Environment | Law

9th Circuit rejects bid to protect sacred San Francisco Peaks

Exactly a month after hearing the case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected a lawsuit aimed at protecting the sacred San Francisco Peaks in Arizona..

In a unanimous decision, the court called the case "a gross abuse of the judicial process." The claims made by the Save the Peaks Coalition and individual tribal members are nearly identical to ones made by tribes in a lawsuit that was previously rejected by the 9th Circuit, the judges said.

"The Navajo Nation Plaintiffs, in effect, got a second bite at the apple through their surrogates, the Save the Peaks Plaintiffs," the court wrote, referring to the previous case that was filed by the Navajo Nation and other tribes.

Both cases arise from the use of reclaimed sewage to make snow in the San Francisco Peaks. The tribes claimed the treated wastewater will desecrate the site.

After the 9th Circuit ruled against the tribes, the Save the Peaks Coalition and individual tribal members filed a lawsuit that cited health and environmental concerns about snowmaking. Noting that the same attorney -- Howard Shanker -- filed both cases, the court said these issues could have been raised the first time around "had counsel not erred in raising them."

The fake snow will be used by the Arizona Snowbowl, a ski resort located within the Coconino National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service approved the snowmaking plan.

9th Circuit Decision:
Save The Peaks Coalition v. USFS (February 9, 2012)

Related Stories:
9th Circuit takes up dispute over sacred San Francisco Peaks (01/10)
9th Circuit debates dispute over sacred San Francisco Peaks (1/9)
Courts consider two lawsuits over snowmaking at sacred site (11/22)
BBC: Hopi Tribe battles reclaimed sewage at sacred peaks (10/20)
Editorial: Hopi Tribe lawsuit over fake snow seems misguided (9/1)
Earth 911: Skiing on reclaimed wastewater -- gross or green? (8/30)
Uprising: Hopi Tribe fights to keep wastewater off sacred site (8/29)
Fast Company: Hopi Tribe fights bid for fake snow at sacred site (8/25)
Hopi Tribe files lawsuit to block use of wastewater at sacred site (8/24)

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