Arizona Spends $1.25M to Save 250 Squirrels

They are called "canopy tunnel crossings" because they include a mesh tunnel through which only the Mount Graham red squirrels – and not other larger squirrel species – can fit. The tunnel will protect the squirrels from predators like birds of prey.

The money for the project comes from the Federal Highway Administration and must be used for Federal Transportation Enhancement programs. One part of the enhancement initiative is Category 11, whose goal is to "reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality while maintaining habitat connectivity."

Arizona receives resources each year for enhancement projects like this one as part of their Federal Highway grant money, but it is up to the Arizona Department of Transportation to decide how to use the money.

Community response has been overwhelmingly negative, according to David Kincaid, city manager of Safford, the town nearest to the squirrel's habitat.

"The community at large is pretty cynical towards the project," he said. "I think people are thinking, this is just another piece of the government spending that is out of control when it could be spending that money to create real jobs for real people."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has repeatedly criticized what he deems wasteful government spending, was asked about the squirrel bridge meeting in the town of Clifton.

"He expressed opposition to the Mount Graham red squirrel preservation effort, saying it puts unreasonable limits on forest resources that could be used to help the community's economy," McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told

Squirrel Bridge Takes Precedence Over Regular Roads

Graham County Supervisor Mark Herrington thinks that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

"I don't think it's the smartest allocation of resources," he said. "With all the problems were facing today, with the economy the way it is…that's a huge expense and how do you guarantee that the squirrels are going to cross the bridge?"

Herrington said he was not consulted about the project. Instead, the Department of Transportation sent him a letter announcing the start of the project a few weeks ago.

"We could have used this money to improve roads for our citizens," Herrington said. "There are 600 miles of bad roads in Graham County that need to be improved for the people that live here."

The people of Graham County will have to wait for better roads. For now, it's the squirrels' turn.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10934895. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10934895. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10934895. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 10934895.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...