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Trial over snowmaking in sacred peaks begins

A federal judge in Arizona is holding a trial over a controversial decision to allow snowmaking in the sacred San Francisco Peaks.

A coalition of 13 tribes is opposing the use of reclaimed water to make snow in the peaks, one of their most important religious and cultural sites. It's like "pouring dirty water on the Vatican," a tribal lawyer was quoted as saying.

Tribal elders have testified about the importance of the peaks to their way of life. "The mountain is like a power plant," Hualapai elder Frank Mapatis said, The New York Times reported. "You plant a feather there, and it is like plugging into a power plant."

The tribes say their views haven't adequately been considered by the U.S. Forest Service. The agency approved an expansion by the Arizona Snowbowl, a ski resort located within the Coconino National Forest, that will require the use of wastewater to make snow.

The resort and the agency say the water will be as clean as possible. They also dispute whether the snowmaking will disrupt any ceremonies or impact the peaks as a whole. During pre-trial arguments lawyer representing the government was quoted as saying that the tribes can't impose their religion on others.

The trial, taking place at the federal courthouse in Flagstaff, resumes this week and is expected to last into November. During the pre-trial, U.S. Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt questioned some of the arguments advanced by the Forest Service and the Snowbowl about the safety of the water.

Get the Story:
Commerce and Religion Collide on a Mountainside (The New York Times 10/23)

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

Relevant Links:
Save the Peaks Coalition -
Coconino National Forest -

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