Mt. Graham's Summit: Pristine Ancient Forest Before Observatory Invasion

University of Virginia astronomers claim:

"The high elevation areas are not pristine natural areas.
There is evidence of former logging near the summits There is a 40-mile
long, two lane highway which runs up Mt. Graham The mountain has
multiple campgrounds 100 cabins and a Bible camp 280,000 recreational
visitor days


That is not true and it is very misleading. NONE of those
developments occurred in or near Mt. Graham's summit boreal or
Hudsonian forest. Until the all-weather telescope road was made, the
boreal forest summit was only accessible by a barely passable trail
which was inaccessible most of the year.

The astronomers' claiming of commercial logging at the summit is
untrue, as is the existence of a two-lane highway there. Also erroneous
is the claim that there are cabins, campgrounds or 280,000 visitor days
way up in this remote, boreal, summit forest. As stated before, all of
those activities have occurred at locations well below the precious,
unique, and irreplaceable boreal summit ecosystem.

The fact is, the summit was pristine before the telescope.

Our defense of Mt. Graham has always been focused on the protection
on the issue of the integrity of this unique, southernmost North
American Hudsonian ecosystem at the top of the mountain. It is the
preferred home of Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis and supports at
least 17 other plants and animals found nowhere else in the world
(three mammals, three plants, several high altitude-adapted snails and
various unique arthropods).

The USFWS Biological Opinion pointed out that the fragmentation and
fenestration of this summit ecosystem by the telescopes would result in
the permanent destruction of 47 acres -- not just the 8.6 acres claimed
by the Mt. Graham astronomers.

The "best," fully canopied forest habitat for the squirrel was
determined by the USFWS to be just 472 acres, not the various thousands
of acres alluded to by the UVa astronomers below the summit ecosystem.
It is the undisturbed summit Hudsonian forest that is important for the
integrity of that ecosystem. The telescopes, their access roads, and
associated activities, cause forest fragmentation, exposure of arboreal
species to predators, mortality to the sun-intolerant spruce/fir boreal
tree species, and the occurrence of tree insect infestations.

Continuous telescope construction and maintenance traffic, and
astronomer and visitor traffic, have caused multiple reported and
unreported roadkills of the severely endangered remaining Mt. Graham
red squirrels. The astronomers' reference to the astrophysical project
as a small or "tiny" impact is in disagreement with impartial
biologists who have studied that issue.

After the GAO reported to Congress (July 26, 1990) that the USFWS
Biological Opinion (BO) approving the telescopes was fraudulent, a
blue-ribbon USFWS panel of five nationally respected biologists was
appointed. They concluded a new Biological Opinion was warranted.
President Bush's Department of Agriculture and Justice Dept, in August
23, 1990, said that the UA's Congressional anti-cultural and
environmental "rider" precluded any further squirrel studies (BO's) by
the USFWS.

The Society for Conservation Biology, in April 1991, representing
4000 members internationally, passed a resolution opposing the project
and describing Mt. Graham as:

"a unique treasure of North American biological diversity,
being the only intact spruce-fir sky island ecosystem remaining in the
Sonoran Desert of the United States and Mexico.

Scientists for the Preservation of Mt. Graham, representing 250
regional and international scientists passed a resolution in July 1990
describing Mt. Graham as a: "priceless cradle of evolution" and the
telescope project as "incompatible with the goal of preserving natural
conditions and evolutionary processes.