Cactus carnage

 

YouTube.com recently fired up people who love the Southwest’s iconic saguaro cactus. All it took was a startling video of a tractor chowing down on a 15-foot-tall plant in the desert near Phoenix, reports the Arizona Republic. Within seconds after the tractor’s mower grabs the cactus at the top, it smashes it down until nothing is left but pulp. The photographer was Bob Mitchell, a “recreational” prospector from Phoenix, who was out walking when he saw the saguaro being liquefied near a power line. He filmed the event and then posted the video to his Web site, nuggetshooter.com, as well as to YouTube. “To see a large company such as APS totally devastating their utility right of way … struck a nerve,” he said. It didn’t take long for  irate viewers to call Arizona Public Service Co., which had sent out the mowers. The company explained that it needed to clear all vegetation from its power lines, both to prevent fires and to avoid fines from federal regulators. Relocating the saguaro is always an option, but in 10 miles cleared so far within the utility’s right of way – which is anything within 50 feet of the wires overhead — only about 100 cacti have been moved. Relocating the giant plants is expensive; the estimated cost is $750 to $2,500 for each saguaro. Company spokesman Alan Bunnell said he understands the frustration when people see saguaro shredded: “It’s nothing new, but it is a very visible location,” he added. “And rightfully so, people have strong emotion about these plants.” The company now says it will “reassess” its plan to demolish the estimated 2,400 to 12,000 saguaros that grow close to its 24 miles of power lines.

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