SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The Ninth Circuit agreed to reconsider whether an Arizona ski resort may use recycled sewage water to make snow on peaks sacred to at least 13 Indian tribes.
The U.S. Forest Service drew heavy criticism for letting the Arizona Snowbowl on Humphrey’s Peak in Coconino National Forest make snow with the treated water. Plaintiffs include the Hopi, Havasupai and Hualapai tribes; the Navajo, Yavapai-Apache and White Mountain Apache nations; and environmentalists. They claimed the fake snow violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the National Environmental Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. A circuit panel affirmed summary judgment for the Forest Service on most environmental claims, but said the plan violated the RFRA. Judge Fletcher likened the Forest Service’s approval to forcing Christians to use reclaimed water for baptisms. See ruling in Navajo Nation v. U.S. Forest Service.