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Indigenous Voices of the Colorado Plateau

Save the Peaks!

 Indigenous Voices




 Kaibab Paiute


 White Mountain Apache

Save the Peaks!

 Merriam Report


The San Francisco Peaks are sacred to many regional tribes. Controversy has raged over development of private and public land on Hart Prairie and the expansion of the Arizona Snowbowl since the early 1970's. Today's well-publicized fight involves the Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership's desire to introduce artificial snowmaking to support the ski resort. The Forest Service has approved the use of treated water for this purpose. For many native and non-native residents, this decision represents a desecration--spiritually and physically. Others worry about the unintended ecological consequences which may result from spraying grey (sewer) water on a fragile landscape and home to endangered species. Some resent the prospect of subsidizing an industry subject to climatic vicissitudes. Skiers and local businesses, however, rejoice at the promise of a consistent snow pack. A lawsuit is underway.

The original "Save the Peaks" fight was a decade-long struggle, pitting local citizens, the Sierra Club, the Hopi and Navajo Nations, and the Flagstaff Gem and Mineral Society, among others, against Summit Properties and the Post Company (the one-time owners of Snowbowl). The controversy arose over a 350 acre parcel of land in the Hart Prairie area of the San Francisco Peaks. In the early 1970's, the aforementioned groups united to prevent proposed development of the ski area.

In early 1973, the first shot was fired in the local courts. The efforts of Jean and Richard Wilson, the Navajo and Hopi Nations, and many other concerned citizens precipitated several public hearings in 1973 and 1974 regarding the rezoning and development of Hart Prairie. During these hearings, the Flagstaff City Council remained officially neutral on the rezoning proposals. Many Coconino County labor unions endorsed the Hart Prairie proposal. Summit Properties countersued.

After much maneuvering, various land appraisals, mediation, and offers to purchase the property in question, Summit Properties officially dropped its 1974 lawsuit, and on January 27, 1978, the USFS officially requested the disbursement of payments to Summit Properties. Though newspapers heralded this event as the end of the "Save the Peaks" fight, it was not the end of development controversies for the San Francisco Peaks.

In the early 1980's, under different ownership, the Arizona Snowbowl again sought to expand. The Navajo and Hopi argued that the plans conflicted with the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which mandated that no policy of the government can interfere with Indian religious practices or sites. By March 1981, the Snowbowl issue had made it to Federal Court in Washington, D.C. Though a new all-weather "Pave the Peaks" road resulted from these efforts, the resistance to development caused all parties to consider new projects more carefully.

Digital Resources
Coconino Citizens Association
John Duncklee
Dr. Walter and Nancy Taylor
Richard and Jean Wilson

Save the Peaks!

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