Environmental groups likely to sue over Mt. Ashland expansion

The Rogue Group Sierra Club is likely to sue over the U.S. Forest Service's approval of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area expansion because its not substantially different than an earlier plan.

Club Chairman Tom Dimitre said on Tuesday that he has yet to review all the details of the Forest Service's decision to approve the expansion.

“We'll be back in court if there were no changes,” Dimitre said.

The approval, announced today, keeps major elements intact, including 71 acres of new ski runs, two additional chairlifts, three buildings, an expanded parking lot and a snow tubing area.

Along with other environmental groups, the Rogue Group Sierra Club took a lawsuit to block the expansion all the way to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 2007, that court ruled the Forest Service needed to conduct more analysis of potential negative environmental impacts.

After new studies, the Forest Service said the expansion would not have a negative impact on the Pacific fisher, a weasel-like animal, as environmentalists claimed.

The Forest Service said the animals use lower elevation areas in the winter and can move through vegetated areas on the sides of ski runs during the summer.

The Forest Service redrew lines that mark out riparian and watershed areas that are affected by certain restrictions. But it did not change the areas that will be affected by the expansion, Forest Service officials said.

Dimitre said the Rogue Group Sierra Club remains concerned about impacts to the Pacific fisher and opposes ski runs cutting through riparian reserves and landslide hazard zones.

Members also worry that climate change could leave the ski area without sufficient snow, especially on new ski runs built at lower elevations.

The expansion would occur mainly to the west and downhill of existing runs.

— Vickie Aldous

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