Why The Large Binocular Telescope At Mount Graham Was Controversial

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 Why The Large Binocular Telescope At Mount Graham Was Controversial

The construction of the telescope on Mount Graham found opposition from the San Carlos Apache tribe who claimed ancient rights to the land. It also faced resistance from environmentalists who were concerned about the observatory’s potential impacts on the national park and its wildlife. The Indigenous Religious Traditions course at Colorado College explains that Mount Graham provides refuge for a vast diversity of wildlife. The endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrel, found nowhere else in the world, is among this diversity. For the San Carlos Apache tribe, the mountain is not only rich in old-growth forests dominated by spruce, but it is also considered a sacred land for both spiritual and historical reasons.



The LBT telescope is part of the Mount Graham International Observatory, which also includes the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope and the Heinrich Hertz Telescope. Both the Vatican and the LBT telescope faced local resistance when construction began in the 1990s. The opposition, which included students, Apaches, and environmentalists, grouped under the Mount Grahan Coalition. They are still active and have several legal cases against the telescope group, according to the group’s website.



The Mount Graham Coalition claims the U.S. Congress failed to stop the construction of the telescopes, and for the first time in history exempted a project from the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Ohio State University’s Department of Astronomy counters that claim, stating that Congress did not exempt the project but instead determined all of the legal requirements were met. Congress based its 1998 resolution on a three-year environmental and Native American cultural impact study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service. Wildlife studies in the following years revealed that the population of the endangered Red Squirrel was increasing and was not impacted by the telescopes (via Arizona Game and Fish Department).



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