Views on Fish and Wildlife Service's Biological Opinion Addressing Mt. Graham Astrophysical Facility

T-RCED-90-92: Published: Jun 26, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 1990.

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GAO discussed the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) opinion on the Mount Graham astrophysical project, focusing on whether: (1) FWS prepared its opinion consistently with the amended Endangered Species Act and applicable regulations; and (2) the FWS opinion was affected by any inconsistencies. GAO noted that: (1) the soundness of the Emerald Peak development alternative is questionable; (2) several federal and state reports concluded that constructing the facility on Emerald Peak presented an unacceptable risk to the red squirrel's survival and no alternatives could be developed that would remove the jeopardy to the species; (3) FWS based its biological opinion on other than biological information, including a university's insistence on the site, and an FWS official's beliefs and perceptions; (4) since FWS rendered the biological opinion and Congress passed an act directing approval of the facility, the status of the red squirrel has become more precarious; (5) from 1988 to 1990, data indicated that the red squirrel population dropped from about 215 to between 132 and 146; and (6) the act's passage delayed by at least a decade one of the long-term actions FWS intended to mitigate the loss of the red squirrel habitat.

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