Friday, October 15, 2004


Red squirrelly Be Damned - The Telescope Is Up

LARGE BINOCULAR TELESCOPE: Nearly ready to gaze It's nearly official - the large telescope on Mt. Graham is up and running and should be complete with binocular vision of the stars by next year. Those of you who attended UA during the late 80s/early 90s will remember the never ending attack on building this one of a kind telescope. This was a classic crazy environmentalist protest being waged. First they got some outside the mainstream "expert" to say that building the telescope would cause the already endangered red squirrel to become extinct. Never mind the fact that the telescope footprint on Mt. Gram is the equivalent of a postage stamp on a football field. It turned out that the red squirrel numbers (as counted by the number of poop piles found in any given area - how would you like to have that job?) actually increased as building of the telescope went ahead.
With the red squirrel issue dead (pun intended), the environmentalists then got a rogue group of Native Americans to claim that the telescope was on an ancient burial ground or holy site, or something. Well it turned out that the main tribe came out and said that was not the case. However that did not keep the government and the UA from spending countless more money just to defend the telescope.
Finally, just to add insult to injury, twice the telescope was in danger of being burned to the ground in the devastating wildfires Arizona has suffered in the last two years.
But the telescope stands and will be fully functional shortly. Thank god some reason prevailed here. This scope is a technological leap for space viewing (and probably another reason our hemp-wearing friends don't like it). Forward thinking inventions and ideas usually do prevail in our country and make our lives better, easier and more informed. Unfortunately, those who claim to be enlightened can be counted on to slow - not block - the steady forward movement of progress. I'm sure the predecessors of today's protest movement were at some point against the evil military and government building of the internet, which they use today to organize and spread their protests. Someday, when my grandson is a proud Wildcat, I wonder if he will come home and tell me about the protesters who are demonstrating so that the government intervenes in the slow decay of a star a million light years away - something they only know because of what they see through the Mt. Graham telescope.

Some excerpts from the article:

"It's a sad day for anyone who believes that the University of Arizona cares
about ethics, biology, cultural protection and religious freedom," said longtime
project foe Robin Silver, conservation chairman for the Center for Biological

Poor Robin, after having lost EVERY SINGLE CASE against the Mt. Graham scope isn't this just sour grapes.


It took congressional intervention in 1988 for the university to get
construction authorized, then again in 1996 to get it resumed after a court

In all, there were some 40 lawsuits, many generated by
environmentalists on behalf of an endangered red squirrel and by members of the
San Carlos Indian Tribe who believe Mount Graham is sacred.

Eight of the
lawsuits ended up before a federal appeals court. The university
ultimately prevailed in all

And the telescope and mountain
observatory have survived two major forest fires in eight years, the most recent
one this summer.

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