Squirreled Away

To the Editor,

"Mount Graham Misery" [August 16] contains some dire predictions for Mount Graham's red squirrels, but ignores the fact that the same predictions were made by scientists and conservationists more than a decade ago.

As early as 1987, noted scientists were predicting that the squirrels could be subjected to a massive population die-off, if some natural (or man-made) catastrophe such as fire or insects hammered the small amount of prime habitat the squirrels prefer at the top of Mount Graham. As the story points out, we've now had both disasters in the last five years. Just as predicted over 14 years ago, the squirrels' numbers are now collapsing because of these catastrophic events.

These folks also predicted that opening up the moist spruce-fir canopy that the squirrels covet could have all kinds of dire consequences for the habitat, including insect infestations. Unfortunately, some of these worst-case scenarios have come true.

Also unfortunate was (and still is) the land managers' and the Arizona Congressional delegation's unwillingness to address the astrophysical development as a worst-case scenario for an endangered species. This includes the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was too easy to predict (even 14 years ago) that the Mount Graham red squirrels would need every available acre of prime habitat at the top of the mountain to recover their numbers, especially since the squirrels may not recover well in the less preferred habitats lower on the mountain. The last thing you would want to do is allow an astrophysical complex (or any development) to scatter throughout the very core of the tiny amount of prime habitat available to the squirrels.

Now that the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife are in a disaster mode, they are being forced to deal with this worst-case scenario. Will the politicians (led by Congressman Jim Kolbe) be forced to follow? Don't count on it. The biggest problem (besides Kolbe's occasional sneaky legislation circumventing every major environmental and cultural law) to long-term red squirrel recovery is still the astrophysical complex growing like a cancer in the middle of this prime habitat.

A long line of spin doctors from Steward Observatory continues to heavily understate the gigantic overall cumulative impacts of scattering roads, buildings and utilities through the now dying spruce-fir forest at the top of Mount Graham. These folks want us to believe that all of the current destruction and probably the plans for future expansion are but a "small footprint" on the mountain. But if the development is but a "small cancer," will it not spread?

--Paul Pierce
Co-founder, Coalition to Preserve Mt. Graham

Radio Flyer

To the Editor,

I'd like to thank you for your August 16 article on the recent uproar at KXCI. It was not only an interesting and balanced account of a complex issue, it was the only account that the station's listener/members have been given. Most of us learned that some of our favorite programs had been canceled when we tuned them in and found them gone. I suppose the members, like the DJs, needed to be kept in the dark to prevent them from calling the station and using some words the FCC wouldn't like, at least until the changes were a done deal.

I'm not happy with the changes in programming, but I'm not shocked by them. It seems to be a rule of modern life that non-profit organizations will eventually have to compromise their original purposes in exchange for funding. They need to keep up with the cost of living. They want to expand their services. They need to compete, to appeal to a broader segment of the public.

The Sierra Club was once a group of conservationists. The NRA was once a sportsmen's organization. KUAT-TV used to air Austin City Limits in the time slot now occupied by Robot Wars. Next year, we may find Masterpiece Theater has been replaced by WWF Smackdown. At some point, generating revenue becomes as important as the original mission and some portion of the organization's soul goes on the market. It looks like KXCI has reached that point.

Is KXCI chewing off its own foot? I believe it is, but I don't believe it will miss it. KXCI appeals to a small and loyal community of listeners. If they wanted to listen to local commercial radio, they would. All the local commercial stations do what they do very well. I, for one, listen to KXCI for something else, and as I hear less of it, I'll listen less often. A few more changes and I won't listen at all.

But that won't matter. If Tony Ford is successful in broadening the station's appeal, I'll be replaced by 20 other members generating 20 times the membership revenue. KXCI will be bigger and, by its new members' standards, better, and will be able to Webcast to listeners in Oklahoma and Okinawa. Tony Ford will be off to a bigger job in a larger market with a résumé entry describing how he saved KXCI.

And, hopefully, in a bar somewhere in Tucson a few people will be sitting down to have a beer and make plans to start up a community radio station.

--Larry Blankenship

Homes on the Range

To the Editor,

As a neighbor of the Milagro Cohousing development on Goret Road, I wonder if writer Donna Moulton [Mailbag, August 23] has observed the way that residential development is commercially achieved in Tucson. Milagro Cohousing stands in sharp contrast to other residential developments. This is not a blade-and-scrape development. They are building on eight out of 43 acres. That means that eight acres have been cleared of vegetation and 35 acres remain undeveloped. Of those, 30 will go into a conservation easement to be permanently protected from development.

Another fact the writer overlooks is that the property is in the city limits. Milagro's future residents rezoned the property through the City Planning Department to allow for cluster housing. This zoning reduced the size of the footprint of the built area and further reduced the impact of development on the desert.

Milagro Cohousing is surrounded by longstanding residential development. It's true that they are now occupying a piece of the desert once only the home of coyote and javelina. But I believe that occupying only eight acres and leaving the rest to natural desert is an environmentally responsible way to manage growth.

--Lynn Patrick

Pizza Pan

To the Editor,

Face it, there is no good pizza in Tucson [Best of Tucson, September 20]. Period!

For the past five years, I've taken your recommendations, tips from new friends and old residents, hunted high and low to find an unknown good pizza purveyor, and finally have concluded that the venerable pie cannot be properly made in the Old Pueblo.

Pizza makers make a variety of mistakes, but the chief one is using improper and/or no spices. I have begged and pleaded with some of these businesses to adjust their recipes, but have been ignored. They are content to rest on their spiceless, flavorless laurels, and that includes your much lauded Magpies.

But all may not be lost as Pizzeria Uno, an authentic Chicago icon, is due to open a shop in Oro Valley next year. I hardly can wait to see if Uno can beat the Tucson curse on this toothsome savory. In the meantime, I'll keep baking my own.

--Terry Dudas

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