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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Summer 2005 arrow Arizona: Construction of a Communications Tower and Transmitter, Mount Graham
Arizona: Construction of a Communications Tower and Transmitter, Mount Graham

Agency: U.S. Forest Service

Known as Dzil Nchaa Si’An to the Western Apache Indians, Mount Graham looms high above southeastern Arizona. The mountain is a Traditional Cultural Property that is eligible for the National Register for its importance to and continued use by tribes that consider it a sacred mountain.

The mountain is also host to international observatories built by the University of Arizona, which also plans to build a communications tower and transmitter at the complex.

The U.S. Forest Service is working towards an agreement to address the effects of the tower and transmitter.

Mt. Graham, Arizona (photo: University of Arizona)
Mount Graham, Arizona
(photo: University of Arizona)

In 1988, the Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act of 1988 permitted the construction of three international observatories and support facilities on Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona.

The University of Arizona has constructed two observatories at the top of the mountain, with a third observatory to be completed next year. To support the observatories, the university plans to build a new communications system at the complex that uses a microwave tower and transmitter.

Mount Graham is a Traditional Cultural Property eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for its importance and continued use by the Western Apaches. It was once part of the San Carlos Apache Reservation but was taken from the tribe in 1872 through an executive order.

At this mountain, known to the Western Apaches as Dzil Nchaa Si’ An, the tribes believe that mountain spirits known as Gaahn reside and provide spiritual guidance, health, and direction. They also believe that, among other powers, during the Sunrise Ceremony the Gaahn provide young Apache women with health, wisdom, and a spiritual connection to guide them throughout their adult lives.

The tribes are concerned with the impact of the construction and use of the observatory complex on their religious and cultural practices.

In 2004, the U.S. Forest Service determined that the university’s planned tower and transmitter are subject to the Section 106 review process, and initiated consultation with the ACHP, Arizona State Historic Preservation Officer, University of Arizona, San Carlos Apache Indian Nation, White Mountain Apache Indian Nation, and Apache Survival Coalition.

The Forest Service is working with the consulting parties to prepare a Historic Properties Management Plan and a Memorandum of Agreement to address the effects of the tower and transmitter, while enabling the Congressionally permitted observatory complex to operate.

Staff contact: Stephen Del Sordo

Updated August 30, 2005

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