Sewage-to-Snow Plan Stopped Short on Sacred Indian Mountains


Thirteen Native American tribes in Arizona don’t want their sacred mountain defiled by faux snow made from treated wastewater. A federal appeals court ruled that Arizona Snowbowl’s plan to augment the ski season in the San Francisco peaks would violate the tribes’ religious freedom.

Judge William A. Fletcher compared the snow-making plan to conducting Christian baptisms with wastewater. The plan would violate the Religious Freedom Restoration act of 1993, he ruled. Tribal representative Howard Shanker said that the ruling “creates a tremendous precedent for tribes to protect their sacred sites.” Before the ruling, Snowbowl owner Eric Borowsky said that he would sell the resort if the appeals court ruled against him, due to both a string of bad-snow years and the $4 million he spent on environmental impact statements and legal fees.

— Rose Miller

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