Welcome to the Arizona Chapter of the International Association of Assessing Officers
AZ IAAO April Spotlight
Graham County has a total of 4,641 square miles, only of which about 10% is privately owned. The rest is spread between federal, state and Native American reservation lands. The assessor’s office manages a whopping 17,500 parcels--the size of some mobile home parks in Maricopa County.
There is a total of approximately 37,000 people that live in the county (again about the size of some mobile home parks in Maricopa), most of which live in the towns of Safford, Thatcher and Pima. Graham County is the third-least populated county in the state. Safford is the county seat.
Just to the south of Safford lies the Pinaleno Mountain range, the highest of which is Mount Graham reaching an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet. With Safford’s elevation of 2,900 feet, Graham Mountain has the highest vertical relief in the state.
Due to our low population and Mt Graham’s elevation, the mountain was chosen to host the Mt Graham International Observatory. There are telescopes owned and operated by scientific researchers from around the world including the University of Arizona and the Vatican (yep, that Vatican!!). The “Large Binocular Telescope” is one of the world’s largest and most powerful optical telescopes. It began operations in 2004.
The choice of location of these telescopes sparked considerable controversy from the San Carlos Apache Tribe, who view the mountain as sacred, and from environmentalists who contended that the observatory would cause the demise of an endangered subspecies of the American Red Squirrel. Environmentalists and members of the tribe filed some forty lawsuits—eight of which ended up before a federal appeals court—but the project ultimately prevailed after an act of the United States Congress.