It’s a sunny October afternoon and I’m listening to the breeze gently rustle the tree tops above me. I look down into the creek as I sit here munching on some cashews, and I see trout gliding effortlessly through the crystal-clear water. I revel in how incredibly lush the area is…although it’s been a dry summer the ground is still moist, plants are bright and colorful, and wildlife is abound. After I finish my snack and tuck my trash away into my backpack, I continue my hike up this parcel of land that may soon become barren with towers of steel and wire draping the landscape…that’s if the Mt. Ashland Association (MAA), a non-profit organization that operates the Mt. Ashland ski area, gets their way. The MAA is looking to start a planned expansion of the area in late 2012. They plan to clear cut 70+ acres of old growth to pave way for more advanced slopes and a sparkly-new lodge.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ski area expansions are the most ecological damaging task that an area can undertake. In a plan revision for the White River National Forest in Colorado, regarding the Copper Mountain Ski Resort expansion, the EPA hammers that point home when they say that “…no other land management prescription on the Forest directly results in more stream-water depletion, wetland impacts, air pollution, permanent vegetation change, or permanent habitat loss… more wetland impacts and stream depletions resulted from ski area expansion and improvement than from all other Forest management activities combined, including many direct and indirect impacts that are permanent (irreversible and irretrievable).”
Meanwhile, skier numbers nationally have only increased just two percent since 1978 says, (source). Which begs the question, why have ski area sizes more than doubled in acreage to the tune of 107%(SACC)? Mt. Ashland’s future expansion surely isn’t needed due to overcrowding. Concerned locals spent nearly 20 years in a long, drawn out battle with these cash-hungry developers in both state and federal courts over the expansion and it seems their fight might be coming to an end. A beautiful and thriving ecosystem is in danger of being destroyed…the proof is clearly evident after a recent expansion in 2005, at the Copper Mountain Ski Resort in Colorado.
So what are some of the impacts to prepare for if the Mt. Ashland expansion goes forward compared to what happened at Copper Mountain? Here are three integral impacts to consider: habitat, watershed and environmental scorecards.
Concerned locals and several environmental groups such as the Wild Mount Ashland (WMA), EPA, Phronesis, Ski Area Citizens Coalition (SACC), Rogue Group Sierra Club (RGSC), and many others voice serious concerns about the endangered wildlife and rare plant species that habitat Mt. Ashland. The Division of Scientific Equipment Instrumentation Services (DSEIS) found that two very rare Pacific Fishers, which are part of the weasel family...