Forest Service sidelines Montana resort proposal |

Forest Service sidelines Montana resort proposal

Susan Gallagher
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

HELENA, Mont. ” The Forest Service has rejected a plan for a proposed resort just south of Missoula, but the developers say they are undeterred and will revise their proposal to the agency’s satisfaction.

The plan for Bitterroot Resort is unacceptable because of potential effects on wildlife, soil, water and scenery, the Forest Service said. Officials said they will not consider the existing proposal further, but the developers may redo it or submit a new plan for review.

“We intend to come back, and come back with a style of recreation that is compatible,” Jim Gill, chief operating officer for Bitterroot Resort, said Wednesday.

Tom Maclay has said he envisions a world-class resort with recreation, lodging, shopping and dining on his family’s ranch just off U.S. 93, plus skiing and mountain bicycling on Forest Service land nearby.

The plan submitted to the Forest Service in March laid out specifics for Nordic skiing and for guided alpine skiing through trees on the federal land, along with summer cycling.

Overall, the resort would involve just over 2,000 acres of public land and just under 3,000 acres of private ranch property, Gill said. Opponents have said the resort would industrialize land next to a wilderness that straddles the rugged Bitterroot Mountains.

Gill said consultants will advise the developers on how best to address Forest Service concerns. They include possible harm to wildlife if their winter range is disrupted, and the consequences of enhanced access by predators traversing groomed Nordic trails.

Gill said he did not know how much time would be needed to give the Forest Service a revised plan.

The setback from the Forest Service is not the resort’s first.

The agency found in 2005 that proposed development of a downhill ski area on Lolo Peak clashed with management plans for the Bitterroot and Lolo national forests. Gill said the resort plan was changed as a result of that finding.

A Forest Service report in 2005 cast doubt on the need for a ski area, but the resort released its own study finding sufficient consumer demand.

Maclay already offers alpine skiing on the ranch, although there are no lifts. Skiers travel uphill in a snowcat, an enclosed vehicle that moves on tracks like a snowmobile. Gill said more than 800 skiers participated last winter.

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