Appeals Court Upholds Native American Medicine Wheel

A federal appeals court ruled in September that a logging company did not\n have grounds to challenge government regulations preserving for religious purposes\n a site in Bighorn National Forest that is sacred to Native Americans.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Wyoming\n Sawmills v. United States Forest Service that the logging company failed\n to show how its First Amendment rights had been subverted by the Forest Service’s\n management of Medicine Wheel, which is a stone circle sacred to several Native\n American tribes located on Medicine Mountain in the national forest in north\n central Wyoming.

The Medicine Wheel was made a national historic landmark in 1969 to preserve\n the prehistoric stone circle, which is about 80 feet in diameter, and the Forest\n Service oversees the landmark to “ensure that the Medicine Wheel and\n Medicine Mountain are managed in a manner that protects the integrity of the\n site as a sacred site and a nationally important traditional cultural property.”

The Wyoming logging company, which has been the primary purchaser of timber\n from the Bighorn Forest for more than 30 years, sued the Forest Service arguing\n that its management decisions violated church-state separation. The logging\n company’s lawsuit also complained of economic damage resulting from restricted\n logging in the area surrounding medicine wheel.

“As an artificial person, plaintiff has not shown how it experienced\n the kind of constitutional injury that has been found in such cases,” the\n 10th Circuit ruled. “Instead, its arguments repeatedly refer to and rely\n on the alleged economic injury.”