A Big Day for Tree-Hugging Squirrels
The University of Arizona has absorbed another blow to its ten-year effort to build the world's largest optical telescope on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the university's appeal of an April ruling requiring UofA to conduct extensive environmental studies before construction of the $60 million Large Binocular Telescope can begin. The studies are expected to last several years, and the review may prohibit construction in the habitat of the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel.

The UofA weaseled a Congressional exemption from the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act in 1988 to build the $200 million Mount Graham International Observatory. Two small telescopes have already been completed.

But the exemption required the university to build the first three telescopes in a specific 8.6-acre area. UofA later discovered that site was unsuitable for the Large Binocular Telescope because of air turbulence caused by trees. The university selected an alternative site outside the Congressionally exempted area for its centerpiece telescope. The forest service approved the alternative site and the UofA clear-cut about an acre of trees in December 1993.

An environmental coalition sued in 1994, contending that the alternative site was subject to environmental laws. The coalition has since won key victories in the U.S. District Court in Tucson and the Ninth Circuit, leaving the project at a standstill. UofA officials say they are studying options.

Environmentalists are celebrating a rare victory.
"They [UofA and forest service] broke the law in the most flagrant, underhanded way, and deserve no sympathy from the public," says longtime opponent David Hodges.

Not to mention the wrath of squirrels.

But, Gee, We Cover the Suns Good
The headline was draped across the top of the Phoenix Gazette's Metro section last week: "Media, government distrust high."

The story said a poll indicated that 97 percent of Arizona voters believe the media frequently or occasionally are duped by the government. Since the poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points, that number conceivably could translate into: More than everybody.

Two thirds of the respondents believe the media cover up government wrongdoing frequently or occasionally. The story contained obligatory meaningless quotes from analysts who explained that the public's frustration causes them to misguidedly lash out at media and the goverment.

If Gazette and Republic editors needed a prime example of abuse of trust, they could have considered the cover they provided the fat cats who rammed through the sales tax to build the $258 million Bank One Ballpark. The public had no voice--or vote--in the process.

Nobody asked, but here's the Flash's analysis: The media in general--and newspapers in particular--are supposed to be guardians of democracy, not servile abettors in the plundering of the public treasury. Newspapers are supposed to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. When it happens the other way around--as it does daily with the R&G--people lose trust.

R&G brass know this, but don't care. After all, they'll have great seats.



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