Field reports: Mount Spokane land classifications affect ski area expansion
PARKS – Land classification proposals that could make or break plans to expand the Mount Spokane alpine ski area will be presented at the Washington Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Thursday in Bellingham.
The Lands Council Wins Lawsuit to Protect Old Growth Forest in Mt. Spokane State Park
The Lands Council has won a court
action that challenged the re-classification of part of Mt. Spokane State Park
to allow a ski area expansion. We are pleased that the appellate court judges
agreed with our concerns that Washington State Parks Commission failed to
follow the law by allowing a ski area expansion in Mt. Spokane State Park. At stake is the largest old growth stand in
Spokane County, which the Commission had said could be opened up to ski area
Director, Mike Petersen, accepting a $5,000 check from Lindell Haggin,
Treasurer for the Spokane Audubon Society. Thank you!
For Immediate Release, April 9, 2013
Juel, The Lands Council(509) 209-2406
Bachman,Sierra Club(509) 280-8159
Examiner voids permit to log old-growth forest at Mt. Spokane Park
- Today Mike Dempsey, the Hearing Examiner for the Spokane County
Department of Building and Planning, withdrew the department's January, 2013
permit which authorized logging on the west slope of Mt. Spokane, within Mount
Spokane State Park. The logging would fragment the largest remaining old-growth
forest in Spokane County. The Hearing Examiner cited violations of the Spokane
Critical Areas Ordinance, the purpose of which is:
To recognize wetlands, fish and
wildlife habitat conservation areas …as important natural resources which
provide significant environmental functions and values including: vital
importance to critical fish and wildlife habitat, surface and ground water
quality, aquifer recharge, flood control, …scientific research and education,
open space, aesthetic values, historic and cultural preservation, passive
recreation and contribute to quality of life currently enjoyed by citizens of
"This is an
important victory for the people of Spokane County, and to those everywhere who
enjoy the system of state parks in the State of Washington," stated Jeff Juel,
Forest Policy Director of The Lands Council, which had appealed the permit. "The
destruction of old growth providing habitat for rare species such as northern
goshawk, Canada lynx and wolverine would be permanent and should not be allowed
within a State Park," he added.
According to a Washington Parks and Recreation Commission's
Staff Report, the forests at issue in this case "represent the highest level of
significance of natural resources in the State Parks system."Parks staff "determined that the proposed ski
area expansion is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment."
"The Critical Areas Ordinance requires that Spokane County
consult closely with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine
how impacts to "Priority Habitats" such as old-growth forests can be avoided.
Unfortunately, WDFW's concerns were mostly ignored," stated Juel.
The Lands Council
is a part of the Save Mt Spokane Coalition, formed to protect the wildlife and
natural habitat on the mountain. The Coalition agrees with improving the
existing the ski area, already impacting2/3 of the mountain's alpine habitat, and has even prepared an
alternative vision, Mt. Spokane 2020,
for the park that includes upgrades to lifts, lodge and new runs within the
existing ski area on the north, east and south sides of the mountain. (http://savemtspokane.org/Mt_Spokane_2020_files/mt.spokane_brochure-1.pdf)
"We are committed to working with Mount Spokane 2000, the
operators of the ski area, to enhance their infrastructure and the quality of
the skiing experience in ways that won't harm wildlife and water quality on
this Eastern Washington landmark," stated Steve Llewellyn, President of The
"Mt Spokane is a
key part of the natural heritage of our region and must be protected," said
Chris Bachman of the Sierra Club. "If this magnificent old-growth forest is cut
down, future generations will lose out, and rare wildlife species on the
mountain may never return."
It should be noted that in a separate action, in February the
Washington State Court of Appeals enjoined all ski area expansion activities
until it could rule on propriety of the Washington State Parks and Recreation
Commission's action to reclassify the western slope of Mt. Spokane, allowing a
new ski lift and runs. A hearing before that Court is set for April 9.
ACTION ALERT - Comments needed!
How you can help:
- Write a personal letter to Washington State Parks Commissioners. Tell the Parks Commission why you personally oppose development on Mt. Spokane's currently-undisturbed, western-facing aspect.
Send Letters to:
Randy Kline, Environmental Program Manager
Washington Parks and Recreation Commission
1111 Israel Rd. S.W.
Olympia, WA 98504
- Spread the word! Share this brochure with friends and family, and ask them to also send a letter.
Washington's largest State Park, Mt. Spokane, is facing a crisis. Not only are funding cuts threatening the operation of the park, the ski area concessionaire is pushing to develop the largest remaining native forest in Spokane County, while ignoring long-standing and much needed improvements to Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park. We think it makes more sense to invest scarce dollars in upgrading the existing lifts and lodges to provide a better skier experience, and permanently protect the remaining wild areas on Mt. Spokane.
Earlier this year we were compelled to file a lawsuit challenging plans to put new runs and a chairlift into sensitive wetlands and rare old growth forest. Those expansion plans are also opposed by our state's wildlife and natural resource agencies and every conservation group in the region. Our lawsuit challenges the State Parks and Recreation Commission's action that approved the ski area expansion prior to preparing an Environmental Impact Statement that would consider better options for skiers, for the wildlife and water, and for taxpayers. We will have our first hearing on January 27 in Thurston County Superior Court.
The ski concessionaire had dropped a plan to add a variety of new runs to areas served by existing lifts, in favor of this controversial and financially risky venture into the pristine northwest side of the mountain. Why not replace the aging and slow chair 2 with a quad to whisk skiers to the top and give all skiers a better experience? Why not improve parking and rebuild the old, run-down lodge? The Lands Council supports improved recreation and economic opportunities for our region, including an improved Mt. Spokane
Ski and Snowboard Park. We believe this can be done without compromising pristine forest and critical wildlife habitat.
If you are interested please donate to this project! Thank you!