Navajo elders object to Snowbowl chairlift on sacred mountain

Pictured: The Arizona Snowbowl runs the Agassiz lift most of the summer and into the autumn until fall color is done for the year.(Photo: Deborah Lee Soltesz. U.S. Forest Service Coconino National Forest [Public Domain])

Threatened plant, the San Francisco Ragwort, which grows no where else in the World except on the San Francisco Peaks is in the way of Arizona Snowbowl's new gondola style lift

News Release

Shawn Mulford

Coconino National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West has approved a new gondola style chairlift at Arizona Snowbowl indicating it would cause No Significant Impact. The Dine' Medicine Men Association objected to this finding by stating, "based on our review of this proposal and the current Coconino National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West's Finding No Significant Impact, we see nothing has changed, our rights continue to be violated and the Creator's Creation continues to be destroyed."

US Forest Service Regional Forester, Cal Joyner will be reviewing all objections to the project including those from the Dine' Medicine Men Association. The Medicine Men Association express that an "Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be conducted to fully demonstrate the extent of impacts from the proposed project. Without an Environmental Impact Statement the Forest Service is not fulfilling their Trust Responsibility to the Tribes and (Indigenous) Nations." 

Pictured: San Francisco Ragwort, Arizona Snowbowl.
Pictured: San Francisco Ragwort, Arizona Snowbowl.(Photo: Shawn Mulford)

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the agency responsible for protecting threatened and endangered species. The Indigenous Elders indicate "the US Fish and Wildlife Service willfully neglected to conduct a proper review or site visit of the San Francisco Ragwort, they simply concurred with the Coconino National Forest." After learning the Forest Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service based their decision on a 32 year recovery plan the medicine men stated, "This lack of proper review and by using out-of- date data and mapping, both the US Forest Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service have not properly accounted for (the) Ragworts". "The Ragwort is a plant we use. Only us, the sacred people, with ties to the land understand this medicine plant". 

The Indigenous Elders state, "We object to the fact the zero feet of impact zone was identified for this proposed project. With the project area being conducted on a very steep talus slope within the critical habitat of the Threatened San Francisco Ragwort, it is negligent for both the US Forest Service and concurring US Fish and Wildlife Service to accept this project without accounting for an impact zone." 

To protect this threatened ragwort the Elders further expressed, "This project must be withdrawn and Coconino National Forest's decision reversed. Arizona Snowbowl does not want to protect the Sacred Plant (San Francisco Ragwort), so their special-use permit must be revoked and terminated for the greater public good." 

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