SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT:
Rebuttal to the U of M's Head of Astronomy

This is a rebuttal to U. of Minnesota Astronomy Department's Mt. Graham position paper dated from Dec. 2001 The author of the U of MN position paper is Dr. Leonard Kuhi, Chair, Dept. of the Astronomy.

By the Mount Graham Coalition
P.O. Box 15451, Phoenix, AZ 85060

The University of Minnesota (UM) is considering joining the Mt. Graham telescope project.  A position paper published in December 2001 by Dr. Leonard Kuhi of the UM astronomy department contains many false or misleading statements.  This reply is to set the record straight.

  Mt. Graham, known to the Western Apaches as Dzil Nchaa Si’an since time immemorial, is a most sacred and holy place and a central part of their tribal homeland and religious life.  

“For reasons that come straight from the core of the Apache’s rich and venerable cul­ture, the Apache believe that Mount Graham is essential for maintaining their trad­itional way of life and the intricate rhythms of their roundly sacred universe.  The tele­scopes desecrate Mount Graham because they violate and impugn the mountain’s “life” and all associated forms of life that have existed for centuries on the mountain.” [1]

  Mt. Graham’s summit is an ancient forest, surrounded by the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts.  To biologists it is known as a “sky island.”  On the summit is a relict, virgin, spruce-fir forest similar to those found at the latitude of the Hudson Bay or the Yukon.  Eighteen plants and animals unique to the world have evolved in this stormy, damp, cold, icy forest.  This is where the endangered Mt. Graham Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis) lives-- down in some years to only about one hundred individuals.  

To construct a gigantic telescope complex on that most sacred and ecologically vulnerable summit, the University of Arizona (UA) lobbyists went to Congress on behalf of a special-interest group of astronomers. In the final hours of the 1988 Congress, without hearings or debate [2] -- they slipped in a radical, precedent-setting legislative back-door “rider” to a bill.  UA lawyers have subsequently spent millions in court arguing that this “rider” exempts them from U.S. religious, environmental protection, and cultural heritage laws!  

Dr. Kuhi: Project opponents “…have taken the University of Arizona (UA) to court 37 times and lost every time…”  

Reply:  The truth is, telescope opponents have won several times in court. [3] This includes winning an injunction against UA’s illegal clear-cutting and relocation of the LBT in 1993.  The injunction was upheld in 1994 in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While the defenders of this sacred mountain and its endangered species and ecosystem thus far have not permanently stopped this national ethical travesty, they have achieved several court victories. The telescope builders at the University of Arizona (UA) have only been able to build on Mt. Graham because they have twice introduced special-interest legislative exemptions to slide around U.S. law and our court victories.  

Mt. Graham’s defenders share the same kind of ideals and vision that other U.S. citizens had when they repeatedly lost in their initial legal efforts in opposing bad ideas and bad laws such as racial segregation. Mt. Graham’s defenders will continue to fight injustice in court. We will be glad to list our defeats as steppingstones to final victory – like Thurgood Marshall, and those many others who have worked for justice throughout history.  

One of the most shameful aspects of the telescope project is that it is the first willful, selfish attempt of its kind by a U.S. university  -- to try to exempt itself from the religious, environmental, and cultural heritage protection laws of this nation. [4]   American citizens who respect these fundamental laws are outraged that any university would engage in such unethical conduct.    

Dr. Kuhi:  “Legislation voided one additional suit.”  

Reply:  First of all, it didn’t void a suit—it nullified a federal court order that had upheld an injunction based on U.S. environmental and cultural heritage law against the illegal relocation of the LBT (Large Binocular Telescope) on the mountaintop of Mt. Graham.  Dr. Kuhi omits the fact that the “one additional suit” was a lawsuit that comprised a series of courtroom victories against the UA and the Forest Service in four separate federal court cases.  UA, on behalf of the German, Italian and UA LBT partners, was found culpable in each case for their covert, illegal clear-cutting at dawn on the ancient, old-growth forest on the summit of Mt. Graham’s East Emerald Peak on Dec. 7, 1993 (a date that continues to “live in infamy.”)  

The purpose of the UA’s secrecy, and the frantic clear-cutting of the entire summit site in one day, was to prevent environmental or Native American plaintiffs from having time to obtain an injunction to prevent the clear-cut for the illegal re-location of the LBT. UA decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court after two U.S. courts had repeatedly ruled that the UA’s actions were illegal. Instead, in 1994 the UA succeeded in sneaking another special-interest rider exemption through in the final hours of the 1995 Congress-- once again without public hearings or public testimony and debate (the same as they did in 1988).  This new rider, like their ’88 rider, claimed to exempt the astronomers from the cultural, religious and environmental protection laws of this nation. No reputable or honorable institution of higher learning should even consider associating with such lawbreaking and unprincipled circumventions!  

Dr. Kuhi: “The squirrel subsequently (after 1993) tripled in numbers, but has been declining recently due to a bark beetle infestation that is killing trees.”  

Reply: First of all, statistical analysis by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, [5] and analysis by non-agency biologists [6] provides a compelling basis to doubt the current method being used for counting squirrel numbers because that method has led to over-estimation of the actual number of squirrels. The truth is, there were less than 325 squirrels in the first squirrel census in the spring count in 1986.  The population dropped to below 150 at the time construction/deforestation was to commence in 1989.  The USFS then placed a stay on construction. But coercion of that agency by U.S. Senator John McCain on behalf of UA forced construction to commence. The official records of a U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation revealed:  

“Mike Jimenez from Sen. McCain’s office called the USFS [May 17, 1989] to say that the Senators [McCain and DeConcini] were angry over the USFS regional decision to grant the stay in road building [to hear endangered species appeals], and that during the briefing already scheduled there would be some 'ass-chewing.’ ”  

“Sen. McCain and USFS Chief Robertson…had an understanding that the USFS would not stand in the way and would facilitate the Mt. Graham project [despite environmental law].”  

“At the outset of the meeting [May 18, 1989] McCain ‘read the riot act.’ McCain did 90% of the talking during the 1-1 1/2 hour meeting. During McCain’s oration he severely chastised the USFS for dragging its feet.  He said he had an understanding with the Chief [Robertson] and he was very upset that the understanding was not being honored as evidenced by the USFS recommendation to grant the stay.”  

“During this expression of anger, McCain told James Abbott [Supervisor, Coronado N.F.] that ‘if he did not cooperate on this project he would be the shortest tenured Forest Supervisor in the history of the Forest Service.’ ”  

“McCain concluded by stating that he perceived the stay as a delay.  He further said the staff should tell the Chief [Robertson] that McCain believed the stay should not be approved.’ “ The next morning the USFS staff got back with the Chief and “…the Chief confirmed a previous understanding with McCain.”    

Eleven years later, the squirrel population- while overestimated due to the flawed counting methodology- was reported to be an estimated high of 550. But it has now dropped perilously, once again, to below 325.  This time it is due to telescope project-induced degradation of the squirrel’s vulnerable forest habitat. The UA astronomers – who are certainly no experts on forests or insects – blame only the sudden insect infestation of the squirrel’s food trees.   

UA entomologist, Dr. Carl Olson, pointed out the astronomers as the real culprits:  

“Some years ago, before observatories, an Environmental Impact Study was conducted.  The institution wishing to build those structures in the climax forest was warned about clear cutting even a mere 8.6 acres in the middle of this ecosystem.  This could create an edge effect, leading to future problems.  Imagine living deep within a shaded, cool, moist forest, but then suddenly being exposed constantly to direct sunlight, wind and new drainage patterns.  Isn’t that exactly where a major stand of dead and dying trees exists, surrounding the observatories?  Who is to blame, man or beetles?  

[Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona, Oct. 16, 2000]  

Besides McCain intimidating the USFS into proceeding in the face of the 1989 squirrel population crash and cone-crop failure, and the bogus exaggerated squirrel counts, a third grave biological affront had already occurred in 1988.  That, too, was the result of the heavy-handed, politically-muscled UA arm-twisting campaign. The Endangered Species Act, Section 7 consultation (called a “Biological Opinion” or BO) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved placement of the telescopes on Emerald Peak even though that agency said this location would cause far greater harm to the endangered Mt. Graham Red Squirrel.  The U.S. General Accounting Office testimony before Congress in 1990 identified that BO as “not biologically supportable” [7] and that it improperly incorporated “nonbiological information in reaching an opinion that could jeopardize a species’ existence…” (see: “Setting the record straight regarding false or erroneous statements of the U. of Virginia astronomy department’s “Fact Sheet” elsewhere on this website).  

Dr. Kuhi:  “The tribe living closest to the Mt. Graham is the San Carlos Apaches.  In 1993 the San Carlos Tribal Council voted to remain neutral regarding the observatory.  Individual Apache remain opposed to the project.”   

Reply: Dr. Kuhi’s statements are grossly misleading.  The San Carlos Apache tribal council had already passed three opposition resolutions to the telescopes on Mt. Graham before the so-called “neutrality” resolution (in 1990, 1991, and 1993).  Kuhi doesn’t mention the Council also passed three more resolution statements afterwards, in 1994, 1995, and 2001. Those opposition resolutions were in effect continuously over the last 11 years except for the anomalous brief period of “neutrality.”  Kuhi also doesn’t mention that the adjacent White Mountain Apache Reservation members include families with ancient and longstanding ties to Mt. Graham. Obviously, Dr. Kuhi does not understand that the White Mountain Apaches and the San Carlos Apaches are two parts of a single cultural group known as the Western Apaches. The fact is, the Western Apaches were arbitrarily divided into separate reservations and “tribes” by the U.S. Army in the 19th century.  

The majority of elected San Carlos Tribal Council officials, though subject to economic “incentives” from developers like UA, have supported and respected the beliefs of the many, many members on their reservation who adhere to their traditional cultural and spiritual lifeways. A San Carlos council member, however, did change from being an opponent of the telescopes to being a UA telescope supporter. He accepted a well-paid construction job for the University of Arizona on Mt. Graham.  He was next employed by UA as their Apache “consultant.”  He was trotted out to newspaper editorial boards and staffs, and to various public events, by UA public relations people,-- even signing some letters-to-the-editor for the UA to Ohio, Germany etc. promoting UA’s project.   

The opposition of the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache governments and their traditional cultural and spiritual leaders has been unrelenting, notwithstanding UA’s efforts to co-opt them. [8] The record of Apache opposition includes countless Apache public records opposing the telescope project as compiled in the “Record of Apache Opposition” booklet. [9]  

1.      Six San Carlos Apache Council resolutions or statements documenting their formal opposition to the telescopes, pp. 3, 7, 16, 21, 23, 40.  Page numbers correspond to those in the publication: Record of Apache Opposition.

2.      Three letters about the San Carlos Apache Council’s opposition to the telescopes, two written by the Council, one by UA about the council’s opposition, pp. 7, 8, 9.

3.      Three letters, San Carlos Apache government, to U.S. Forest Service, pp. 4, 5, 24.

4.      Four letters, San Carlos Apache Council, to German Chancellors and/or German Parliament, pp. 12, 13, 26, 37A.

5.      Four letters, San Carlos Apache Council, to the Vatican, pp. 14, 15, 16, 17.

6.      San Carlos Apache Moccasin, July 7, ’92, San Carlos Tribal Council to Wash. D.C., press conference, met Italian, German Embassies, Catholic Press, congressional offices, p. 11.

7.      Four letters, San Carlos Apache Council, to Italian Parliament, pp. 20, 21, 22, 37A.

8.      San Carlos Apache Council “To whom it may concern” p. 25.

9.      San Carlos Apache Council to Janet Reno, p. 28.

10.  San Carlos Apache Council to Senator John McCain, p. 29.

11.  San Carlos Apache Tribal Council to President Clinton, p. 30  

Also in the Record of Apache Opposition is the “neutrality” resolution, and two letters of lone Council members in support the project, pp. 18, 18A, 29. [10]    

Dr. Kuhi: Other Apaches, including some elders and medicine men, have said the observatory is all right…”  

Reply: That is an unsupported claim made by telescope proponents who lack independently verifiable proof. Compare Kuhi’s allegation with the dated, signed, addressed statements of 23 separate Apache elders, spiritual leaders and/or medicinepeople enrolled on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, on pages 10 and 19 of the “Record of Apache Opposition…” booklet.  

“We the undersigned spiritual leaders of the Apache people acknowledge the central sacred importance of Dzil Nchaa Si An (Mt. Graham) to the traditional religious practice of the Apache.  We oppose the Mt. Graham telescope project because it will interfere with the ability of the traditional Apache to practice their religion.”  

In addition, the Record of Apache opposition booklet contains copies of the several San Carlos Apache Council letters, and the dated, signed 1995, 1996, and 1997 letters of Ramon Riley, Cultural Resources Director of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, on pages 27, 35, 36, and 37.  

Dr. Kuhi:  “The White Mountain Apaches, who are further [sic] away to the north of Mt. Graham, are more opposed to the observatory.”  

Reply:  Again, it is clear that Dr. Kuhi and the Mt. Graham astronomers don’t remotely understand or know anything about the Western Apaches. It is unmistakably evident that he speaks for the UM Astronomy department, not for the Western Apaches. The fact is, the various Western Apache reservations are committed in their opposition to this desecration as has been demonstrated by the copious documentation already presented in the public record as referenced above. Dr. Kuhi’s manipulative claim is a non sequitur and makes about as much sense as saying Massachusetts citizens, who are farther away from New York City, are more opposed to the Sept. 11th terrorist attack than closer, state of Connecticut citizens. Claiming that there would be any real difference in the opposition to the Mt. Graham observatory by the members of the two side-by-side reservations, shows Dr. Kuhi has been grossly misinformed about the Western Apache people in Arizona or their history.   

Here are some important facts of Apache history.  In 1871, the Army forced the Western Apache peoples in the Arizona territory onto what they named the “White Mountain Reservation.”  It extended from the Mogollon Rim on the north to and including Mt. Graham on the south.  It extended West to what is now the town of Globe, and on the East to the New Mexico state border. Six subsequent unilateral reductions and diversions in the Apache reservation boundary have occurred since 1871. As a result, the Apache reservation land is now just one half the size of the original Reservation.  Those many reductions were executed unilaterally by decree, in violation of the U.S. treaty with the Apache.  Those dismemberments occurred each time settlers and their politicians coveted more of the Apaches land for their natural resources.  This was particularly true in the case of Mt. Graham because of its forests, pure water and adjacent fertile farmland around its base.  

In 1896, the White Mountain Reservation was arbitrarily divided in half into northern and southern parts by a decree of the U.S. President for administrative reasons.  The southern half was called the “San Carlos Reservation” and the northern half, the “Apache Reservation.”  Subsequently, that northern half was renamed the “White Mountain Apache Reservation.”  The U.S. government called the southern half of the reservation “San Carlos” and the northern half “White Mountain.”  This had nothing to do with their religious, linguistic and cultural traditions, which are universal to both Reservations. Many Apaches with close ties to Mt. Graham ended up on the northern reservation after that arbitrary split.  

That historical truth was made clear by Ramon Riley, the Cultural Resources Director of the White Mountain Apache, Jan. 8, 1997, in a letter to Ohio State President Gordon Gee (p. 36):  

“I represent the White Mountain Apache Tribe in all matters pertaining to the protection of Apache cultural and historical sites and resources.  The White Mountain and San Carlos Apache tribes are very closely related.  Until 1897 our two tribes shared a single, undivided reservation.  We still share a language and culture and emphasize truth, respect, honor, and humanity’s role as caretakers for the beneficiaries of Mother Earth.  Many of the stories and songs that perpetuate our language and culture refer to our four sacred mountains, Dzil Nchaa Si’an (Mount Graham) is one of these precious mountains…The simple-but-essential truth is that the long-term health of Apache people and our cultures depend in a very real way on the physical and visual integrity of our ancestral landscapes and on the advent, within non-Indian society, of greater respect for our ways.”  

Here are some of the passages which appear repeatedly in the six San Carlos Apache Council opposition/resolutions and proclamations from 1990 through 2001:  

“…for generations our elders have instructed us on the sacredness of Dzil Nchaa Si’an (Big Seated Mountain, aka Mt. Graham) and its vital importance for maintaining the integrity of our Apache culture and tradition…”  

“…this mountain, Mt. Graham, is essential to the continued practice of physical and spiritual healing by Apache Medicinemen/women, and to their apprenticeship as competent traditional religious specialists…”  

“…the proposed destruction of this mountain will contribute directly to the destruction of fundamental aspects of traditional and spiritual life of the Apaches…”  

“…any permanent modification of the present form of this mountain constitutes a display of profound disrespect for a cherished feature of the Apache’s original homeland as well as a serious violation of Apache traditional religious beliefs…”  

The White Mountain Apache Cultural Resources Director stated on Nov. 8, 1995 to the Chairman of the Council of German Observatories (p. 27):  

“…Mt. Graham is one of the sacred mountains, one of the 4 chief mountains…Because of herbs…Crown Dancers, and other power these mountains teach us…the observatory project has significantly harmed our already damaged culture in a profound and almost unforgivable way.”  

The White Mountain Apache Cultural Resources Director wrote to OSU President Gordon Gee on Jan. 8, 1997 (p. 36):  

“I write to tell you that the project is the latest in a long, sad sequence of threats to a unique and irreplaceable cultural system that cannot withstand many more such assaults.  “I urge and implore you to maintain the distance between Ohio State and those institutions—infamous in Apache country—that have, without bothering to understand the views of traditional Apache people, sought to discredit and minimize Apache objections to the telescopes.

“Please accept my assurance that the proposed observatory (not to mention the disrespectful and arrogant posture of its proponents towards the Apaches that have voiced their opposition) is repugnant to those Apaches who understand the importance of the mountain.  I can also assure you that no good can come from an observatory built on institutional arrogance and aggressive contempt for divergent values and perspective.  In sum, please do not make more complicated my already difficult job of protecting Apache culture: stay away from Mount Graham and reassert Ohio State’s important commitment to promoting cultural diversity and religious freedom.”  

Dr. Kuhi:  “MGIO (Mt. Graham International Observatory) has a standing offer to work with those wishing access to the area adjacent to the observatory.”  

Reply:  First of all, the damaged harms to the Apaches aren’t simply one of access.  The UA has erected a monstrous multi-acre, multi-storied complex on the very top of the Western Apaches’ most sacred southern mountain.  Imagine it constructed on your church grounds or cemetery.  The problem is much greater than just access!   

To add insult to injury, the University of Arizona issued a stunning and arrogant decree on Oct. 7, 1997 declaring to Native Americans that they must first obtain prayer permits from UA in writing before going up the mountain to pray. According to B.E. Powell, Associate Director, of UA’s Mt. Graham observatory:

           

“The request for access to the site must be made in writing at least two business days prior to the date requested for access.  The request should be made in the MGIO [Mt. Graham International Observatory] office in Safford, attention John Ratje, Site Manager.  

“The request should include a description of the specific area for which access is desired.  

“The requestor and members of their party seeking access to the site for religious purposes shall be enrolled members of a federally recognized Tribe.  

“In conjunction with Forest Service policy, the requestor will have already obtained authorization from the Forest Service to enter the Red Squirrel Refugium before submitting their request to the MGIO offices.”  

Consider also that UA police arrested an Apache who had been praying on the mountain in September 1997.  UA lawyers argued in Arizona state court that he was guilty of criminal trespass for walking down the road from the mountaintop and should be prosecuted: see “Record of Apache opposition…” (pp. 69, 70) for the following related newspaper stories: “Mt. Graham ‘prayer permit’ angers Apaches,” Arizona Daily Star, Aug. 13, 1998; “UA requires prayer permits for Indians on Mt. Graham, Arizona Republic, Aug. 15, 1998; “Have you got your permit to pray?” Navajo Hopi Observer, Jan. 21, 1998; “Nosie acquitted of trespassing,” Navajo Hopi Observer, Feb. 4, 1998).  The summit access road, built in 1990, is entirely located on federal public land, but UA claims it is “their” road and “their” domain. The UA lost this case in court. [11]  

Dr. Kuhi:  “The public process to gather citizen comment was found by Federal [courts] to be in compliance with applicable laws.”  

Reply:  That statement is false. Because of UA’s special-interest exemption rider, the normal public process was ruled by the courts to be inapplicable and pre-empted, so the inadequacy of the process escaped judicial scrutiny.  

For those unfamiliar with NEPA, NFMA, NHPA and ESA, these are the landmark cultural and environmental protection laws of this nation.  NHPA (National Historic Preservation Act) requires the USFS to consult with traditional Apache elders, cultural leaders, and Medicinepeople, as well as the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the public, regarding the cultural and religious impacts of the proposed project.   

NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) has similar requirements and requires the acceptance of public comments and requires the agency to fully report upon the social, cultural, religious and environmental impacts of a project. They must consider alternatives to avoid affecting an historic site such as Dzil Nchaa Si’an.  It also requires that agency to include a full and meaningful range of alternative project sites (for example, it was never mentioned and considered that other U.S. (and elsewhere) sites were clearly superior to Mt. Graham). The USFS failed to comply with those provisions of that U.S. law.   

NFMA (National Forest Management Act) requires the Forest Service to protect vulnerable, irreplaceable, world-class ecosystems such as the summit forest on Mt. Graham and its 18 plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.  ESA, the Endangered Species Act, would have halted this telescope project, a project which permanently destroys 47 acres in heart of the endangered Mt. Graham Red Squirrel’s best 472 acres of habitat – habitat the squirrel desperately needs to avoid extinction.  

UA lawyers have repeatedly argued in court that their rider makes them exempt from NEPA, the Endangered Species Act, and any other law which might stop their project.  NEPA specifically requires providing a reasonable opportunity for citizen comment.  It also requires inclusion in the Environmental Impact Studies of a meaningful range of project alternatives, including environmentally and culturally non-destructive sites off Mt. Graham.  

Since UA lobbyists and lawyers claimed that they were exempt from NEPA, the USFS simply ignored the public’s commentary submitted during the “citizen comment” period. Written commentary previously submitted in 1986-87, but ignored by the USFS, clearly pointed out that the mountain was sacred, and currently being used by the Apaches for various rituals.  UA’s 1988 special-interest rider and the millions UA spent in court thwarted citizen enforcement of this fundamental U.S. cultural and environmental protection law.   

For example, UA lawyer David Todd, in Federal District Court, March 26, 1990, in Tucson, Arizona argued that the project was exempt from all applicable environmental law and that such things as “citizen comment” as permitted in NEPA were disallowed:  

“Congress felt this project was significant enough to merit exemption from applicable environmental statutes.  Those laws include the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.” [12]  

UA lawyers stated in their intervenor’s reply in District Court in May 8, 1992:  

“…construction on the first three telescopes [LBT, Vatican, Max Planck] should be commenced immediately and completed without need for, or delay that might be caused by compliance with NEPA or related statutes, including the NFMA and NHPA.”

 

Judge Reinhardt to UA lawyer Todd, Dec. 13, 1990:  

"And your position is basically that what Congress was saying is we want you to build the three telescopes, build those three without regard to any laws, we’ve made the decision, everything else is taken care of.”  

UA lawyer’s reply:  

“That’s correct your Honor…”  

Judge Alfredo Marquez to the UA lawyer, March 26, 1990:  

“If the project “is having the effect of making the species totally extinct…you are saying Congress has said to go ahead with this project?”  

UA lawyer’s reply:  

If “it was going to kill every squirrel…[nothing] could be done about it.” [13]  

Dr. Kuhi: “The public comment period occurred early in the process; American Indian comment was solicited.  The Zuni and Hopi responded, and their recommendations were followed.  The San Carlos Apaches did not respond.”  

Reply: Dr. Kuhi’s inference is erroneous. He claims that the San Carlos Apache did not respond to a letter sent to the San Carlos Chairman from a research associate in the UA College of Agriculture asking for a reply within 30 days “early in the process.” It is that “process” which was woefully inadequate and deliberately managed to avoid full NHPA compliance and to minimize Apache involvement.  

The Apache elders, medicinepeople, and cultural leaders were never notified by USFS or UA.  Sending one letter asking for a reply within 30 days to the Apache secular government does not meet either the black letter or the spirit of U.S. law, including NEPA, AIRFA (American Indian Religious Freedom Act), and NHPA.  It certainly does not meet the requirements of the U.S. Constitution and the Apaches’ constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, equal protection, and due process. Nor does it comply with the fiduciary duty that the federal government has to Native Americans under the trust responsibility. As the U.S. Supreme Court has explained:  

"Under a humane and self imposed policy which has found expression in many acts of Congress and numerous decisions of this Court, [the government] has charged itself with moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust.  Its conduct, as disclosed in the acts of those who represent it in dealings with the Indians, should therefore be judged by the most exacting fiduciary standards.” [14]  

For further illumination, UM’s astronomers, administrators and trustees should read the Nov. 8, 1995 letter from the White Mountain Apache Tribe Cultural Director, Ramon Riley, to the President of the German Council of Astronomers.  Here is an excerpt:  

            “Elders will not give you answers until they know and trust you—until they see you are coming from the heart.  You have to work within the patience of elders and not expect answers immediately.  Everything you do must have respect…Mt. Graham is one of the sacred mountains, one of the 4 chief mountains…Because of herbs…Crown Dancers, and other power, these mountains teach us…They and the stars guide us.

            “People have been praying to the mountains north and south and using these places since time immemorial.  We have been denied access to these places in the name of money.  Those are our mountains.  They are all-important to us.  To me, what I have heard ever since I can remember, is that these are sacred places…We go to the mountains because they bring us closer to God.  I worry that much reliance is being placed on asking direct questions and expecting elders to confront sensitive maters, when this is not our way.”

            “In the interest of avoiding any lingering confusion, you will forgive me for being blunt: Mount Graham is sacred to the Apache people and the observatory project has significantly harmed our already damaged culture in a profound and almost unforgivable way.”  

It is clear that the “process” used by the UA and the Forest Service did not comply with the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Register Bulletin 38: Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties. [15]  

Dr. Kuhi: “The facility is not on an Indian Reservation.”  

Reply:  Dzil Nchaa Si’an (Mt. Graham) was part of the original Apache reservation.  It has been Apache homeland and sacred to the Apache for centuries before that.  No authentic, knowledgeable Apache scholar can dispute that fact. It was taken from the Apache reservation boundary unilaterally in violation of their treaty in 1873. Settlers coveted the mountain’s rich natural resources and just took them. There were six unilateral reservation dismemberments, including the dismemberment of Mt. Graham.  Those dismemberments reduced the political boundaries of the reservation to half its original size.  But changing those lines on U.S. government maps did not change the Apaches’ religious life or their traditional cultural relationship with Dzil Nchaa Si’an (Mt. Graham).  

Dr. Kuhi: “The observatory and its connecting road cover 8.6 acres.  The national forest on Mt. Graham is 200,000 acres, of which 1200 acres are above 10,000 feet.”  

Reply:  Dr. Kuhi attempts to disguise the real issue here and create a diversion by tossing around large numbers like 200,000 and 1,200 acres.  The integrity and survival of the unique 472-acre boreal forest at the summit is the real issue here, not the size of the rest of the national forest below the summit.   The tiny, vulnerable “sky island” boreal forest, surrounded by harsh desert, is the southernmost spruce-fir forest in North America. The summit is where attention must remain focused. It is a “sky island” cradle of evolution where 18 plants and animals have evolved that are found nowhere else in the world. Official U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service studies show only 472 acres (not 1200 acres or 200,000 acres) of this fully canopied, virgin, boreal (Hudsonian) habitat is the “best” for the highly endangered Mt. Graham red squirrel. Those studies show the 3-telescope project (LBT, Vatican, Max Planck) would make “permanently unsuitable” [16] 47 acres or 10% of that habitat (not 8.6 acres).  Would you destroy 10% of the best parkland, farmland, wildlife refuges or endangered species habitat in the nation or in one’s state to erect an ill-sited telescope, especially one that would have clearly superior scientific value and “seeing” capability at another location?  Of course not!   

The Mt. Graham telescope project has been rejected by all the leading U.S. institutions. [17] Furthermore, studies by the NOAO and UA itself show clearly superior sites elsewhere in the continental U.S, and/or elsewhere. Carnegie Mellon University recently chose to join the 11-meter South Africa Large Telescope.

* * *

The only way the Mt. Graham telescope project was allowed to be placed on Mt. Graham’s sacred, as well as biologically irreplaceable summit ecosystem, was by a special-interest group of Arizona astronomers buying their way around the law. UA has spent many millions of dollars in lobbying and pursuing in court their claim that their riders have exempted them from all of the applicable cultural, religious and environmental protection laws of this nation.  Is this the sort of ethical standard a great university wishes to teach their students, faculty, and administrators?  

What one respected NOAO/AURA astronomer in Tucson said about the Mount Graham observatory:  

What has happened is all of astronomy has gotten a bad name…The Mt. Graham project is all about “self-aggrandizement…It’s got nothing to do with science, technology and truth or the best use of taxpayers money.” [18]


[1] Apache Survival Coalition, Ola Cassadore Davis; and Ernest Victor vs. USA/USFS, U.S. District Court, Tucson, AZ April 9, 1992, Declaration of Keith Bass

[2] “How The UA Knocked Off Mt. Graham,” Chuck Bowden, City Magazine, Tucson, AZ, Jan. 1989 (see elsewhere on this web page)

[3] UA lost July 29, 1994 in U.S. District Court, Tucson, and lost three other times in the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco Aug. 23, 1994, Apr. 24, 1995, July 20, 1995.

UA lost in 1993 in Pima County Superior Court, for false arrest of environmental news photographer Dr. Robin Silver by UA campus police at a public demonstration opposing the Mt. Graham project.

UA lost in Maricopa County Superior Court in 1993 trying to withhold a study (the Booz-Allen Report) which revealed the UA telescope mirror lab was a financial drain and major liability to the University due to  “unforeseen technical/production problems with 8-meter mirrors.” They noted UA’s loss of former clients to technically better, more competent mirror products and manufacturers. Booz-Allen also pointed out that the bonding mechanism for financing the Mt. Graham LBT Telescope may be illegal, viz. “Attempting to use the float of non-profit bond proceeds in an interest bearing account to offset operating costs does not make good fiscal sense and may be illegal.”  

The report showed the UA Mirror Lab had lost contracts as a result of its non-competitive product, its production/construction delays and breakdowns, and its inability to produce an 8-meter mirror on any reasonable schedule (Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc., “Final Report, UA Mt. Graham Observatory Review Issues,” Tucson AZ, Oct 23, 1991). The report also outlined a proposed UA campaign and strategy that would make “outliers” or outcasts of traditional Apache people who opposed the telescopes.  This, the report said, would be accomplished through a UA program of economic enticements to the San Carlos Apache tribe. See p.11 of Record of Apache Opposition to the Desecration of Mt. Graham by the University of Arizona and their Astronomer-collaborators, Nov. 2001, (available from: Mt. Graham Coalition, P.O. Box 15451, Phoenix, AZ 85060, $20.00 postpaid).

UA lost Jan. 20, 1998 in State of Arizona Court for falsely arresting a San Carlos Apache tribal member for praying on Mt. Graham.  The Tribal member had gone there to pray.

[4] National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA- a law protecting cultural and religious issues as well as environmental and endangered species issues, Endangered Species Act (ESA), National Forest Management Act (NFMA-a law protecting unique biotic communities on public lands- such as the unique, virgin, summit spruce/fir ecosystem on top of Mt. Graham and its 18 unique plants and animals found nowhere else in the world) National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA- a law protecting unique cultural, religious and/or historic sites).

[5] Internal Arizona Game and Fish Department Study: Mt. Graham Squirrel Numbers Inflated, News Advisory, Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, Dec. 2, 1997.  The AGFD report, dated July 23, 1997, confirms that agencies have been inflating red squirrel numbers in six different ways.

[6] Mt. Graham Red Squirrel extinction probability “moderate to very high,” News Advisory, Center for Biological Diversity, June 25, 2001 (New study “Demographic Analysis for the Mt. Graham Red Squirrel,” Daniel Doak, Elaine Harding, Cynthia Hartway, Dept of EEB, UC, Santa Cruz, March 5, 2001, re-confirms earlier studies warning of cumulative threats of piecemeal habitat destruction.  Study also contradicts UA claim of “no significant effect” by telescopes). 

[7] U.S. General Accounting Office, Testimony to Congress, Statement of James Duffus III, Director, June 26, 1990, “FWS’ Biological Opinion Based on Other Than Biological Opinion.”

[8] Record of Apache Opposition to the Desecration of Mt. Graham by the University of Arizona and their Astronomer-collaborators,” Nov. 2001, Mt. Graham Coalition, P.O. Box 15451, Phoenix, AZ 85060, $20.00 postpaid.

[9] Oct. 4, 1989, traditional Apache complain in both Tucson newspapers (Star, Citizen) first day of telescope deforestation (p 42); Dec. 14, ’89 San Carlos Apache Tribal Council (SCAT) complains to UA about telescope desecration (p. 1); Feb. 6, ’90 SCAT authorizes Apache Elder to “work in opposition” to project; July 10, ’90 SCAT passes telescope opposition resolution (p.2); Aug. 31, ’90 SCAT Chairman to USFS opposes telescopes, threatens suit (p. 4); June 4, ’91 entire SCAT to USFS signs opposition to telescopes (p. 5-5A); Aug. 19, ’91 Apache elders file lawsuit in Federal Court (p. 6); Dec. 10, ’91 SCAT passes opposition resolution in front of visiting UA President (p. 7,8); Feb. 8, ’92 SCAT Chairman asks pope to meet Apache in Rome (p. 9); April 28, ’92 SCAT Chairman sends resolutions to pope opposing the Vatican telescope desecration (p. 9); April 10-28, ’92 Apache Medicinepeople, Spiritual Leaders sign opposition resolution (p.10); June 24-26 ’92, SCAT delegation to Wash. D.C. protests to German, Italian embassies, etc., hold D.C. press conference (p. 11); Aug. 24, ’92 entire SCAT signs protest letter to German Parliament (12, 13); Oct. 30, ’92 entire SCAT signs protest letter to Vatican; Sept. 30, ’92 SCAT invites Bishop to reservation (p. 14); May 21, ’93 SCAT votes repeat protest resolution (p. 16); Jan. 18, ’93 Apache delegations submit and have approved opposition resolutions at five National Congress of Am. Indians (p. 17); Jan. ’93, Feb. ’94, July ’99, Nov. 01 (p. 17, 38); SCA Tribal Cultural Advisory Comm. sign petition opposing telescopes (p. 19); Oct. 24, ’94 SCAT Chairman opposition letter to Italian Parliament (p. 20); Oct. 26, ’94 majority of SCAT reaffirm tribe’s past opposition resolutions in protest letter to Italian govt.(p. 21); Mar. 13, ’95 Vice-chairman writes opposition letter to Italian Parliament; June 13, ’95 SCAT reaffirms opposition resolution (p. 23); July 12, ’95; SCAT History Program Director asks for long overdue USFS cultural studies (p. 24); Sept. 25, ’95 SCAT Vice-Chairman opposes UA lobbying for second exemption rider (p.26); Sept. 25, 1995 SCAT Vice-Chairman protests German telescope to Helmut Kohl (p. 26);  Oct. 29, ’59 traditional Apache introduce and get passed National Congress of American Indians telescope opposition (p. 17); Nov. 8, ’95 Cultural Director, White Mtn. Apache Reservation asks German astronomers to withdraw their desecration (p. 27); Nov. 15, ’95 Vice-Chairman SCAT asks Janet Reno to indict guilty USFS officials (p. 28); Nov. 15, ’95 SCAT Vice-Chair asks Sen. McCain to enforce long overdue USFS cultural studies (p. 29); Dec. 21, ’95 SCAT Vice-Chair asks Clinton to veto UA exemption rider (p. 30); May 30, ’95 SCAT Vice-Chair protests to Clinton on signing of UA rider (p. 33); Aug. 16, ’96 White Mtn. Apache Cultural Dir. write to Advisory Council on need for NHPA studies (p. 34); Jan. 8, 97 White Mtn. Apache Cultural Dir. asks OSU to stay away from Mt. Graham (p. 36); Dec. 3, ’97 SCAT Chairman thanks Clinton for vetoing line-item funds to Mt. Graham (p. 37); Nov. 13, ’97 White Mtn. Apache Cultural Dir. thanks Clinton for line-item veto of Mt. Graham funds (p. 37); July 15, ’99 White Mtn. Apache Tribal Council votes opposition resolution to Mt. Graham desecration; Mar. 24, ’99 SCAT Vice-Chair plea to President of Italy and Chancellor of Germany to halt telescope funding (p. 37A). June 5, ’01: SCAT votes 6th opposition declaration p. 40).

[10] July 13, ’93 SCAT “neutrality” resolution (p. 18); Dec. 14, ’93 SCAT Chair Talgo letter to USFS supports “neutrality” resolution (p. 18A); Dec. 5, ’95 Council member Belvado letter to Congress falsely stating: “the Tribe has never written …letters of complaint to Government.” In fact, there have been many letters of complaint to the Government (e.g. pp. 4, 5-5A, 24, 28, 29).

[11] “Nosie acquitted of trespassing,” Navajo Hopi Observer, S.J. Wilson, Feb. 4, 1998)

[12] March 26, 1990, U.S. District Court, Tucson, AZ.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Seminole Nation v. U.S., 316 U.S. 286, 296-297 (1942).  

[15] Bulletin 38 provides the criteria, for identification and assessment of places of cultural significance, long recognized by ethnographers for years previous to publication, particularly in regard to Native Americans.

See, e.g., Pueblo of Sandia v. U.S., 50F.3d 856, 860 (10th Cir.1995). (USFS mailing of form letter to Council did not satisfy requirements of NHPA)

[16] U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Opinion, Sec. 7 consultation, Mt. Graham Red Squirrel, Appendix Table 1, July 14, 1988,

[17] NOAO/AURA (National Optical Astronomy Observatories/Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy), after their 1984, 1987, and other studies, concluded the clear technical superiority of Hawaii and Chile and abandoned Mt. Graham, March 1987.  AURA included UC Oakland, Chicago, Cal Tech, Colorado, Harvard, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, MIT, Michigan, New York Stony Brook, Penn State, Princeton, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin-Madison, and Yale. Additional institutions specifically rejecting Mt. Graham after careful study included Harvard/Smith­son­ian Institution in 1991, U. of Toronto in 1994, Michigan State, U. of Pittsburgh in 1994, U. of Texas, in late 80’s, U. of Chicago in late 80’s, and Georgia State in 1995. The City Council of Pittsburgh passed a resolution citing: “environmental problems and the religious and cultural value of the mountain to the San Carlos Apache” and “…this project tarnishes the image of the Pittsburgh community…” The U. of Pittsburgh Administration, April 14, 1994, stated that “The site in South America…was clearly better than anywhere in the continental U.S…The astronomy department considered such factors as weather statistics and seeing statistics…”  

[18] Star Gate, Phoenix New Times, by John Dougherty, June 16, 1993 (quoting Dr. Roger Lynds).