Securing Mt.Graham; a costly expense for UAPD

By Cara Miller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The UA spent close to $43,000 this summer in an effort to step up security at the Mount Graham telescope site.

Ten University of Arizona police were recruited to monitor a six-day student environmental camp held by the Student Environmental Action Coalition.

SEAC-otopia, which lasted from June 12-18, featured a concert, a sacred run, and non-violence training, said Anne Carl, student coordinator for SEAC.

"It was really intimidating, which is their aim," Carl said. "We look at it as being a waste of students' money."

According to UA Police Sergeant Brian Seastone, the UAPD used $42,805 of its allotted budget to monitor the event.

"Based on last year's Round River Rendezvous, we didn't know how much security we were going to need," Seastone said.

The Round River Rendezvous was a similar camp-out, but the number of attendees was significantly larger. Last year the UAPD spent $45,300 monitoring the 500 people that attended the event.

He said they were aware that SEAC-otopia was going to happen and figured it into their operating costs this year. Other parts of the UAPD budget did not suffer because of these allotments, Seastone said.

Seastone said the money was used to pay for overtime, housing and food for the officers. The officers' regular salaries were not included in this sum, because they would have been paid regardless of where they were on duty, he said.

UA officials said the added security was justified because of various threats to the telescopes and the mirrors.

"Various opponent groups have promised to smash the telescopes and destroy them," said Research Vice President Michael Cusanovich.

Cusanovich was also concerned about bomb threats issued by Earth First!, an environmental movement consisting of various environmental groups. SEAC is not officially affiliated with Earth First!, although they do work together occassionally.

"Earth First! announced that there were 13 sites around the world that they have considered as major targets for environmental terrorism. They promised to bomb one place in Canada, and that site was bombed," Cusanovich said.

"If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, we have to assume that it is a duck," he said. "Mount Graham was also one of the targeted sites."

But Carl said much of Earth First's publications are meant for amusement and to blow off steam. She said the threats were not serious.

"Nothing is sanctioned by the movement in the way of bombing," Carl said. "But many, many people are angry and frustrated by the university's course of action or inaction in getting the environmental studies done."

In an effort to have continuous security, Mount Graham has had a permanent police operation since spring 1994.

"Law enforcement tells us what we need and how to protect the telescope site," Cusanovich said. "It's sort of like buying health insurance. Either you buy it all or you don't buy anything."

He said security on Mount Graham would be proportionate to the amount of activity on the mountain and threats to the telescopes.

Seastone said the cost of operating the permanent station is roughly $100,000 per year. Four officers are assigned to the station, and live in the Safford area. There is one officer on duty at all times.

Carl said the amount of security on the mountain during SEAC-otopia was unnecessary.

"The whole week was very low-key. There were maybe 200-250 people and there were no confrontations," she said.

Buddy Powell, associate director for Steward Observatory, said the security on Mount Graham is similar to having security on campus.

"Mount Graham is just the most eastern part of the university campus," he said. "They have as much responsibility for security as the main campus," Powell said.

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