Yesterday, the Save the Peaks Coalition and supporters from Arizona and California gathered for a prayer vigil in San Francisco, while the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in their case to protect the holy San Francisco Peaks.

The Peaks, which rise to 12,000 feet above Flagstaff, Arizona, at the Western edge of Navajo lands, are sacred to thirteen tribes – including the Navajo, for whom the Peaks represent a central locus of spiritual power. Presently, for tribes throughout the Colorado Plateau, the Peaks are threatened by a proposal to use 1.5 million gallons daily of reclaimed wastewater as artificial snow in order to increase the moutain’s ski resort’s annual skiable days.

Yesterday, a three judge panel heard oral arguments on a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) question: whether the Forest Service failed to properly review the potential environmental and public health risks associated with the use of artificial snow. The judge’s questions focused both on procedural and substantive matters, and attorney for the Coalition Howard Shanker skillfully presented arguments on the Forest Service’s failure to adequately consider the range of potential environmental and human health impacts from the project. You can listen to the hearing audio here.

Click here for a clip of Jeneda Benally, a plaintiff to the case, inspiring the gathering of supporters in front of the Ninth Circuit courthouse.

A large group of supporters gathered in the morning to pray, march, and attend the hearing. Listen to a KPFA report from the morning’s events here.

On Sunday evening, the night before the hearing, supporters gathered to share a meal and make prayers for the success of the hearing. At the dinner, Berta Benally, a plaintiff to the case and a grandmother who traveled to California for the hearing, said “it is deplorable that the United States Forest Service would allow known endocrine disruptors to come into contact with our children. At one point DDT, BPA and asbestos were all considered safe. Years later, after many people suffered, we now sadly know that they created a health hazard.”


Stay tuned for more information and updates about the outcomes of the case.

Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons via Sierra Club, Caitlin Sislin


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