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Snowbowl project made of wastewater on Indigenous sacred lands, San Francisco Peaks, Arizona, US

Snowbowl project make use of treated wastewater for artificial snowmaking, which Indigenous people highly oppose because it contaminates and desecrates the sacred peaks.


San Francisco Peaks is a volcanic mountain range in Arizona, US [1]. Many Native American tribes have been preserving their cultures in the Peaks [1]. In fact, the place is sacred to the Tribes and has been called Dook'o'oosłííd in Diné; Nuva'tukya'ovi in Hopi, Wik'hanbaja by the Hualapai or Nuvaxatuh by the Southern Paiute Native tribes [1]. Hopi katsinam are holy people that bring rain to the place. These spirits live in the springs and travel to Hopi kivas at the winter solstice and participate there in the Hopi kachina cycle of ceremonial dances until the summer solstice and the start of the monsoon [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Snowbowl project made of wastewater on Indigenous sacred lands, San Francisco Peaks, Arizona, US
Country:United States of America
State or province:Arizona
Location of conflict:San Francisco Peaks
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Tourism Recreation
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Domestic municipal waste
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In 2005 Arizona Snowbowl developed a project on the San Francisco Peaks by clearcutting 74 acres (30 hectares) of rare alpine habitat, cutting about 30,000 trees, and in addition constructed parking lots and building a 14.8 mile underground pipeline to transport up to 180 million gallons (per season) of wastewater to make artificial snow on 205 acres (83 hectares) of forest in the Sant Francisco Peaks [5]. The Snowbowl project is pumping 1.5 million gallons per day of treated waste water and spraying it on a mountain deemed as sacred by many Native American tribes [5,1].

Project area:83,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project60,000,000.00
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/01/2009
Relevant government actors:Coconino National Forest U.S. government
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Indigenous Circle of Flagstaff
Sierra Club
Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Hopi, Navajo, Apache nations
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Soil contamination, Waste overflow
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Land demarcation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
fully treated waste water
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:A longlasting land conflict, in which Native tribes and activists have fought for more than 40 years to preserve the peaks (mining), including ceremonies, rituals, religious beliefs and the use if the peaks for healing. Approval of such ski waste water project for artificial snowmaking or private property logic cannot be considered as success for environmental justice for the Tribes.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[4] e Forest Service appeal process: Arizona Snowbowl Facilities Improvements Final Environmental Impact Statement. Record of Decision and Forest Plan Amendment #21
[click to view]

[1] AZCentral 2021: San Francisco Peaks: A sacred place is imperiled by snow made with recycled sewage
[click to view]

[2] KNAU Local News 2016: Navajo Nation Officials Oppose Hopi-Flagstaff Snowmaking Settlement
[click to view]

[3] AZCentral: Tribes raise alarms about proposed 'memorial forest' near San Francisco Peaks
[click to view]

[5] Protect the Peaks- Stop the Construction Now! About the project
[click to view]

[6] Protect the Peaks: Navajo elders object to Snowbowl chairlift on sacred mountain
[click to view]

[click to view]

[8] Cultural Survival: Native Americans Fight to Save Sacred Site
[click to view]

[9] Sacred Land Film Project: San Francisco Peaks History
[click to view]

[10] KJZZ by Lauren Gilger: Arizona Snowbowl Announces $60 Million Expansion Plan
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[11] Petition: Protect the Peaks
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:KH ICTA-UAB
Last update19/09/2021
Conflict ID:5629
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