Former Missoula County commissioner opposes Holland Lake lodge expansion
My name is Jean Curtiss. I grew up in the Swan Valley just over the hill from Holland Lake Lodge. My Great Aunt Ada White and her husband built the original lodge in 1925. I still own property in the Swan. I oppose the application from POWDR for an expansion of the USFS special use permit for the Holland Lake Lodge.
As you have heard from the thousands of comments you have, we love this lake. It’s beauty and solitude feed our souls. You have also heard that recreating on public lands in Montana, especially in the Swan Valley, is more in tune with nature and less about amenities.
We don’t need or want POWDR’s exclusive resort to enjoy our public lands. We feel it will not only destroy the beauty and threaten the environment, but it will exclude those of us who have come here for a lifetime.
These comments have been from our hearts and our souls. But you are charged with making a decision based on a fair process, reviewing the facts, listening to public comment and following the established rule of laws. I understand what a challenge it is to gather and weigh facts, land use plans and public input. I served as Missoula County Commissioner for 18 years. I faced similar situations over the years.
I remember one subdivision hearing proposing 4 lots near, not on, Lindbergh Lake in the Swan. The hearing was 8 hours long. The homeowners and their attorney provide emotional, impassioned testimony. In the end, the commission approved the subdivision with conditions. The developer had followed the county subdivision regulations and zoning. The environment was protected and concerns were mitigated. It was a hard decision.
Fortunately, the federal regulations for special use permits gives you clear guidelines and authority. The mission and goals of the USFS and the FS land use plan for the Swan identify the values to be protected. Your job is to find the balance.
I read the comments on the Holland Lake Lodge permit written by Marty Almquist, who is an experienced administrator of Special Use Permits. He made a lot of great points including the fact that special use permits are not transferable. Only the improvements are owned by the holder of the permit.
The FS is not obligated to renew special use permits and may require improvements be removed when a permit expires. Mr. Almquist identified several flaws in the application. The purpose of the permit is to ‘benefit the general public and protect public and natural resource values.’ 36CFR§251.54 gives you the authority to reject this proposal. Protecting the watershed, fish, wildlife and their habitat gives you the reason and the right.
In making your decision, you should consider the ‘good of the whole’. It is not your job to bail Mr. Wohlfeil out of his own poor business practices and lack of investment into the facilities. You actually have the authority to repeal his current special permit because he is a poor steward of the property.
It is not your job to provide POWDR, a mega-corporation that has exploited natural resources on federal lands across the country, an easy path to ruin this valley. If POWDR plans to invest millions of dollars on FS land- our land- they must have a business plan to make this investment pencil out. You have the authority to see that business plan so I assume you have a copy.
What else is in the works? A potential monopoly of FS campground concessionaire contracts in the valley? A special use permit for helicopter skiing or extreme skiing? This lodge is just a toe in the door for POWDR.
It is your job to follow the rules and protect public land and resources while ensuring access to the general public. You have the tools and the authority to deny this application. It may be a nice plan but it's wrong for this place. This valley does not have the infrastructure to handle this exclusive resort even if POWDR can mitigate their impact on the land, water and wildlife.
Future generations are counting on you to make the right decision. Deny the special use permit for Holland Lake Lodge.