Editorial: Court 'misguided' on sacred site case
"Different courts have now weighed in on the issue of using reclaimed water to make artificial snow at the Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff. Their conclusions are polar opposites, which leaves the question: Should the U.S. Forest Service appeal the prohibition handed down by a federal appeals court?

Unquestionably, yes.

In a misguided ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with environmentalists and Native American tribes who claimed that the use of reclaimed water to manufacture snow on the San Francisco Peaks, which the tribes consider sacred, violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress in 1993. The judicial ruling derisively refers to reclaimed water as treated sewage effluent, at one point labeling it as a "euphemism."

The decision overturned a sensible District Court ruling last year that reaffirmed the multiple-use doctrine on public lands (the Snowbowl is on Forest Service lands) and said that the tribes, principally the Navajo and Hopi, failed to present "any objective evidence that their exercise of religion will be impacted by the Snowbowl upgrades" nor would snowmaking "substantially burden the tribes' exercise of religion."

To sort through these different judicial findings, the Department of Agriculture and the Justice Department should aggressively take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Appeal the snow job (The Arizona Republic 3/21)

Court Decision:
Navajo Nation v. US Forest Service (March 12, 2007)

Listen to Oral Arguments:
Navajo Nation v. Forest Service (September 14, 2006)

Appeals Court Documents:
Opening Brief [Word DOC] | Reply Brief [Word DOC]

Lower Court Decision:
Navajo Nation v. US Forest Service (January 11, 2006)

Approval Documents:
Final Environmental Impact Statement for Arizona Snowbowl Facilities Improvement | Forest Service Approves Snowmaking at Arizona Snowbowl

Relevant Links:
Save the Peaks Coalition - http://www.savethepeaks.org
Coconino National Forest - http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/index.shtml

Related Stories:
Hopi Tribe humbled by court victory on sacred site (3/15)
Letter: Hualapai Tribe hypocritical on sacred (3/15)
9th Circuit blocks snowmaking at sacred peaks (3/13)
9th Circuit blocks snowmaking at sacred peaks (3/13)
Ruling awaited on snowmaking in sacred peaks (02/01)
Confrontation over ceremony at sacred peaks (1/31)
Southwest tribes to continue fight for sacred site (11/14)
Tribes hopeful after court hears sacred site case (09/19)
9th Circuit hears from tribes in sacred site case (9/15)
Tribes press sacred site case before 9th Circuit (9/14)
9th Circuit to hear sacred site case on Thursday (9/13)
Southwest tribes go to court for sacred site (9/6)
Navajo Nation appeals court ruling on snowmaking (02/28)
Tribal coalition to appeal ruling on sacred peaks (1/13)
Judge allows snowmaking in sacred Arizona peaks (1/12)
Babbitt under fire for role in sacred site case (12/12)
Navajo president testifies in sacred site trial (11/03)
Trial over snowmaking in sacred peaks begins (10/24)
Sacred Mountain Motorcycle Run this weekend (10/14)
Judge calls trial on snowmaking in sacred peaks (10/10)
U.S. argues against protecting sacred peaks in Arizona (10/7)
Hopi Chair: Ski area plan will destroy our culture (09/23)
Hopi Tribe joins lawsuit over snowmaking in peaks (07/08)
Bruce Babbitt fighting tribes on sacred site appeal (7/5)
Forest Service rejects tribal appeals on snowmaking (06/10)
Tribes await appeal on snowmaking plan (6/7)
Appeals filed to snowmaking plan in sacred peaks (04/26)
Navajo Nation considers appeal of snowmaking plan (03/15)
Editorial: Sacred peaks don't belong to tribes alone (3/14)
Tribes blast OK of snowmaking plan in sacred peaks (3/9)
Deadline nears on snowmaking in sacred peaks plan (04/09)
Hopi Tribe to protest against snowmaking plan (03/19)
Editorial: Ski area helped by snowmaking plan (02/20)
Navajo Nation not planning boycott for sacred site (2/20)
Coalition protests snowmaking in sacred peaks (2/18)
Tribes to fight snowmaking in sacred Ariz. peaks (02/03)
Forest Service delays report on ski area expansion (12/02)
Hopi Tribe opposing snowmaking in sacred peaks (11/20)
Ski area on sacred mountain expanding (10/15)
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