San Francisco Peaks ruled sacred to tribes, snowmaking defeated

San Francisco, Calif. ­ The Federal Appeals court ruled Monday in favor of the tribes and activists to not allow treated wastewater to make snow of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Ariz. The court's judgement was that the Forest Service's decision to allow Arizona Snowbowl to use the wastewater on the mountain considered sacred by area tribes, would be a violation of their religious freedom.

Last year, during the first court battle held in Prescott, Ariz., U.S. District Judge Paul Rosenblatt ruled against the tribes because he believed they failed to present any objective evidence that their exercise of religion would be impacted by the ski resort development.

The tribes and activists appealed that earlier decision and it went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco where they maintained that snowmaking with wastewater would violate their religious freedom.

"We are unwilling to hold that authorizing the use of artificial snow at an already functioning commercial ski area in order to expand and improve its facilities, as well as to extend its ski season in dry years, is a governmental interest of the highest order," wrote Judge William A. Fletcher.

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