Archive for July 5th, 2008

by Jay Stevens

Once again, Tom Maclay’s application to use Lolo national forest lands for his proposed ski resort was denied, this time because revised forest use plans didn’t include “net increase in acreage of groomed snow in habitat considered to be occupied by lynx.”

I have to say, Maclay’s proposed Bitterroot resort is a colossally bad idea. Forget for the moment that there’s probably not enough snowfall at its altitude to support a viable ski resort, why in the h*ll should we fork over our public lands in a subsidized giveaway for a multi-million-dollar playground whose only economic benefit to the area would be a glut of low-paying jobs? (Jobs that, if the other Montana resorts are a guide, won’t be filled by Montanans, but foreign students because the wages are too low.) Don’t we already have enough infrastructure woes in the Bitterroot? Are our public lands so cheap, that we can throw them away on projects like this?

It’s time to quote James Lee Burke again:

Regarding the debate over the development of Lolo Peak, the central issue seems to have been quickly diverted into a discussion of jobs and real estate values, etc. That’s all good and fine. An individual, for the most part, can do whatever he wishes with his private land, and if he creates jobs for other people, even low-paying ones, so much the better. But the group wishing to develop Lolo Peak wants to use public land and in effect to change the character of a mountain that is one of the most beautiful in western Montana. That’s the issue.

That land belongs to all of us. It also belongs to people who have not been born yet. We’re entrusted with its care. We are also entrusted with protecting it. But rather than rely on words in a letter to the editor or reportage on a public meeting, drive just south of Lolo Creek on Highway 93 and look westward at the mountains whose faces have already been scalped with ski runs that are evidently the first stages in the development of a Lolo Peak ski resort. To say they are ugly doesn’t do them justice. They look like enormous lesions. I assume they represent the model for what will be done on Lolo Peak as well.

The fact that a small group of people can even propose commercializing a state and national treasure and then seek to negotiate the issue strikes me as mind-numbing.

It’s somewhat fitting, then, that the lynx have undone the Bitterroot Resort’s asked-for handout this time around.

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