9th Circuit Court

RFRA Ruling Riles Developers


A March ruling by a federal appeals court has boosted tribal efforts to block developments that threaten lands they hold sacred.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protected the tribes’ sacred grounds. The ruling blocked a plan to make snow from reclaimed wastewater for skiers at a resort near Flagstaff, Ariz.

The U.S. Forest Service leases the land to the Arizona Snowbowl resort. Developers worry the case will hamper development in cases where there are multiple uses of federal land, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

The defendants in the case filed a petition for rehearing last week.

In the wake of the ruling, the Quechan Tribe in Yuma, Ariz., filed suit to bar a land swap that would allow an oil refinery to be built on public land. Another pending case seeks to thwart the renewal of a permit for a hydroelectric power plant at Washington’s Snoqualmie Falls.

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