By Michelle Roberts
Arizona Daily Wildcat
About 20 people from groups opposed to the construction of the Mt. Graham telescope crowded into Rep. Jim Kolbe's office yesterday to present a letter requesting a federal investigation of the UA.
The letter, addressed to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, asked for an investigation of possible legal violations by the university.
The group organized the protest because Kolbe, R-Ariz., is sponsoring a legislative rider that will exempt the Mt. Graham Large Binocular Telescope project from cultural and environmental laws, said SEAC member and education graduate student Anne Carl.
Mike Davis of the Apache Survival Coalition presented the letter to Kolbe's office as members of the Student Environmental Action Coalition questioned Pat Klien, Kolbe's district director.
Davis told Klein the tribe also is considering filing a lawsuit.
The group's letter read, "The U.S. Forest Service actions in question were obviously deliberately planned so as to impede our rights under the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historical Preservation Act, the American Religious Freedom Act and the Constitution."
Klein told the group that no rider has been formulated yet. She said Kolbe is looking into all possible legislation to attach the rider to. She also told the group that Kolbe is aware of the protesters' concerns.
"We have engaged in conversation on Mt. Graham, and I have no new information," Klein said.
When different people in the group asked Klein questions about the rider, she said, "This conversation is unproductive. I'm not engaging in any more conversation."
When asked by David Hodges, former UA student and SEAC member, if the group could meet with Kolbe, Klein said the group would not be able to meet with Kolbe in the foreseeable future.
In a prepared press release, Jim Slagle of the Large Binocular Telescope Corporation said, "Their (telescope opponents') abusive attacks against Congressman Kolbe show that they are throwing everything they can against the wall in hope that something will stick."
The statement went on to say that the university has done more than 40 studies that have found no negative effects on the red squirrel population and that the university has worked closely with the San Carlos Apache Tribe for 40 years.
John Fife, pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church, said he attended the protest to back up the San Carlos Apache Tribe. He is organizing Interfaith Alliance on Preservation of Sacred Sites, a group which supports traditional San Carlos Apache leaders and respect of sacred sites.
"Throughout history, when powerful interests want to prevail, Congress always ignores Native American people. The university always ignores Native American people, and major economic interests ignore Native American people," he said.
Fife said one-fourth of his congregation is Native American, and the church has a historic commitment to human rights.
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