The national debate concerning roadless areas may have an effect on some local Colorado ski areas’ ability to expand their territories.
Arapahoe Basin’s recent attempts to expand Montezuma Bowl may be slowed as a result of the recent court decision by Elizabeth LaPorte, the U.S. district magistrate judge who made the decision in September to reinstate former President Bill Clinton’s form of the Roadless Area Conservation Rules, according to Melanie Mills, the executive vice president of public policy for Colorado Ski Country USA.
“I don’t think anybody knows what the ramifications are going to be yet,” Mills said of the recent court decision.
Right now, Arapahoe Basin is continuing to fulfill the requirements under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), which includes an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the area, Mills said. The ski areas are still allowed to expand, but they are required to meet the standards set by Clinton’s 2001 rules and undergo an environmental impact analysis.
Montezuma Bowl’s location connects to Porcupine Peak Roadless Area, one of many inventoried roadless areas surrounding Colorado’s ski resorts, according to Sally Spaulding, public affairs specialist with the White River National Forest Service.
Arapahoe Basin is looking to add a lift and some new territory, part of which would be in the Montezuma Bowl. The decision to reinstate Clinton’s Roadless Rules may delay the proposal, but it shouldn’t necessarily stop the expansion, Spaulding said.
The EIS looks at a number of different alternatives for the project to determine what the effects of the proposal under the different alternatives would be. The first alternative is a no-action alternative, which stops the project from moving forward, Spaulding said.
The Roadless Area Conservation Rules were originally established by Clinton, but the current Bush administration chose to give the decision to the states. However, after the court hearing in September, the original Clinton rule has been reinstated.
LaPorte determined the action by the Bush Administration to be illegal because it did not come with an EIS, which is in violation of the NEPA, according to Roger Singer, a member of the local chapter of the Sierra Club.
” (The decision) didn’t have sufficient environmental considerations and failed to file an environmental impact report,” Singer said.
He said the Sierra Club, along with other environmental groups, is hoping the decision will stop any current plans for mining and logging in the roadless areas.
“Each (roadless area) is evaluated for what is considered reasonable access,” said Wendy Haskins, a forest planner for White River National Forest.
The decision concerning Arapahoe Basin is underway, and based upon the findings of the EIS, it should go through without any outstanding problems, Haskins said.