Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mt Graham Red Squirrel

The Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act of 1988 was signed by President Ronald Reagan. Forgive him: he knew not what he did.

Actually the law had many facets but the one that impacted me the most was Title VI that authorized the construction of telescopes on Mt Graham and created the Mt Graham Red Squirrel refuge. You say you have never heard of the Mt Graham Red Squirrel? Well, that seems to be the crux of the problem for many longtime residents who don't believe the rascally resident of the highest reaches of this southeastern Arizona mountain are any different from any other other red squirrel in the Rocky Mountain West of the US.

Regardless, we have acres and acres of the loveliest high elevation terrain totally off-limits to human use, any use, even walking, due to the need to preserve the estimated 200 or so Tamiasciurus. They are listed as an Endangered Species, which is a legal term, not just descriptive.

So now the years pass. The relentless drought takes its toll on the forests of the West, and a trio of bugdom: the Spruce Aphid, Spruce Beetle and Western Balsam Bark Beetle, do their worst. Trees are dying by the acre. The prime foodstuff of the Mt Graham Red Squirrel is in rapid decline.

I am as much an animal lover as the next person. I prefer to see abundant numbers of animals and species in places I visit. If the Mt Graham Red Squirrel goes extinct, it will be a loss. But at what cost has it been to try to delay the inevitable?

Millions of dollars.

For a fraction of that, wouldn't it be reasonable to re-stock the mountain with other red squirrels someday? I guess I am not a biologist who understands these things. I am just a lover of the thin air, the mountain cienegas, the peak of 10,720 foot Mt Graham that I cannot visit ... so that a dubious red squirrel species can survive another year or two.