Opinions expressed herein are those of the Ohio State University Department of Astronomy.
"Subject to the terms and conditions of Reasonable and Prudent Alternative Three of the Biological Opinion, the requirements of section 7 of the Endangered Species Act shall be deemed satisfied. . ."and
"the requirements of section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 shall be deemed to have been satisfied."The project is still "subject to any subsequent biological opinions issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act" and requires the University of Arizona, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Agriculture, to "develop and implement a management plan, consistent with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act."
Prior to the congressional action in 1988, the U.S. Forest Service, in consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service, spent three years and much effort in studying the environmental and Native American cultural issues on Mount Graham, reviewing impacts and alternatives, and collecting public opinion. This was done in compliance with environmental and historical preservation law. The Forest Service issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in 1986 and, after further consultation, study, and compromise, a Final Environmental Impact Statement (250 pages) in 1988. The Biological Opinion of the Fish and Wildlife Service was developed as part of this process. The act of Congress recognized that the spirit of the law had been met. Congress did not exempt this project; rather, as a matter of public policy, they weighed the good of the Endangered Species Act as applied to the Mount Graham red squirrel against the public benefits of an important scientific project.
We suspect that this act of Congress was neither the first nor the last of its kind, but one of a large number of similar provisions which are enacted with some frequency. In fact, the National Resources Defense Council (an environmental organization) has published on the Worldwide Web (http://www.nrdc.org/nrdc/bkgrd/ledmgrpt.html) an Environmental Record of the 104th Congress (1995-96). They state:
"Among the more destructive measures passed by the 104th Congress were . . . the highly publicized and ecologically destructive 'clear-cut logging rider', . . . and a long list of riders, buried in larger bills, which threatened public lands."Under Environmentally Damaging Legislation, they list thirteen public laws (out of about 350 enacted under the 104th Congress), some with multiple provisions, which except, exclude, or excuse certain activities from the various requirements of preexisting environmental law.
The National Environmental Protection Act was enacted in 1969 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973. During this time, the U.S. has been involved in Vietnam, in Grenada, and in the Gulf War. We don't understand what purpose the term "peacetime" serves in this context.
The cited scientific study (singular) of 1984, one of several carried out by the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO), did indeed list many sites ahead of Mount Graham (ranked #37). The cited study was carried out on the basis of topographic maps alone. The authors themselves acknowledged that all they had done was provide a list of potential sites and that their numerical exercise was no substitute for on-site surveys in which the seeing, transparency, water vapor, wind, altitude, precipitation, environmental impact, accessibility, cloud cover, and light pollution are all assessed. As a consequence of its circumscribed methodology, the study listed many excellent sites behind Mount Graham, including those at Kitt Peak (#59) and Mount Hopkins (#57), both long used by many institutions and generally regarded as excellent astronomical sites. The top-ranked site (in Nevada) is one to which no one has paid any further attention in the ensuing twelve years. NOAO subsequently chose to carry out detailed site studies on Mount Graham and on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. As a result, Mount Graham was (and continues to be) regarded in practical terms as the best available dark site in the continental U.S.
In Killing the White Man's Indian (Doubleday, 1996), Fergus Bordewich gives an excellent exposition of the complexities of this and similar Native American issues. The author deals with the question of internal tribal politics and the tensions between traditionalists and modernists. He also addresses the broader public policy issue of how to weigh Native American religious claims against other public and private goods and rights. Bordewich devotes half of Chapter Six to the Mount Graham situation and provides a valuable perspective. This chapter is recommended reading and lends support to our contention that the Mount Graham issue is being exploited by a small group of activists.
In order to comply with the National Historical Preservation Act, and in the preparation of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the high elevation areas of Mount Graham were surveyed for sites of Native American cultural significance. Several such sites were identified. The Forest Service plan provides for their preservation.
The annual operating and capital amortization cost to Ohio State (assuming a 40-year telescope lifetime) of its share of the LBT will be about $600,000 (1996 dollars). Some of this cost will be offset by external grants and contracts awarded to the university. Allowing for bad weather and maintenance, we expect forty observing nights per year. Without including external funding reductions, this translates to approximately $15,000 per night. This is a relatively small operating cost compared to that of other instruments of equivalent scientific importance (e.g. major accelerator facilities in physics).
The annual operating budget of Ohio State is more than $1.7 billion. The LBT investment represents therefore less than 0.04 percent of the university budget. We believe that for a university committed to research excellence, this is a small price to pay for maintaining a fundamental science like astronomy at a level comparable to the best in the world. The department needs a world-class instrument to maintain and further its standing. Furthermore, much of the funding for Ohio State's participation in the LBT project has resulted from restructuring Astronomy Department resources and almost all the remainder from college resources. The department and college have made commitments to the university administration that no funds will be withdrawn from instructional responsibilities in order to support the telescope.
In many ways, the LBT will be the world's best telescope. Ohio State recently committed to purchasing the world's best MRI instrument at a cost of about $10 million. Such expenditures are a normal mode of business for a major research university. We have described the costs, the benefits, and the controversy of this project to the USG (Undergraduate Student Government Assembly, the (OSU) Lantern, faculty leadership (Research Committee, Fiscal Committee, and the Senate Leadership), and the administration of the university, and we have received gratifying support from all of them.
More than 18 plants and animals unique to the world have evolved on this Galapagos-like cradle of evolution since glacial recession, and the observatory destroys or fragments over 27 percent of the critically endangered red squirrel's best habitat.
Not only is Mount Graham a large mountain, it has a high elevation ridge line with at least 8 peaks along that line. Some of the chief peaks are High Peak (a.k.a. Mount Graham, at 10,712 feet), Hawk's Peak, Emerald Peak, Heliograph Peak, and Plain View Peak, all above 10,000 feet. There are over 1,200 acres above 10,000 feet and over 3,000 acres above 9,600 feet. The three- telescope plan calls for a total of 2.52 acres for facilities around Emerald Peak. Of this amount, the LBT will account for 1.4 acres. The plan also requires that an access road (almost all of which has been in service since 1991) be built consuming another 6.1 acres. However, the existence of this access road and the telescope facility will allow the Forest Service to abandon and reforest Forest Road 507, part of Forest Road 669, and several fuel breaks (or fire breaks), thereby adding 60 acres back to the forest. "This will probably increase late seral stage forest acres in the long run."
The high elevation areas of Mount Graham are beautiful, but they are not pristine natural areas. There is evidence of former logging near the summits. In fact, one biological survey document states that the High Peak habitat is "degraded."  There is a 40-mile long, two-lane highway, AZ 366, which runs up and along Mount Graham. After passing the observatory turnoff, the highway continues for 9 miles to a 40-acre man-made lake at Riggs Flat. The mountain has multiple campgrounds with developed sanitary facilities, approximately 100 cabins, and a Bible camp. The Forest Service estimates about 280,000 RVD (recreational visitor days) per year to the mountain. These visits are concentrated in summer and fall weekends, greatly increasing usage at these times.
Mount Graham is part of Unit 31 of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and is extensively hunted and fished. The Abert squirrel, a serious competitor to the endangered red squirrel, was introduced to the mountain to improve the area's attraction to hunters. Streams on the mountain have been treated to kill native fish and the non-native Apache trout has been introduced.
The Mount Graham red squirrel is one of thirty subspecies of the common red squirrel which inhabits most of North America. Although not a distinct species, it is entitled to the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Much has been learned about the squirrel in the past twelve years, but there is still a great deal that is unknown. Habitat on Mount Graham which was rated good or excellent for the red squirrel in 1988 amounted to over 2,000 acres. The red squirrel is known to be an opportunistic feeder, and recent studies indicate that the quality of habitat for the squirrel varies with the seed crops of different tree species; the squirrels follow the seed crops and are not always found at the higher altitudes. The primary threats to the squirrel's survival are fire, drought, and competitive pressure from the Abert squirrel. To benefit the red squirrel, the present Forest Service plan calls for the creation of a 1,750 acre Refugium (to spare the squirrel from human recreational and hunting stresses), a continuing program of study and monitoring, and the reforestation actions described above.
Perhaps this is an appropriate point to mention that although the Mount Graham red squirrel was thought to be extinct (extirpated) in the 1950s and '60s, it was rediscovered in the early '70s. There seems to have been no effort at that time to list the squirrel as endangered or even to remove the squirrel from the state hunting list until 1986. In the fall of 1985, there was a five-week season on squirrels (all species) with a daily bag limit of 5!
There are sites on Mount Graham which are even better than the current Emerald Peak sites. In compliance with environmental and cultural preservation law, extensive surveys were carried out on Mount Graham to determine if and where it would be reasonable and prudent to allow telescopes. These surveys indicated that some of the more astronomically desirable sites contained critical biological or cultural resources. As a result, the University of Arizona abandoned its effort to build on these sites. The current siting is a compromise worked out by the Forest Service primarily in the process of developing their Final Environmental Impact Statement (1988) and their preferred alternative. In fact, the university's original proposal was for an observatory area of almost 60 acres on two peaks for 17 telescopes. As part of the compromise arrangement, this has been scaled back to 2.6 acres (plus access road) on one peak for 3 telescopes.
The point here is that the new site was seen as better for the telescope than the old one and as having less impact on the squirrels. This was affirmed by both the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Forest Service believed that under the 1988 Act, it could make minor modifications within the spirit of the Act. The court on procedural, not substantive, grounds found that the Forest Service had exceeded its authority. The congressional rider of 1996 in essence sanctioned the Forest Service action.
"In truth, most Apaches do not consider the proposed observatory to be an inappropriate use of a small part of Mount Graham. . . . It is clear to many of the Apache people that the Mount Graham telescope issue is not one of Apache religion, but one of exploitation by non-Indians trying to stop a multimillion-dollar international science project."In a letter to Congressman Yates, Belvado wrote,
". . . it must be stated that groups, such as the San Carlos Apache Survival Coalition, do not represent the San Carlos Apache Tribe."
2) In the current year, we expect external research grant funds to the Department of Astronomy to total about $500,000 in direct costs and $300,000 to Ohio State in indirect costs.
3) Final Environmental Impact Statement, U. S. Forest Service, November 1988, p. 3-80.
4) Ibid., p. 3-80.
5) Ibid., p. 3-85.
6) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Opinion, July 14, 1988, p. 20.