SPOKANE – The chairlift towers rolled into town on Tuesday from Montana’s Bridger Bowl ski area, which gave Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park a deal on the massive equipment with signature red chairs.
But Mount Spokane 2000, the group that operates the ski area, is still waiting on permits that would allow it to cut trees for the new lift on Mount Spokane’s western side.
Spokane County sided with a group of conservationists known as the “Save Mount Spokane Coalition” when it ruled against permitting Mount Spokane 2000 to harvest trees. It told the group it must complete more research, particularly regarding Canadian lynx and goshawks, known to live on Mount Spokane.
The Lands Council, Sierra Club, Spokane Mountaineers, Northeast Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society, Conservation Northwest Eastern Environmental, and Spokane Audubon Society make up the Save Mount Spokane Coalition. Previously, they believed the new chairlift and its seven new ski runs would destroy Spokane County’s largest remaining old-growth forest.
“This is probably the worst place you could put a chair,” Lands Council executive director Mike Petersen said. “Three creeks converging, big old-growth trees. This would damage this area. But there’s other areas where they could put additional runs.”
“It was the best place to put it,” Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park general manager Brad McQuarrie said. “There was nine different alternatives that were flushed through six different public meetings, lots of public comment. It was a compromise and there’s nowhere else you can put this that would be any less damaging.”
Mount Spokane 2000 plans to install the chairlift next summer. It has scheduled the timber harvest to start in the fall.
“In the big picture of a 14,000-acre park, 82 acres and out of that, the healthy and live forests they’re estimating 20 to 30 acres of healthy, live forest, is fairly insignificant from the amount of benefit that’s gonna be derived from this project,” McQuarrie said.
The Save Mount Spokane Coalition hopes to draw more attention to the beauty of the forest where the new chairlift is planned through a hike at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 20.
“This is public land and we all have to be respectful of the natural resources,” Petersen said. “We also want the ski area to thrive, but they need to have a little different vision than cutting into the biggest old-growth in the county.”
Petersen invites to public to join the hike. For more information, visit the Save Mount Spokane Coalition’s website.