Letter: Haeger 'obscures' Mount Graham information

To the editor,

Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona is the sole home of the severely endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrel. Mount Graham telescope project-related activities recently destroyed nearly one-third of the squirrel's essential spruce-fir old growth forest home. Only about 200 survive.

President Haeger attempts to obscure the fact that NAU is contributing to the extinction of an endangered species. His rationale: NAU "demonstrated a strong commitment to environmental practices...reflected in...sustainability..."

Say what?

Mount Graham is sacred to the Apache as a geographic landform, as specific sacred locations (particularly Emerald Peak where the centerpiece Large Binocular Telescope now stands), as an important burial ground, and as home to the gaahn (mountain spirit dancers) who appear in religious ceremonies and who have important healing powers.

President Haeger attempts to obscure the fact that NAU participates in a project that desecrates an Apache religious site and interferes with the Apaches' ability to practice their religion. His smokescreen: NAU's "history of respectful interaction with our Native American community" and a "respectful" campus culture.

This is a university leader's best rationale?

NAU is a featured partner in the cornerstone Large Binocular Telescope. At least five other partners feature NAU's partnership in their promotional materials. Mount Graham partners feature others to imply stability in a controversial project that has seen more than 20 other universities withdraw mostly for cultural, religious, environmental, or financial concerns.

NAU uses its participation on Mount Graham to promote its Department of Physics and Astronomy and to recruit staff. NAU holds a position on the "review board that evaluates observing proposals..."

President Haeger further attempts to minimize the degree of NAU's Mount Graham participation by calling the partnership a "misnomer." His reason for NAU's continued participation: NAU's role is "quite limited."

Sounds like the failed rationale for universities' past investment in apartheid-supporting businesses.

The Mount Graham telescope project would not be possible without two special congressional legislative exemptions from environmental, cultural and religious laws. NAU's continued participation in the project insults NAU's "commitment" to Native Americans and to environmental ethics. The Mount Graham Red Squirrel, the Apache and NAU deserve better.

Contact President Haeger and tell him to stop desecrating Apache sacred ground, to save the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, and to get NAU off Mount Graham.

Robin Silver

Center for Biological Diversity

Flagstaff, Ariz.

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