Speedy action on telescopes ultimately harmed project

  Dear HCN,

One point which was not clear to your readers regarding the Mount Graham story (HCN, 7/24/95) was that the scientific justification for all three of the proposed telescopes on Mount Graham was tragically unclear to a Congress accustomed to legislating by riders.

Look at Congress' current rash of riders used to legislate major domestic policy. Sneaking controversial legislation through by tacking it to some unrelated, less controversial bill, avoids public hearings and citizen participation; no wonder opinion polls find public contempt for Congress at an all-time high.

Porkbarreler DeConcini sneaked the University of Arizona's Mount Graham telescope rider through in the final hours of the 1988 Congress - without public hearings or debate. He claimed any delay from completing the lawful studies would frighten European investors.

In the university's brazen rush to sneak their rider through Congress, they hadn't even taken time to do the scientific homework.

Five years later, in 1993, they discovered that in their haste they'd picked the site with the poorest astrophysical visibility on the mountain, and that the Mount Hopkins observatory was far superior to any site on Graham. University officials said Hopkins was so superior that on a scale of one-to-eight from bad-to-good, their Graham site was was one, and Hopkins eight. Germany had always planned its radio telescope for Mount Lemmon, not Graham, and also conceded that Hawaii was best. The Vatican let the cat out of the bag when its spokesmen told the press, in 1990, that they didn't need Graham and that there were other "very viable sites, and they're in Arizona." In summary, it turns out, the scientific basis for the need for all three of the proposed telescopes on Graham was fraudulent.

DeConcini's insult to Native Americans was also appalling. Only the culturally illiterate would be unaware of the role major land masses play in their religion. Graham is Arizona's highest base-to-summit peak. The Apaches have six times officially declared UA's project "a display of profound disrespect and a serious violation of our traditional religious beliefs."

After 10 years of University of Arizona evasions, the courts have ruled that the Apaches and that irreplaceable "sky island" ecosystem will finally receive the long overdue lawful studies heretofore circumvented by political chicanery.

Clemens Titzck

Phoenix, Arizona