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The Place Where You Live

"A sense of place is the sixth sense, an internal compass and map made by memory and spatial perception together.” —Rebecca Solnit


Posted by M.G.R.S. | May 31, 2012



I am Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis. I am one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. In 1968, I was declared extinct, but was rediscovered in 1972. Only about 200 of us are alive today. Four are captives in a zoo.

I live only on one mountaintop, Mount Graham—known to the Western Apaches as dzi? nchaa si’an. My home is a “sky island” rising high above the Sonoran desert. My ancestors have lived here in isolation since the last Ice Age. My home is at the peak in an ancient spruce-fir forest where some trees are over 900 years old. There are at least 17 other unique species here. Recent habitat loss and degradation by humans, including introduction of non-native species such as the Abert’s Squirrel, have had a negative impact and jeopardize the survival of my species.

My fiercest competitor is the research scientist, especially astronomers at the universities of Arizona, Ohio State, Virginia, Minnesota, and Notre Dame, as well as those in Germany, and the Jesuits of the Vatican Observatory. For example, on December 7, 1993, under the cover of darkness, my designated “critical habitat” was illegally clearcut for a telescope building!

Some people have come to my aid. The renowned biologist and anthropologist Peter Warshall wrote an essay about me titled, “Finding Your Animal Ally: How a Squirrel Led Me to Congress and the Vatican.” Apache Survival Coalition leader and medicine woman, Ola Cassadore Davis, the four Western Apache tribes and other indigenous nations, along with scientist Stephen Jay Gould, and all reputable environmental organizations and religious people worldwide, have protested the degradation of my home and the aggravated endangerment of my species.

Before it obtained an exemption of its observatory from federal environmental laws, the University of Arizona in 1984 argued against the creation of a national wilderness area on Mount Graham and in 1986 became the first university to actually fight against my listing as an endangered species.

I know my sense of place. I am the Mount Graham red squirrel. What will humanity do to ensure the survival of my species and the protection of my home?

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