will continue its lobbying efforts until the nesting site is declared a protected area.

Magic portals are an environmentally friendly alternative to roads, and a major time-saver for the frequent traveller. They require little maintenance and have no ongoing costs, although the initial setup is extremely expensive, difficult, and dangerous. Their main drawback, in this context, is that the main ingredients in the construction spell are the blood, heart and feathers of two hundred and sixty-five Giant Eastern Rocs.

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Article by C. Patrick.