indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Effort builds for missing and murdered Native women and girls (6/29)
Richard Peterson: New era of tribal-state cooperation in Alaska (6/29)
Lakota Country Times: Outdoor movies a success at Pine Ridge (6/29)
Delphine Red Shirt: American history ignores tribal perspective (6/29)
Gabe Galanda: The growing chorus against tribal disenrollment (6/29)
Woman from Crow Tribe dies after brutal attack on reservation (6/29)
Man charged with murdering girlfriend on Fort Peck Reservation (6/29)
Nooksack Tribe fires elder who spoke out against disenrollment (6/29)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe gets ready for 95th annual powwow (6/29)
Citizen Potawatomi Nation members serve on city commission (6/29)
A Tribe Called Red goes to Alaska next month for Native benefit (6/29)
Sorry but DNA tests cannot confirm a person's Native ancestry (6/29)
Church denies connection to vandalism at Otomi site in Mexico (6/29)
Tohono O'odham Nation shares $1.2M from controversial casino (6/29)
Grande Ronde Tribes consider hotel but not a casino at old track (6/29)
Meskwaki Tribe looks for fugitive reportedly seen at casino hotel (6/29)
Supreme Court puts an end to another tribal jurisdiction dispute (6/28)
Native women hail Supreme Court decision on domestic violence (6/28)
Navajo Nation leaders reflect on historic Supreme Court session (6/28)
Lakota Country Times: Runners take 500-mile Black Hills journey (6/28)
Mark Trahant: Navajo Republican drops out of race for Congress (6/28)
Brandon Ecoffey: Oglala Sioux Tribe must update its constitution (6/28)
Editorial: Lakota treaty council supported work at Wounded Knee (6/28)
Alex Jacobs: Our elected leaders do little to address gun violence (6/28)
St. Croix Chippewa Tribe ousts 10 people from rolls amid debate (6/28)
Film exposes police harassment of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (6/28)
Northern Arapaho Tribe asserts more control over health system (6/28)
Trump rehashes 'Pocahontas' slur as Warren hits road for Clinton (6/28)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation still fighting for recognition and casino (6/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino foes lose big source of funding (6/28)
Big Sandy Rancheria remains optimistic on plan for second casino (6/28)
Little River Band credited with sharing $30.4M in casino revenues (6/28)
Editorial: Let's leave gaming to tribes and kill Arkansas casino bid (6/28)
Supreme Court deals setback to tribes in labor sovereignty dispute (6/27)
Washington tribes win major fishing rights decision at appeals court (6/27)
Shinnecock Nation hits the end of the line with ancestral land claim (6/27)
Supreme Court won't hear Pauma Band compact negotiation case (6/27)
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on 3 bills (6/27)
Lakota Country Times: Teams compete for Indian horse relay title (6/27)
Native Sun News: Rebuilding the Lakota Nation through education (6/27)
Vi Waln: Don't be afraid to come pray with your Lakota relatives (6/27)
Clara Caufield: Out fishing on the Upper Boulder River in Montana (6/27)
Opinion: Supreme Court exposes Indian people to federal powers (6/27)
Anonymous: Fighting back against victimization in Indian Country (6/27)
Michael Sandoval: San Felipe Pueblo respects rights of neighbors (6/27)
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.