Viewpoint: Corporate recreation comes to Holland Lake
An out-of-state commercial recreation corporation, Powdr Inc., has proposed to expand the Holland Lake Lodge on public land and convert it into a destination resort.
The current lodge is a locally run seasonal operation from May 15 to October 15 that occupies 15 acres of public land under USFS permit on the shores of Holland Lake in the Swan Valley. The corporation that wants to take over the lodge calls itself an “adventure lifestyle company.”
It is one of the largest ski resort owners in the US and owns 10 massive mountain resorts. It claims: “Powdr has an incredibly unique network to connect with the more than 58 million participants and enthusiasts of the fastest growing lifestyle segment, adventure sports.”
The USFS has asked for public comment on this proposal since the Holland Lake Lodge is a permitted operation on public land. The corporate proposal is to expand Holland Lake Lodge from 63 overnight guests and staff to 173 overnight guests and staff with an expanded 3000 square foot restaurant serving 3 times as many meals as the current lodge.
They also want to add a winter operating season to the current summer-only operation. The user capacity footprint will expand from 11,340 user days per year at present to 46,980 user days per year.
Intensive recreation on public lands is a consumptive activity because it destroys wildlife habitat security. It is well documented in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that grizzly bears and elk and other wildlife will usually flee humans on trails and avoid areas where recreating humans are present.
The increased recreation resulting from this proposal will displace wildlife from formerly secure habitats into less secure areas where their mortality risk is higher. Intensive recreation will increase wildlife stress levels and energetic demands as they avoid human activity.
The Powdr corporation proposal completely (intentionally?) ignores the off-site impacts of this proposed development. Expanding development at Holland Lake Lodge will result in an additional 35,640 user days per year on public lands in the Holland Lake/Swan Valley area.
These tens of thousands of additional users will not just stay at the 15-acre lodge site. These people will be spending an additional 35,000+ days on the public lands around Holland Lake, on the Swan Face, and in the Swan Valley.
Given what the Powdr corporation has done at their other properties, they will likely promote and market recreation on adjacent public lands such as mountain biking and racing, mountain bike trail development, hiking, trail running, more pack trips into the adjacent Bob Marshall, skiing, XC skiing, and perhaps heli-hiking and heli-skiing in the Swan and the Missions to entice people to come to their new Holland Lake Lodge.
Holland Lake is high quality grizzly and lynx habitat well inside the Northern Continental Divide Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. The proposed expanded development at Holland Lake will have significant negative impacts to thousands of acres of wildlife habitat around Holland Lake that will impact many species including grizzly bears, elk, black bears, lynx, wolverines, furbearers, mule deer and white tail deer - all the wildlife in the Swan Valley.
The real reason the Powdr corporation wants to invest in the Holland Lake Lodge is access for their clients to the surrounding public lands in the Swan Valley. This is commercialization of public lands for corporate profit at the expense of Montana’s wildlife and wildlife habitat.
The Forest Service should reject this proposal as grossly inappropriate for grizzly bear and lynx habitat, for Holland Lake, for the Swan Valley, and completely contrary to the values we cherish in Montana.
Chris Servheen is the president and board chair of the Montana Wildlife Federation