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Court allows wastewater-snow on sacred Navajo land

PHOENIX -- The Navajo tribe yesterday protested a US federal judge's ruling that clears the way for an Arizona ski resort to make artificial snow using reclaimed wastewater on a mountain sacred to several Native American tribes.

The Arizona Snowbowl ski resort, located about 150 miles north of Phoenix, says the artificial snow is crucial to its economic survival.

A decision late Wednesday by US District Court Judge Paul Rosenblatt would allow a $25 million upgrade to begin at the Snowbowl in the San Francisco Peaks. The 777-acre facility is on federal forest land.

Howard Shanker, an attorney representing three tribes and three activist groups in the case, said ''This is a direct affront to traditional Native beliefs and one more nail in the coffin of all the tribes throughout the country [and their] ability to survive intact."

Rosenblatt upheld a US Forest Service decision, ruling that opponents failed to show that the upgrade plans would interfere with the free exercise of religion.

Shanker said yesterday that he plans by the end of next week to appeal the ruling and seek an injunction to stop work from beginning at the popular ski resort.

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