About 9000 BC
glaciers retreat, conifer forests of the Pinalenos - where
10,720-foot Mount Graham is the highest peak - become isolated from
those of the Mogollon Rim and other mountain islands in what is now
Columbian mammoths may walk the Pinalenos
Red squirrels are abundant on Mount Graham,
according to E.D. Tuttle, clerk of Graham County. Timber harvest
has begun in canyons on north and east sides of
Mount Graham red squirrels are collected and reported in scientific
literature. Dr. J.A. Allen, curator of birds and mammals at
American Museum of Natural History, describes a new subspecies
found only in the
University of Arizona gets its first astronomer. Andrew Douglas
arrives from the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, where he had a
falling-out with his partner Percival Lowell over whether there are
Cassadore, a young San Carlos Apache, visits Mount Graham
frequently with her father, a medicine man who sings and prays on
the mountain. The tribe has burial grounds on the summit, and uses
herbs and plants gathered on the mountain for traditional
gains recognition as an astronomy center. The University of Arizona
adds astronomers to its faculty, and the federal National Optical
Astronomy Observatory locates on
of the incremental development on Mount Graham-summer homes, a
Bible camp and radio towers-is complete. Local Apaches keep a low
profile in the face of this development; legislation to protect
cultural interests on public lands has yet to be passed. Some
businesses still display "No dogs or Apaches' signs.
squirrels have been found in the Pinalenos since 1958. Biologists
think the subspecies may have disappeared.
temporarily canceled-at least four red squirrels are reported by
state and federal biologists.
harvest declines on the range because most of the accessible timber
has been cut.
state biologists classify the Mount Graham red squirrel as
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the University of Arizona
begin testing Mount Graham and Mauna Kea, Hawaii, as possible sites
for new observatories.
The federal National Optical Astronomy
Observatory completes a two-year comparison between Mount Graham
and Mauna Kea for a telescope project. Mauna Kea came out on top:
"There was no comparison," says NOAO astronomer Mike
Mount Graham red squirrel is federally
listed as endangered.
The University of Arizona wants to build
seven telescopes on Mount Graham; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
biologists say it would jeopardize the red squirrel. Agency
biologists propose two alternatives: Move the project off the
mountain altogether, or put the scopes on a relatively degraded
part of the mountain. But the agency's regional director eventually
spurs a third alternative; it allows three telescopes to be built
in the thick forest on part of the mountain called Emerald Peak if
a mitigation plan is
In an interview in the Arizona Daily Star in
Tucson, Earth First! founder Dave Foreman criticizes the
university's efforts on Mt. Graham. He says, "There are people who
are prepared to make them put the scopes up several times ... It's
certainly not something I'd do myself, but anyone with any sense
has to realize that that is what's going to happen."
The lobbying firm Patton, Boggs and Blow
convinces Congress to exempt the university from the remaining
requirements of environmental law. Congress permits three
telescopes to be built on an 8.6-acre site on Emerald Peak. John
Moag, a lawyer for the firm, tells the Washington Post the
controversy has cost the university "about $50,000 per squirrel."
Electricity is interrupted at the National
Observatory on Kitt Peak when a power pole is cut at the base of
the mountain. A man identifying himself as a "scope buster" calls
the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, saying he had cut the pole in
retaliation for environmental damage done on Kitt Peak, and warning
the same thing could happen on Mount
The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and other
advocacy groups file a lawsuit in federal court to permanently halt
observatory construction. Agency biologists subsequently tell
government investigators Fish and Wildlife's signing off on the
university's plan was "predetermined" and "a violation of law."
U of A scientist Conrad Istock, a proponent
of the telescope project, reports an anonymous letter threatening
him with death if the squirrel goes extinct. But the writer takes
back the threat in an apologetic letter sent a week later, Istock
In court, U of A lawyer David Todd explains
the extent to which Congress exempted the university from
environmental law: If the telescope project was going to kill every
squirrel, nothing could be done about
university realizes that the Emerald Peak site has high winds that
will threaten the visual quality of the Large Binocular Telescope.
It decides on a nearby alternate site which is outside the boundary
designated by Congress. University biologists say the new site also
affects fewer squirrels.
The Smithsonian Astrophysical
Observatory decides to build its $40 million radio telescope on
Mauna Kea rather than on Mount Graham. "It's higher and drier,"
explains one official.
Ohio State University cuts its investment in
the Large Binocular Telescope from $15 million to $2.5 million.
Snell & Winter, a law firm employed by
the university, submits a $300 bill for three hours' research on
the possibility of filing racketeering charges against opponents of
Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service initially told the university that moving outside the
Emerald Peak site would activate environmental laws, the agency
suddenly reverses itself. It gives the green light to relocate the
biggest telescope without meeting the provisions of the laws.
The Forest Service approves the university's
request to relocate the
Before dawn, the university cuts down more
than 250 old-growth trees covering about three-quarters of an acre
on the new site. Biologist Paul Young, who had headed the
university's effort to monitor squirrel populations on the mountain
since 1989, finds out about the cutting on the evening news. He
says: "I'm just not in on the decision making process."
After four years of thinking about signing
on to the Mount Graham project, the University of Toronto decides
Fifty European astronomers sign a petition
appealing for a halt to the project "so that the unique environment
and sacred mountain of Mount Graham can be saved."
A coalition of 21 environmental groups that
sued the university over changing sites wins in court. Presiding
U.S. District Court Judge Alfredo Marquez concludes: "It is obvious
that formal (environmental assessment) is mandated before this
project can continue." The university appeals the
A federal appeals court upholds Judge
The university quietly challenges the
appeals court's decision, but doesn't rule out going back to the
former site on Emerald Peak or building the Large Binocular
Telescope in Mexico or on Mauna