Court to reconsider sacred mountain row

San Francisco, USA - A U.S. appeals court said on Wednesday that it would reconsider its decision that barred an Arizona ski resort from using treated sewage to make snow on a mountain sacred to several Native American tribes.

The long-running case has pitted economic and leisure interests against the beliefs of American Indian tribes, with both sides winning at various stages of the litigation.

In March, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Navajo Nation and other tribes in finding that treated waste water should be barred under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law which says the federal government may not "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion."

Without offering their reasons the judges on the 9th Circuit based in San Francisco agreed on Wednesday to have a 11-person expanded panel of judges reconsider the earlier ruling.

The Arizona Snowbowl resort on a federally owned mountain 150 miles north of Phoenix wanted to use artificial snow to assure a long consistent season. According to the Navajo Nation, the San Francisco Peaks are sacred to more than 13 Native American nations.