'NO-SKI' DECISION HOLDS ON MOUNT SHASTA
by Michelle Berditschevsky, Coordinator, Save Mount Shasta Project Secretary, Native Coalition for Cultural Restoration of Mount Shasta
DECISION FINALIZED, NOT APPEALED
This summer Regional Forester Lynn Sprague issued a decision to terminate the proposed Mount Shasta Ski Area Project. This decision finalizes the recommendation made earlier this year by Shasta-Trinity Forest Supervisor Sharon Heywood.
In his decision, Sprague, who heads the Pacific Southwest Region of the Forest Service, said that the two areas of Mount Shasta which are eligible to the National Register of Historic Places-from 8,000 feet to the summit and Panther Meadows-are a prime reason for his decision. "These are nationally significant historic sites, worthy of stewardship for the inspiration and benefit of current and future generations. The mountain is clearly considered sacred to many Indian people and is a very special place for non-Indians as well."
The decision held up through the appeal period during which the developer, Carl Martin, could have contested the decision to the Forest Service Chief in Washington DC. Martin chose not to appeal.
This fall, Martin wrote in a letter to the editor of the Mount Shasta Herald, "Now I must congratulate Michelle Berditschevsky, as she exercised her freedom, and her vision of the mountain is now shared by the U.S. Forest Service. It may come to pass for future generations. I will pray for the Native Americans and urge everyone to move on and enjoy the mountain we all love." For our part, we are very happy that both Mr. Martin and the Forest Service were touched by the sacred quality of Mount Shasta, and that things were resolved in a beautiful way. We too have long prayed for an outcome that would leave no bitterness and unify all positions in mutual appreciation of the Mountain.
IS MOUNT SHASTA 'SAVED'?
This is the question many are asking. For the time being, we have met the challenge of this large-scale ski resort. The sacred space has been affirmed in our human realm and its values recognized on a societal level, at least as far as this development is concerned.
With the kind of piecemeal management that prevails under Forest Service jurisdiction, there is no guarantee that the same values would apply if, for example, the existing Mount Shasta Ski Park were to seek expansion. Forest Supervisor Heywood has stated publicly that she would consider other developments on Mount Shasta. We understand that the Ski Park has an expansion proposal, and that this would include Grey Butte right above Panther Meadows, as well as condos high on the Mountain's slopes near Wagon Camp. While the Ski Park's expansion plans seem to be on hold, inside information tells us that we must be on guard. The Forest Service favored the 8,000 foot boundary for the Historic District, and it is clear that they have not made a final commitment to protecting cultural and environmental values. The Mountain is still at the mercy of discretionary decisions and uncertain policies.
Because of this uncertainty and looming threat, our next steps will be in the direction of expansion of the Historic District to strengthen the protection of cultural values. We are also contemplating proposing a National Scenic Area, which would still leave the Mountain under Forest Service jurisdiction, but establish distinct management priority for scenic values. This way the Forest Service would not feel threatened (as it would by a National Monument designation which would transfer responsibility to the National Parks Service) and, we hope, more lasting protection could be achieved through mutual agreement. We believe that it is time to fill the space with what we are 'saving' the Mountain for, with an affirmation of positive stewardship and restoration. More emphasis on developing the Cultural Management and Restoration Plan in cooperation with the Native Coalition; more restoration and nature awareness projects (see Panther Creek Watershed Restoration in this issue). PLEASE NOTE: We welcome our members' and friends' input in these future steps.
RESTORING THE HISTORIC DISTRICT
As many of you recall, in March 1994, the Mountain in its entirety, from a level of 4,000 feet to its summit, was designated a Historic District, eligible to the National Register of Historic Places. This was the result of a six year effort by Native Americans and Save Mount Shasta to obtain recognition and protection under the National Historic Preservation Act.
In November 1994, following pressure from political and commercial interests, the Keeper of the National Register reduced the Historic District to the 8,000 foot elevation at treeline, a reduction of almost 90%, from 150,000 acres to 19,000. The reduction was made on the basis that the Mountain lacked integrity below 8,000 feet due to logging and road building activities. This was decided without consultations with Native Americans and other interested parties whose values were affected.
The reduced Historic District omits many important areas of the Mountain as well as essential defining characteristics such as ridges, buttes, springs, creeks, trees, animals and their habitats. The District is as it now stands is far from encompassing the dynamic interconnections that make up the Mountain's sacred geography. The struggle for full recognition of Mount Shasta's significance continues beyond the recent decision to end the ski resort.
Early in 1998, we obtained a resolution from the National Environmental Justice Advisory Board which brought in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance to help work out a solution. We have been assured that the long-promised hearing is definitely in the works.
Together with the Native Coalition for Cultural Restoration of Mount Shasta, we have developed a new proposal which discusses areas on Mount Shasta that retain sufficient integrity by any standards, and additional areas which require some restoration but are needed to preserve the quality of wholeness of the Mountain, a quality which is integral to its cultural significance and ecological integrity. Our new proposal omits most of the land in private holdings.
To uphold the true intent of the National Historic Preservation Act which is to recognize cultural sites apart from political influence, and to affirm the Mountain's values, we continue to challenge this reduction.
THANKS TO THE SAVE MOUNT SHASTA COALITION
Working closely together with the Native Coalition for Cultural Restoration of Mount Shasta, Save Mount Shasta has been dedicated to getting the Mountain's message across, with the help of our attorney, Charles Miller who has donated much pro bono time. The Native Coalition includes the Pit River Tribe, the Shasta Tribe, members of the Wintu, Karuk and Modoc Tribes, the California Council of Tribal Governments, the Intertribal Council of California, and extends across tribal lines to Native support throughout the country.
Through many levels, from local forums to Washington DC, from historic preservation to environmental justice, our ten-year involvement has taken us through two appeals, a lawsuit, and a long historic preservation process. Throughout the campaign at critical points, the coalition to protect Mount Shasta has also included the California Wilderness Coalition, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society.
It is evident that an important aspect of the Mount Shasta issue has been uniting our efforts as a coalition. The way the Native American cultural aspect worked together with environmental values is a statement, we believe, that the acknowledgment and respect of Native American culture can help bring American society as a whole into a more ethical relationship to the land. Native peoples took care of this land for thousands of years, furthering abundance and diversity such as has not been seen since European settlement.
CULTURAL MANAGEMENT AND RESTORATION PLAN FOR MOUNT SHASTA
In cooperation with the Native Coalition, we have been working on a Mount Shasta Cultural Management Plan. Portions of this Plan will be used as a basis for the upcoming hearing which we are expecting with the Department of the Interior.
The goal of the Cultural Management Plan plan is to develop ecological and historic information to aid in proper care of the Mountain, to establish a process for resolving conflicts with other uses, to restore sacred sites, gathering areas, streams, forests and habitats; as well as cultural goals designed to re-establish the Native American relationship with the land itself, and involve citizens in local stewardship. More work needs to be done on the Plan which will necessitate contracting with specialized consultants.
Assuming we will be successful in expanding the Historic District, the Plan will be a valuable tool in how the District will be managed. It is already proving to be useful in setting standards and goals for specific projects on which we have been able to influence certain Forest Service decisions.
The Forest Service relentlessly proposes timber sales on the Mount Shasta and the surrounding region. Researching, commenting on and monitoring timber sales are ongoing activities through which we have been able to halt or significantly reduce the volume of the cut, as well as influence the use of less impactful logging methods. We are currently involved in watching several timber sales. Regarding the Military Timber Sale, we did field visits with the Forest Service and botanist, and submitted extensive comments, proposing a less damaging alternative. We are happy to report that the two clearcuts that were a major concern were omitted from the sale, and that the volume was reduced. Much of the sale involves thinning overly dense forests which are a fire hazard.
UNESCO SACRED SITES SYMPOSIUM IN PARIS
Our efforts have also taken us into international forums connected with the United Nations.
On September 22-25, Michelle Berditschevsky represented the Mount Shasta and Medicine Lake issues at the UNESCO (U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) "Symposium on Sacred Sites, Cultural Diversity and Biological Diversity," held in Paris, France.
Our attorney, Charles Miller, made a presentation about legal aspects in the preservation of sacred sites. The international symposium was jointly sponsored by UNESCO, the French National Center for Scientific Research and the French National Museum of Natural History.
Over two hundred participants from around the world made presentations. It is significant that the United Nations is seriously focussing on the value of cultural approaches to the preservation of biological diversity. Following the Rio Summit where worldwide environmental concerns were the topic, the organizers of this international symposium stated that sacred sites are being given special attention because they reflect spiritual and cultural attitudes toward nature.
Without changes on these levels, humanity may not make the decisions that will lead to preservation of biological diversity. One outcome of the Symposium was the formation of a committee to form partnerships between UNESCO and traditional cultures in the restoration of sacred sites.
It is our understanding that, since the U.S. is not a participant in UNESCO and does not pay into the fund, our project could become affiliated with UNESCO, but we would not be eligible for funding through UNESCO. Another outcome of the Symposium was an "International Intention of Respect" for the protection of sacred sites, in which many participants urged that, "In order to continue the momentum building at this international symposium, we strongly recommend that UNESCO take further steps in the direction of respecting and protecting sacred sites worldwide, including bringing these concerns to the attention of national governments."
Earlier this year Floyd Buckskin, Cultural Spokesperson of the Pit River Tribe, made a presentation about Mount Shasta and Medicine Lake before the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance. The Special Rapporteur will report his findings to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
Participation in these U.N. forums are expected to lead to an increase in international attention of the U.S. actions toward Native peoples and sacred sites, with resulting pressure on the government to take more appropriate actions. We are also looking into other potential forums such as the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the UNESCO Convention on Preservation of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.