Protesters outside US Federal Court in San Francisco on March 12, 2015
SACRAMENTO— For approximately 10,000 years members of the Pit River Tribe have used Medicine Lake and surrounding highlands for religious activities such as vision quests, prayers, life cycle ceremonies, traditional shamanic practices, collection of traditional foods and medicine, and spiritual renewal. These practices were all included in a lawsuit in which four other tribal groups challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) continuation of 26 geothermal leases for up to 40 years. On July 20, a three judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed the earlier decision by District Judge John A. Mendez in Sacramento, blocking an appeal process, and sent the case back to him with directions to proceed with the litigation by the tribe.
The panel from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mendez ignored a section of the Geothermal Steam Act that allows the suit to go forward. This is indeed good news for the Pit River Tribe, recently embroiled in other legal problems with the federal government’s lack of proper consultation with the tribe.
Medicine Lake Highlands is approximately 30 miles northeast of Mount Shasta. It is within the crater of the Medicine Lake volcano, which is the largest volcano in the Cascade Range. It covers more than 200 miles in Modoc and Siskiyou counties and covers portions of three national forests.
Calpine Corporation, a Houston, Texas based company, holds the leases for development of steam energy. Calpine Corp. has been pursuing plans for power plants that would tap the energy that lies beneath the volcanic ground. The Pit River tribe and other tribal nations in the area contend that this would destroy the environment as well as hinder their access to the sacred land where cultural and religious practices take place.