Staff Editorial

Mt. Graham¹s agonizing defeat

Environmentalists succeeded in winning the latest round of the Mt. Graham debacle when they halted the construction of the third telescope the UA is trying to build. And, you have to admit, their strategy bespoke the pure genius of the situation. But by delaying the construction of the Large Binocular Telescope, the environmentalists may have caused more damage in the long run than had they left Mt. Graham alone.

The U.S. Forest Service, trying to satisfy both the environmentalists and the UA, suggested that the university build their telescope on site RPA 3, an alternative to the original site on peak 10,477. UA administrators, under no obligation, agreed that site RPA 3 was environmentally safer to the red squirrel population.

Charts and information produced by Steward Observatory, Graham County, and Forest Service administrators clearly defined which site is the better of the two discussed. In an effort to minimize the damage to the surrounding environment, the UA decided to build on the alternate site rather than on Peak 10,477, as outlined by Congressional legislation.

Because they had begun clearing the site on RPA 3, the coalitionists filed a motion in Federal District Court to halt the construction. The court agreed; the UA appealed, but the 9th Circuit ruled against the UA, saying the university had violated Congressional stipulations under which they could construct the telescope.

Like we said, the strategy under which the environmentalists acted appeared to be a stroke of pure genius.

Then Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., stepped in, saying he will attempt to pass a rider through legislation redefining the U.S. Forest Service¹s authority on Mt. Graham.

If Congress should pass Kolbe¹s legislation, and we happen to think they will, then construction will resume on site RPA 3, the environmentally safer for Red Squirrel habitat of the two sites. The Forest Service has determined that RPA 3 is a much better site. UA and Steward Observatory administrators agree, saying RPA 3¹s location is actually 3 to 5 percent better than peak 10,477.

We think this latest move by the environmentalists is just another ploy to stall construction, hoping the university will waste its money, that foreign investors will become disgruntled and pull out, again, and eventually that the project will disappear forever.

Their wish will not come true. Congress has said before ‹ and they will say again ‹ that it is economically and academically important for the UA to follow through with this project.

If the telescope is going to be built, build it on site RPA 3. After examining maps that clearly show a decreased number of squirrel middens on that particular site, we feel it would be less damaging to the environment on Mt. Graham than should the UA build on Peak 10,477.

The construction of the LBT will benefit UA astronomy and optics students by allowing them hands-on experience with the largest telescope ever to be built in the world. By stopping the construction, the environmentalists are not only unnecessarily protecting the red squirrels, they are robbing students of valuable education.

When coalitionists garnered their latest victory on Mt. Graham, Jim Kolbe decided he would help the UA and their investors by attempting to restore the U.S. Forest Service¹s authority over matters environmental; which is what their job is supposed to be in the first place.

But, with environmentalists taking industrial and academic organizations to court citing various violations of the Endangered Species Act, courts have begun ruling in favor of the plaintiffs and protecting the environment.

What happens when the Republican-controlled Congress sees these actions taking place, but possess evidence to the contrary?

Congress will begin to wonder just how valuable it is to keep an act in place that is doing more harm than good to the economic welfare of its constituents. When organizations can prove beforehand that they are not actually harming the environment in carrying out intended goals, actions environmentalists take will be seen as ridiculous and speculative at best.

So, organizations will call for a repeal of the Endangered Species Act, because in an environmentally self-conscious age, why should a law exist when companies and colleges set forth their own conservation efforts without even paying attention to the act itself?

Congress shall listen to the arguments and believe that what Americans are doing today is far better than when the act itself was drafted. Congress will believe companies when they say they truly care about the environment. Congress will ask ³Is this act necessary?²

The answer they will receive: ³No. It is not necessary.²

Environmental coalitions that take unnecessary action against an organization will only set the dangerous precedent that the Endangered Species Act is being abused by the people who say they represent it. Congress will decide there is no longer a need for it.

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