indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Falmouth Institute - December in Las Vegas
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Appeals court rehears San Francisco Peaks case
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Filed Under: Environment | Law | National

SAVE THE PEAKS RALLY:

Photo Gallery (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)
The U.S. Forest Service faced skeptical questions from a federal appeals court on Tuesday about the use of reclaimed sewage in the sacred San Francisco Peaks in Arizona.

Under the Bush administration, the agency approved the expansion of a ski resort in the Coconino National Forest. The Arizona Snowbowl wants to use reclaimed wastewater to make snow and attract more visitors.

The Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe and other tribes in the Southwest are fighting the Forest Service's decision. They say the treated sewage will desecrate the peaks, where they go to pray, hold ceremonies and gather medicinal plants and herbs.

Some judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appeared sympathetic to the tribes' views. Their questions essentially accepted as fact that the use of the reclaimed wastewater will harm the sanctity of the peaks.

The key issue, then, is whether the Forest Service's action violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law was designed to protect Native and other practitioners from government actions that infringe on their religious rights.

"The dilemma we have is that the government does have ... some right to administer the forest," said Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson. "That's what we're looking at -- the balance between the RFRA rights and the government's undisputed right to manage public land."

But some judges were most concerned about an issue not related to religious rights. In questions to the tribal plaintiffs and the federal government, they focused on the potential for children, and adult skiers, to ingest snow made from treated sewage.

The Forest Service's final environmental impact statement contained just a paragraph about this issue, said Howard Shankar, an attorney for the Navajo Navajo and other tribes. "It shows up in one place as a response to comments," he told the court.

Lane McFadden, an attorney from the Department of Justice, said the Forest Service will put up signs that warn against the ingestion of the snow. He argued that the EIS discussed the issue "at length" though one judge disputed this and called it just a single "sentence" in the massive document.

"What is missing here is what contact the users will have with this water when transformed into artificial snow, what frequency, what quantity and what consequence," Judge William A. Fletcher said. "I see nothing except, well, kids are going to be controlled by their parents, or maybe they won't even be controlled by their parents, but it's the responsibility of the parents whether they eat it or not."

A panel of 11 judges heard the case at the federal courthouse in Pasadena, California. The 9th Circuit ordered a rehearing at the request of the Bush administration and the operators of the Arizona Snowbowl.

Dozens of tribal leaders and members traveled to California to attend the hearing. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. and Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan were among the tribal dignitaries in the courtroom.

"The Navajo people are trying to do everything we can to save self, and the peaks is one of our strengths. It is our essence," said Shirley. "When you decide to contaminate it with reclaimed wastewater, with filth, to make snow, that doesn't help my way of life."

The Save the Peaks coalition held a march through the city to protest the use of sewage in the peaks. "Our cultural survival is in peril, as threats continue to destroy and challenge our sacred and majestic mountains," said Morgan in Pasadena.

Listen to Oral Arguments:
Navajo Nation v. USFS (December 11, 2007)

Relevant Documents:
Court Order on Rehearing | Petitions on Rehearing

Earlier Decisions:
9th Circuit Panel (March 12, 2007) | District Court (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:
9th Circuit to hear San Francisco Peaks case (12/10)
Appeals court to rehear sacred site case next week (12/3)
Appeals court to rehear sacred site case (10/18)
Bush administration appeals sacred site case (6/4)
Viewpoints: 9th Circuit ruling on sacred site (03/26)
Editorial: Court 'misguided' on sacred site case (3/21)
Hopi Tribe humbled by court victory on sacred site (3/15)
Letter: Hualapai Tribe hypocritical on sacred (3/15)
Tribes welcome court decision on San Francisco Peaks (3/14)
9th Circuit blocks snowmaking at sacred peaks (3/12)
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)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Choctaw Nation Trial:
Former Choctaw Nation employee plans appeal in criminal case (11/24)
Choctaw Nation releases statement after guilty verdict in case (11/24)
Former Choctaw Nation employee found guilty after lengthy trial (11/24)
Trial on Choctaw Nation fraud winds down with final testimony (11/24)
Latest News:
Tim Giago: Cornflakes every Sunday at Indian boarding school (11/24)
Charles Trimble: A time to give thanks -- For whatever reason (11/24)
Mark Trahant: Incoming Alaska governor opens doors to tribes (11/24)
Native Sun News: Four from South Dakota win big at rodeo final (11/24)
Suzan Shown Harjo to receive Medal of Freedom at White House (11/24)
Crystal Willcuts: Keystone XL Pipeline just makes the rich richer (11/24)
PBS: VAWA helps tribes go after non-Indian domestic offenders (11/24)
Chippewa Cree Tribe swears in chairman more than a year later (11/24)
Florida Supreme Court declines Miccosukee child custody case (11/24)
Editorial: BIA fails to resolve Cayuga Nation leadership dispute (11/24)
Mille Lacs Band grows economy with Oklahoma hotel purchase (11/24)
Faction of Chukchansi Tribe walks away from casino mediation (11/24)
Tribal casinos cancel Bill Cosby shows as allegations resurface (11/24)
Editorial: Poarch Creeks control their own destiny with gaming (11/24)
Editorial: Renew Class III gaming compact with Seminole Tribe (11/24)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux youth to join White House meet (11/21)
Obamas welcome youth from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to DC (11/21)
House passes bill to address Grand Portage Band per capitas (11/21)
House Natural Resources Committee passes three tribal bills (11/21)
Chaske Spencer: Changing the narrative for our Native youth (11/21)
Winona LaDuke: No one believes in the 'black snake' pipeline (11/21)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Tax disparities remain in Indian Country (11/21)
ICT interview with DOI deputy secretary on Cobell buy-backs (11/21)
Oglala Sioux Tribe rounds up dogs after deadly attack on girl (11/21)
Leader of Navajo Nation signs bill for higher tax on junk food (11/21)
North Dakota tribe in negotiations for pipeline to curb flaring (11/21)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe passes language to new generation (11/21)
Little Traverse Bay Bands swear in interim leader after recall (11/21)
Blog: Play-by-play of election controversy on Navajo Nation (11/21)
Column: Theories link Thanksgiving to 1637 Pequot massacre (11/21)
Editorial: Work with Burns Paiute Tribe on land-into-trust bid (11/21)
Ex-employee of Passamaquoddy Tribe admits to drug charge (11/21)
BIA publishes notice of Karuk Tribe Class III gaming compact (11/21)
Oklahoma reports drop in gaming exclusivity fees from tribes (11/21)
Pala Band gears up for official launch of Internet gaming site (11/21)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux woman shot and killed by police (11/20)
Mark Trahant: Lakota honor song wasn't out of place in Senate (11/20)
Dog attack blamed for death of eight-year-old girl at Pine Ridge (11/20)
DOI issues status report on Cobell land consolidation program (11/20)
Greg Grey Cloud explains Lakota honor song after Senate vote (11/20)
Steven Newcomb: Disestablishing the doctrines of domination (11/20)
Sen. Mark Begich: Moving forward for the first people of Alaska (11/20)
Bill Richardson: Indian Country feels effects of climate change (11/20)
Smithsonian: Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 won't be forgotten (11/20)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe sues South Dakota over sales tax (11/20)
Morongo Band distributes 10K turkeys for Thanksgiving meals (11/20)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.