Friday, August 8, 2008

Bush Administration controls Ninth Circuit Court, reverses decision on San Francisco Peaks

The Ninth Circuit fell prey to the heavy hand of the Bush administration and reversed its earlier ruling preserving sacred San Francisco Peaks from the making of articificial snow from toilet water. The Peaks, sacred to 13 Native American Indian Nations, are a sacred place where medicine men carry out ceremonies and collect medicine plants for healing. --Censored News

Text of Ninth Circuit ruling (click here)

August 8, 2008
Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, 512-477-2152
Robert Tohe, Sierra Club, 928-606-9420
Howard Shanker, 1-877-848-9300

Tribes, Environmental Organizations to Continue Effort to Protect Vulnerable Population, Sacred Mountain from Ski Resort Development and Pollution

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. –Arizona’s sacred San Francisco Peaks and the neighboring tribal communities were denied environmental justice today in a split decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling in favor of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort in its efforts to expand and contaminate the area.

“The court failed to consider the claims of the impacts to human health form coming into contact with the treated waste from reclaimed water and did not take seriously the tribes’ legal claims because of a court technicality,” said Andy Bessler with the Sierra Club in Flagstaff, Arizona. “The decision leaves unaddressed water quality issues, since the Court failed to decide if using reclaimed water on the Peaks was safe for the environment or for human health.”

The San Francisco Peaks, north of Flagstaff, Arizona, are sacred to 13 tribes and are important spiritual and geographic boundaries. The tribes had brought legal claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the National Environmental Policy Act against the U.S. Forest Service from implementing a snowmaking proposal using reclaimed water to make artificial snow on the Peaks.

Attorney Howard Shanker represented the tribes and the Sierra Club, and he said, “The opinion is unfortunate and, in my opinion wrong. The Court places itself in the position of judging the legitimacy of Native American beliefs and practices. It becomes the arbiter of religion which is not the proper role for the courts. The evidence clearly shows that the Peaks are important to 13 of the Tribes in the southwestern United States and that using sewer water to make snow on them constitutes a significant burden on the Tribe’s ability to practice their religion.”

The Sierra Club agrees with the minority’s dissention, which read, “In so holding, the majority misstates the evidence below, misstates the law under RFRA and misunderstands the very nature of religion.” (from page 39 of decision). The Sierra Club will consult with co-plaintiffs to determine next steps following this misinformed ruling.

“The Sierra Club will continue to support our tribal partners to bring as much protection to the Peaks as possible and will continue to educate the public about the importance of protecting sacred lands located on public lands, from irresponsible developments like artificial snowmaking,” said Sierra Club Environmental Justice organizer Robert Tohe.
More on next page

The preliminary March ruling was one of the most important in recent years under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In addition to finding that the snowmaking plan would have desecrated this sacred area, the court decided that the U.S. Forest Service failed to fully disclose the risks posed by human ingestion of artificial snow.

Tribes involved in the lawsuit include Navajo, Yavapai-Apache, White Mountain Apache, Hopi, Havasupai, and Hualapai. Since the first major expansion of the “Snowbowl” ski areas occurred more than twenty-eight years ago, tribes have been involved in court battles over the San Francisco Peaks.

Breaking news articles ...
Appeals court gives green light to Snowbowl snowmaking, NC - 2 hours agoThe Arizona Snowbowl can go ahead with plans to upgrade its operations, including making artificial snow, following release of a ruling Friday by the Ninth ...
Ninth Court sides with Snowbowl in San Francisco Peaks dispute
Arizona Daily Star, AZ - 5 hours agoBy Howard Fischer The operators of Snowbowl are entitled to use recycled sewage to make snow on the San Francisco Peaks despite objections of several Native ...
Snowmaking OK'd at Snowbowl resort
AZ, AZ - 5 hours agoby Michael Kiefer - Aug. 8, 2008 11:10 AM A federal court of appeals on Friday ruled that using reclaimed wastewater to make artificial snow at a Flagstaff ...
Appeals court says snowmaking OK on Ariz. Snowbowl
Tucson Citizen, AZ - 5 hours agoAP PHOENIX — A federal appeals court has approved snowmaking using reclaimed wastewater at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort north of Flagstaff. ...

Photo: Longest Walk at San Francisco Peaks/Photo credit Save the Peaks


Anonymous said...

It has been so often said that money is the religion of American culture —the full 9th circuit is not siding with “public use policy,” it is siding with consumer culture and planned obsolescence, in this case (and in many cases), trashing and throwing out a sacred mountain and source of pure drinking water and related concepts of spiritual purity.
Clearer still, the definition of religion as it is often practiced in a capitalistic culture, as an addiction to urbanized growth as divine — the inability to stop expanding or to be sustainable. Addictive behavior is crisis-to-crisis society seeking the next fix. Drought cycles and unknown “pharms” engender this pattern in the ski industry because the profit must be maintained.
Mountains are a clear opportunity to keep water sources for drinking, in particular, pure and keeping the concept of purity in natural cycles.
The forest service multiple use policies for mountain islands in the Southwest practically guarantee regional and global climate change — logging, mining, recreations of various impacts, and so on. These natural refuges in times of drought have limits. And the pristine Peaks will not retain snow very soon in the limited future of profiteering at the expense of purity.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that the primary plaintiff in this case, The White Mountain Apache Tribe, owns and operates a ski area in Arizona using reclaimed water for snowmaking now. Since the land is under their control, it bears no approval of their poor water quality by the EPA. I think they call that hypocrisy, speaking out publicly about a matter than acting completely the opposite, especially when it involves a significant monetary gain.

So their ski resort is completely in tune with their religion, but Snowbowl does not meet their rigorous standards.

Most perplexingly, all of the schools and parks in Flagstaff are irrigated with lesser quality reclaimed water than what Snowbowl will (I say *Will*) be using. The native americans as part of the community send their children everyday to play in this "white devil water". There has been no public outcry, there has been no protests or lawsuits against the city for using reclaimed water. So let's get this straight: A+ quality reclaimed water being blown over a snowy mountain that the majority of Native Americans never actually utilize is bad, but having your children playing everyday in grass irrigated with a lesser quality water, that's okay.

I would love to have a Native American explain to me how they can say they represent environmental stewardship, when they leased their land to be used for coal fired power. That coal effluent, from eastern Arizona, has had a significant negative effect on the air quality in the state, and has negatively impacted viewscapes in Grand Canyon. So once again, A+ quality reclaimed water that MIGHT pose a minimal degredation, is bad. Belching coal smoke over the entire state, which HAS caused health and environmental problems and has inpacted the Grand Canyon, is okay.

I wonder kind of water they irrigate their Casinos with?