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June 01, 2007

Snowbowl Press Release

I rec'd the following Press Release today from Reclaim the Peaks--not yet posted on their site:

Flagstaff, AZ - June 1, 2007 - As anticipated, the Dept. of Justice representing the Dept. of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service as defendants filed their petition on May 31, 2007 for rehearing to the 9th Circuit.

The Arizona Snowbowl, as intervenor in the lawsuit, also submitted a petition for rehearing on May 29, 2007.

The 9th Circuit has discretion over granting a rehearing and the timeframe of such a decision.

The ruling made by a three judge panel, if it stands, will fundamentally alter the law, much for the worse, in two critical areas: under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The panel's RFRA analysis radically limits the government's ability to manage millions of acres of federally-owned land considered sacred by some Native American religious practitioners. The panel's interpretation of RFRA would allow anyone to challenge any federal action that causes them spiritual disquiet, including actions involving the management by the federal government of its own property and force the government to defend the challenged action under strict scrutiny.

The panel's opinion with respect to the NEPA claim substantially undercuts the NEPA process and discourages reliance on the expertise of other regulatory agencies. The Forest Service should be able to rely on regulatory agency rulings in it's analysis during the NEPA process. In this case the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality - the state agency specifically vested with the authority and responsibility to analyze water safety issues - has concluded that reclaimed water is safe under the conditions proposed here.

The panel's decision conflicts with a contrary decision about the same Arizona Snowbowl rendered by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1983 that allowed for the expansion of the ski area and improvements consistent with the upgrade proposal.

If the ruling is allowed to stand, all public land use and access could be challenged including hunting, camping, mountain biking, ATV use, and other recreational opportunities.

Arizona Snowbowl has made the determination to continue to invest in securing the future of the ski area rather than fund improvement projects. The enormous environmental approval and legal costs incurred by the ski area currently exceed $4 million dollars. Without snowmaking the ski area will never have a predictable business cycle or make major capital improvements to the 69 year old ski area, and will ultimately go out of business.

Arizona Snowbowl believes that the Forest Service has a responsibility under the multiple use doctrine to ensure that the Snowbowl has the same opportunities as the many of other ski areas that operate on federal land, most of which have snowmaking. The proposed A+ reclaimed water from Flagstaff is of better quality than the natural water sources used by other ski areas that include ponds, lakes, rivers, and mountain streams.

Arizona Snowbowl occupies just 1% of the San Francisco Peaks. The plaintiffs in this legal challenge are unwilling to share the Peaks and want the Snowbowl to close. Yet the Snowbowl has always made accommodations including free chairlift rides for medicine men and tribal members to conduct their ceremonies at the top of the Peaks outside the ski area boundary.

If the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals does not grant a new hearing we are prepared to go to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Just FYI. We shall see where this ends up, but the USDA and Forest Service are pissed about the ruling too because it means that they have to consult with God, Allah, the Kachinas, Buddha, and possibly David Koresh and Jim Jones before they can make any ruling regarding any Federal Lands now according to the 9th Circuit opinion. Jerry Falwell was unavailable for comment or consultation, but Pat Robertson is trying to reach him for information on Intelligent Design Theory from the other side.

Point is, if you have a religion, you have rights to stop any land use that offends your deity no matter how big or small said deity is. Snow Gods do not count.

Posted by Justin at June 1, 2007 07:21 PM


Ullr is angry! How dare they hold their Gods above mine!

Posted by: Erich at June 4, 2007 10:11 PM

For once we agree on a religious issue.

I wasn't sure if the Lords of Kobol were your Gods or if you and Caprica Six were more monotheistic.

BTW, I spent the weekend watching BSG and will forever be indebted to you for the gift. Next season if you aren't already hooked on NBC's Heroes, I will repay the favor.

Posted by: Justin B. at June 4, 2007 11:00 PM