The United States Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request by several Arizona Indian tribes to stop a Flagstaff ski area from making artificial snow from treated wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks.
The case has bounced through federal court for several years, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the case twice, first siding with the Native Americans, who revere the mountains as sacred sites. Last August, the Appeals Court reconsidered in favor of the management of Arizona Snowbowl.
At issue is whether religious groups can trump the mandated multiple uses of federal land by the general public. Snowbowl sits in the Coconino National Forest, not on Indian land.
Several Native American tribes, including the Navajo, who were the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the Hopi, Hualapai, Havasupai, and Apaches, believe using reclaimed wastewater there was tantamount to dumping sewage on their sacred sites.
The Indians and supporting environmental groups took the case to the Supreme Court, which discussed the case in closed conference last Thursday. On Monday the news was posted that the court had turned down the case, letting the lower court decision stand.
The decision essentially clears the way for Snowbowl to make artificial snow, although it won’t happen this season.
The only real surprise in the whole thing was the first 9th Circuit ruling that likened snowmaking with treated wastewater to using sewer water at a Christian baptism. It makes you wonder what crack that judge was smoking.
Congrats to Snowbowl and cannot wait for them to get snowmaking installed and open the new terrain.