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Babbitt under fire for role in sacred site case

Former Interior secretary Bruce Babbitt is being criticized for helping the U.S. Forest Service defend a plan that tribes say will desecrate the sacred San Francisco Peaks in Arizona.

When he was at Interior, Babbitt shut down a mine in the peaks. But now that he's back in private practice, he is defending a decision to allow the use of wastewater in a place that is considered sacred to a number of tribes.

During the trial over the decision, Babbitt was met with protests by Native activists. "We feel betrayed. That goes without saying," Klee Benally, the leader of the Save the Peaks coalition, told The Arizona Republic. "You wonder how someone could be so green for the forest and then turn around and be so green for money."

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. doesn't think Babbitt has betrayed anyone -- because he believes Babbitt hasn't been a friend to Indian Country. "If he doesn't really, really need money, you wonder where he has been coming from on this one," Shirley told the paper.

The trial was held in Arizona. Tribal religious leaders testified that the use of wastewater in the peaks will destroy a part of their religion.

Get the Story:
Snowbowl lawsuit straining Babbitt's rapport with tribes (The Arizona Republic 12/10)

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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