Tags: Tombstone | water | spotted | owl

Rare Spotted Owl Threatens 'The Town Too Tough to Die'

Saturday, 09 Jun 2012 09:55 PM

By Martin Gould


It was nicknamed “The Town Too Tough to Die,” but now Tombstone, Ariz., home to the OK Corral, is under siege from a new enemy — one that comes without a six-shooter or bad attitude.

The rare Mexican Spotted Owl is threatening the very survival of the iconic Old West town as its presence could halt repair work to a water pipeline built the very same year that Doc Holliday and the Earp Brothers shot down three cowboys in the most notorious gunfight of all time.

Without the work, summer monsoon floods are almost certain to wash the old pipeline away and leave the historic wooden town without water, reports CNN.

The 26-mile pipe was left vulnerable by wildfires last year that destroyed acres of vegetation and left hillsides denuded and susceptible to mudslides. But now the U.S. Forest Service says the owl, which was thought to have been driven out by the fire, must be protected.

The feds banned heavy construction equipment, CNN said, but a group calling itself the Jarbridge Shovel Brigade was toiling on the pipeline by hand. All was going well until this week when a confirmed sighting of the owl put even that effort in doubt.

The Forest Service had already made itself unpopular among townsfolk when supervisor James Upchurch was asked in court, “What is more important, owls or the people of Tombstone?" and he responded that there was no easy answer.

The town has already asked for an emergency injunction to allow the work to continue, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was turned down.

Now GOP Rep. Jeff Flake is taking up the cause of the town. His Emergency Water Supply Restoration Act would set aside Forest Service regulations during water emergencies.

"The unforeseen consequences of federal laws and regulations threaten to do something outlaws, economic busts and the Arizona desert couldn't," Flake told CNN.

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