SAM Magazine-Flagstaff, Ariz., Aug. 9, 2008-Arizona Snowbowl's previous approvals for snowmaking are valid, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday.
In a statement, the resort said that "the Snowbowl community is very pleased that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided to rehear the case and affirm the original District Court opinion." Several Native American tribes had appealed that 2006 District Court approval for snowmaking using reclaimed water in the San Francisco Peaks, claiming that this use of water on land the tribes consider sacred violated their religious freedom. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit heard that appeal in 2007 and sided with the tribes. When reheard by the full eleven-member court, though, the judges upheld the earlier District Court ruling. The vote was 8 to 3.
Judge Carlos Bea, writing for the majority, said, "Were it otherwise, any action the federal government were to take, including action on its own land, would be subject to the personalized oversight of millions of citizens. Each citizen would hold an individual veto to prohibit the government action solely because it offends his religious beliefs, sensibilities, or tastes, or fails to satisfy his religious desires. Further, giving one religious sect a veto over the use of public park land would deprive others of the right to use what is, by definition, land that belongs to everyone."
"We are very excited the court ruled in favor for Snowbowl and for the usage of public land. This ensures the future for skiing in Arizona," said J.R. Murray, Snowbowl general manager.
Snowbowl was represented by Hogan & Hartson of Denver. \