Observatory Hit by New Concern Over Wildlife

From Associated Press

Congressional investigators reported Tuesday that the fate of the endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel has become precarious and raised new objections to a planned observatory on the Arizona mountaintop that is its only home.

The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, suggested that 1988 legislation authorizing construction of the $200-million observatory be changed to permit a delay while new studies are undertaken to weigh the impact of the installation on the squirrel’s chances for survival.

The forested site of the proposed observatory on Mt. Graham in the Pinaleno mountains 110 miles northeast of Tucson is the squirrel’s only known habitat.

In testimony before four House environmental subcommittees, James Duffus III, natural resources director of the General Accounting Office, sharply questioned the validity of a 1988 study by the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service which concluded that building the observatory would not pose an unacceptable risk to the squirrel.