[Save the Peaks] Wall Street Journal & Navajo Times Articles | City Meeting & Rally on Monday!
Here are some articles on the current struggle to protect the Holy San Francisco Peaks.
Flagstaff City council will vote whether or not to amend their current snowmaking contract with Arizona Snowbowl on Monday, August 30th at 5:30 PM at Sinagua High School in Flagstaff, AZ. The amendment includes using Flagstaff's drinking water instead of wastewater. An option that every tribe in Arizona is now opposed to (The Inter-tribal Tribal Council of Arizona just made a statement affirming opposition to the plan).
As Snowbowl threatens to start cutting trees as early as next week, we need your support more than ever.
We will be holding a rally and prayer vigil at 4:00 PM at Foxglenn park (near Sinagua at 4200 E. Butler Ave) before the council meeting.
If you cannot join us please send an email & make phone calls to Flagstaff City Council:
To email all: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (928) 779-7600
You can also sign the "Water is Life" petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/sc083010/petition.html
For more information: www.truesnow.org or www.savethepeaks.org.
Wall Street Journal: Fake Snow a Real Sore Point as Indians Battle Ski Resort
Tribes Find Phony Flakes Disrespectful; 'Like Bombing a Church'
By MIRIAM JORDAN
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—When rain recently deluged northern Arizona, many Hopi tribe members interpreted it as an omen: Mother Nature was unhappy about a ski resort's plans to spray man-made snow on peaks sacred to the Native Americans.
"When you interfere with Mother Nature," says Hopi tribe Vice Chairman Herman Honanie, gazing at the 12,000-foot-high San Francisco Peaks, "Mother Nature has a response."
If so, she's not the only one. Tribal elders, U.S. senators, federal judges and senior Obama Administration officials all have weighed in on this spat over land where the Hopi, Navajo and 11 other tribes trace their origins.The Native Americans believe it is sacrilege for skiers and snowboarders to cruise the slopes. The Arizona Snowbowl resort says it's just trying to run a business, not trample on tribal religious rights.
The Native Americans have been battling the resort since the 1970s. For the second time in 20 years, the U.S. Supreme Court last year refused to hear their case, and now the war of attrition is coming to a head at the Flagstaff City Council. Local officials are to vote on whether to pump potable recycled water to the resort to make snow. It's unclear whether this will appease the tribes, who were infuriated by a previous plan to use treated sewer water.
Some believe man-made snow disrespects the natural process of precipitation. "This mountain is where life began; it created us," says Rex Tilousi, a leader of the Havasupai tribe. Native Americans journey to the peaks to collect herbs for traditional healing and worship deities they believe dwell there. Dumping artificial snow there, says Mr. Tilousi, is "like bombing a church."
For the operators of Snowbowl, artificial snow is a hedge against unpredictable weather, a lifeline for hundreds of mainly seasonal jobs.
"If you don't have snowmaking, the question is not if you will go out of business; it's when you will go out of business," says Eric Borowsky, the resort's owner. "We only occupy 1% of the peaks. Can't we share this?"
Snowbowl sits on 777 acres in the Coconino National Forest. Mr. Borowsky and his partners bought the resort in 1992, betting on its appeal to residents of the Phoenix area, a two-hour drive away. "We thought it would be an easy business," he says.
But in 2001-02, a bare winter limited the ski season to four days and 2,857 skiers. The resort drafted a plan to expand and produce artificial snow from treated waste water.
After years of environmental review detailed in a 600-page report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, which oversees the federal land that the resort sits on, approved the plan in 2005. The city of Flagstaff would sell the resort a maximum 1.5 million gallons a day of "class A-plus reclaimed water" during ski season, according to court transcripts.
"There was no demand for that water in the winter from golf courses, parks and schools," says City Manager Kevin Burke. "We were just throwing it away, anyway."
Tribal leaders were incensed. Snow made from water that had flowed through morgues, hospitals and kitchen sinks was tantamount to cultural "genocide," said Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. Leigh J. Kuwanwisiwma, the Hopi cultural preservation director, called it a "dagger in the Hopis' spirituality."
Backed by environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the tribes sued the Forest Service to halt the resort's project. Soon, this city of 63,000 was buried in a snow saga. After speaking in favor of using recycled water to make snow, then-Mayor Joseph Donaldson found his car adorned with toilet paper and a urine-filled commode.
In March 2007, a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling barred Snowbowl's expansion. Judge William Fletcher wrote that "from time immemorial" the tribes have counted on the purity of the peaks' water for religious practices. Allowing treated sewage on the peaks would be as "if the government were to require that baptisms be carried out with reclaimed water," he wrote.
But the following year, the same court reversed the decision. Reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking didn't "substantially burden" the tribes' exercise of religion, it ruled.
In June 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, effectively clearing the last legal obstacle to Snowbowl's expansion plans. Yet Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack directed the Forest Service to hold off issuing a construction permit, in hopes of achieving a compromise.
The tribes' green allies opened a new legal front. They filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that snow made of treated effluent posed health risks if ingested. Remnants of "personal-care products and pharmaceuticals is what you find in reclaimed sewer water," said their attorney, Howard Shanker, in an interview at a Flagstaff coffee shop with a view of the peaks.
Flagstaff city officials, meanwhile, suggested switching the source for fake snow from "reclaimed" water to "recovered, reclaimed" water, that is potable. The difference: an underground filtration process that allows for natural earth cleansing. "Pushing water through dirt and rocks makes it come out cleaner on the other side," says Mr. Burke.
The potable water is pricier.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack liked the better-water idea and pledged federal funding to cover the extra cost. City officials say that supplying potable water to the peaks could cost an additional $11 million over 20 years.
Arizona's senators were incensed. Republicans John McCain and Jon Kyl sent Secretary Vilsack a letter in March condemning "the use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize snowmaking at Arizona Snowbowl." At the same time, they called on the government to grant Snowbowl permission to start its expansion "immediately."
The new water plan initially threw some tribal leaders off balance. Hopi water officials informed Secretary Vilsack in a letter that fake snow from potable water was an "imperfect" but acceptable solution. Hopi Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa then fired off a separate letter, saying the officials had acted without authority.
Vice Chairman Honanie reiterated the tribe's opposition to snowmaking of any kind at a public meeting in Flagstaff on July 29.
Flagstaff's seven city council members are scheduled to vote Aug. 30 whether to sell potable water to the resort. Mr. Burke, the city manager, sums up the situation as "muddy water at this point."
Write to Miriam Jordan at email@example.com
Navajo Times: Hikers side with tribes in Peaks issue
By Cindy Yurth
DOOKO'OSLÍÍD, Ariz., Aug. 27, 2010
he Navajo and Hopi tribes have both come out against the latest proposal for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks - using potable rather than reclaimed sewage water - but how do Flagstaff locals feel about the issue?
To find out, the Navajo Times interviewed people taking the sky ride (the summer name for the Arizona Snow Bowl's chairlift) and hiking the network of trails around Mt. Humphreys on Aug. 20.
By a margin of five to one in an admittedly limited and unscientific poll, people actually using the mountain thought that any kind of snowmaking on the mountain is probably a bad idea - even people who had not heard of the tribes' objections. One man declined to take a stand because he was not familiar with the issue.
The decision will be up to the Flagstaff City Council at a specially scheduled meeting Monday.
"I'm not really for it (snowmaking)," said Zachary Thomason, 28, who had just headed down from the summit. "It hasn't been done before, so we don't know what it's going to do to the vegetation and the habitat. It's not just about making money off the mountain. You have to think about our heritage, and what we're all here for."
Asked if he knew the mountain was sacred to 13 regional tribes, Thomason said he did, and added there are plenty of non-Indians who also revere the mountain in their own way.
"Everybody should be pulling together on this one," he said.
Stephen Dacosta, 25, a graduate student who had just moved to Flagstaff from Tennessee, said he didn't know about the mountain's special place in tribal spirituality, but thought it seemed wasteful to import water from the city for snowmaking.
"In an area that has a shortage of water, it seems like a no-brainer," he said.
As might be expected, two 16-year-old Navajos hiking on Dooko'oslííd opposed the proposal.
"The mountain is sacred to us. They shouldn't disturb it," said Chadwick Sutter.
"They should respect other people's religious beliefs," echoed Mike Parra.
Tony Randall, 52, of Flagstaff agreed.
"This is a shrine," he said. "Whether we agree with it or not, we have to respect it."
Randall and his wife have gone as far as to boycott the SnowBowl - a tough decision for lifelong skiers who actually chose their house for its proximity to the ski area.
"I'm sure the resort isn't worried about a one-couple boycott," Randall said. "But it makes us feel better."
Jan and Jeff Laufhutte of Hillsdale, N.J., regularly vacation in Flagstaff to take advantage of the outdoor recreation and are considering moving here. They weren't familiar with the SnowBowl issue, but Jan, 47, said she believes in respecting Native beliefs.
"We don't want to trample on their rights, that for sure," she said, adding, "I just hope it works out to everybody's benefit."
Jeff, 49, was a little more cautious. "I'd have to study the issue," he said. "This is a different world from where we're from. We have plenty of water."
The only pro-snowmaking voice came from Ken Von Schulze, a 55-year-old Flagstaff resident who was just coming from the sky ride.
"I think it's good for the economy," he said. "If you look at a map, you can see that it's just a small portion, a minor amount of area that is used for the ski area."
www.indigenousaction.org - Independent Indigenous Media
www.oybm.org - Indigenous Youth Empowerment!
www.savethepeaks.org - Protect Sacred Places
www.taalahooghan.org - Flagstaff Infoshop