Snowbowl appeal decision: destruction of native cultures and environment

Forest Service ignores health & environmental consequences of snowmaking

FLAGSTAFF -- Save the Peaks Coalition, Sierra Club, Flagstaff Activist Network, Center for Biological Diversity, the Navajo Nation, and ECHOES condemned the Forest Service rejection of their Snowbowl ski resort expansion appeal. Snowbowl wants to expand the ski resort with new and modified runs and use reclaimed wastewater to augment natural snow pack.

"We, as Americans, need to come together to protect the cultural and biological diversity represented by the San Francisco Peaks, and protect the precious natural resources that sustain us all. We will continue this battle for respect, sanity and survival until we have won." Said Joanne Finch, a member of the Save the Peaks Coalition.

"We have been anticipating this decision due to the climate that exists under the Bush Administration, which has consistently brutalized Native peoples and the Environment. We oppose the expansion for environmental and human health reasons which are at the core of the degradation of respect the Forest Service and Snowbowl have for a site that is as sacred to Native Americans as Jerusalem is to the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths," said Jim McCarthy, chairman of the Sierra Club Plateau Group.

"Today, the Regional Forester affirms government policy of racial intolerance and perpetuates the slow murder of Native American cultures through its decision to allow the desecration of the Sacred San Francisco Peaks. We will not stand by and witness the destruction of our church for greed and recreation. We urge all those who value human rights to stand with us in this struggle for justice and respect," said Jeneda Benally of the Save the Peaks Coalition.

"To Native Americans, desecrating the San Francisco Peaks with wastewater is like flushing the Koran down the toilet," President Shirley said. "The federal government is ignoring the pleas and wishes of the Native people. We see other people go to war for their way of life, their essence. Here, though, the federal government is ignoring the pleas and wishes of the Native people. The Navajo Nation will do all it can to combat this latest decision."

The most controversial part of the proposal is the use of reclaimed sewer water from the City of Flagstaff, which is proposed for artificial snowmaking.

According to the FS Regional Office in their Snowbowl Appeal Review and Findings "The decision authorizes improvements within the existing ski area to provide a more consistent and safer recreation experience for the public."

However, Dr. Paul Torrence, a biochemist, said "The Forest Service has misrepresented and misanalysis the mechanisms inherent in pollutant release from snow pack, and has grossly underestimated the potential effect of reclaimed wastewater snowmaking on microorganisms, vegetation and wildlife."

Jim McCarthy, chairman of the Sierra Club Plateau Group, said "The Forest Service has not evaluated recent science and safety issues regarding the residual chemicals in reclaimed sewage water and their interaction with sunlight."

The Flagstaff Activist Network is concerned that the regulators rely on outdated water standards.

"The water standards currently used by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality do not address certain chemicals that break down into potentially dangerous successor chemicals when they interact with sunlight. Many of these chemicals have proven to mimic or inhibit hormone balance in the human body and could be a threat to the Flagstaff water supply," said Rudy Preston of Flagstaff Activist Network. "The environmental and health concern we have are valid and are the specific ways that tribal cultures will be destroyed."

Kelvin Long Executive Director of ECHOES stated, "This decision by the Forest Service is a historic perpetuation of violence on Indigenous culture and the pristine natural environment, in North America." Long added, "ECHOES has begun efforts to nominate the San Francisco Peaks as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a positive and healthy solution that will support and enable the creation of a year round sustainable economy for the City of Flagstaff, while protecting and promoting; cultural values and unique environmental landscapes."

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