In his letter "Main habitat of squirrels is not spruce fir," astronomer Nick Woolf indicates that the Mt. Graham red squirrel is not limited to the spruce fir forest of Mt. Graham. He claims the squirrel can be found more than a vertical half-mile below the summits. Since a colony of squirrels was found "clustered by the road," astronomer Woolf states, "the squirrels were obviously not bothered by the traffic, with the obvious implication that squirrels would not be bothered by an observatory."
Several visiting astronomers I spoke with last week commented, "Wouldn't you rather see astronomy on the mountaintop than some other type of development?" So the lame arguments in the name of self-interest continue.
The real point here is that Mt. Graham is a unique biological treasure. To have the U of A and the Vatican clear cutting and paving the summit for their own interests is a sure sign of greed and arrogance. More than a decade ago I would have believed that U of A's wisdom would lead them to protect remaining wild areas especially in their neighborhood, southern Arizona. In reality the U of A and Vatican act out the old familiar scenario with respect to wilderness, "corporate greed."
There are several reasons why the U of A should stop all development on the summits of Mt. Graham. These include federal listing as endangered of the Mt. Graham red squirrel, religious significance of the mountain to local Apaches and the fact that this is truly a unique wild area. Fragmenting this wild area with even "small developments" greatly reduces the wild character. Folks who resist UA's bulldozers and chainsaws on the mountain do not have any desire to change the wild nature of the mountain.
U of A must educate itself to realize the earth's remaining wilderness has greater value than a greedy development project.
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