Viewpoint: Flathead Forest biased to Holland lodge proposal
My family and I have been blessed to share the shores of Holland Lake in the Swan Mountains for 35 years.
As all the lease holders across from Holland Lake Lodge, we’ve followed Forest Service rules for our leases and guidelines to preserve the landscape, remain invisible, and stay within our minimal footprints. We've adhered to this code as responsible stewards.
We’ve been dismayed to see the disregard of these parameters in the proposal by Utah ski industry giant POWDR to expand Holland Lake Lodge into industrial dimensions.
Equally troubling has been the absence of candor and air of secrecy surrounding POWDR’s interactions with the Forest Service.
Thank goodness for U.S. Senator Jon Tester in calling out the Forest Service during a Senate Appropriations meeting. Citing the shenanigans and lack of public accountability from this federal land management agency, the senator said he couldn’t support approving the permit without conducting adequate intensive environmental review, thereby “making some corporation rich off our public lands.”
Thank goodness, too, for the letter sent to Kurt Steele, supervisor of the Flathead National Forest, and a member of Steele’s team who is supposed to rigorously examine POWDR’s proposal by Kristine Akland, attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, and advocates Mike Garrity from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and Bill Lombardi, representing Save Holland Lake. They are protecting Holland Lake as a world-class treasure.
These groups say the Forest Service has violated rules in reviewing the lodge’s special-use permit and adhering to regulations it must follow. Their letter said, and Senator Tester agreed, that the Forest Service is obligated to review the permit because what POWDR proposes is a significant action affecting the public interest and involves an ownership change. If the Forest Service chooses not to follow federal law, they’ll face a court challenge.
Save Holland Lake has pointed out that the Forest Service seems to favor the magnitude of what POWDR proposes. Flathead National Forest Supervisor Steele admitted he was “biased” in favor of POWDR’s proposal. So much for being objective as a public land steward and listening to the American public, who recognize Holland Lake and public lands as a crucial corridor for wildlife.
This issue not only involves Montana’s back yard and lands belonging to all Americans; it highlights the nature of a place that makes our state stand apart. Some 6,500 individuals replied to the initial expansion proposal, and 99 percent of commenters were opposed.
Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said in congressional testimony that he’s beholden to these values:
• "particular emphasis on creating welcoming, sustainable, and equitable recreation opportunities for all Americans with a focus towards underserved and Tribal communities."
• "to support healthy and resilient watersheds and landscapes, sustain the production of clean and abundant air and water, assist with meeting the Administration’s climate goals, and contribute to healthy and productive communities and Tribal Nations
• "to ensure healthy forests and functional landscapes on federal and non-federal lands in support of the conservation priorities of the Administration."
None of these criteria have been applied to the Holland Lake Lodge’s special use permit and/or its proposed Master Development Plan that would balloon its footprint and intensify human pressures.
Tribal communities also have not weighed in on the proposal.
Please join me in insisting that Chief Moore examine this proposal. Moore’s agency must follow and respect established legal procedures as illuminated by the Center for Biological Diversity, The Alliance for Wild Rockies, and Save Holland Lake.
The Forest Service must follow its mission: Caring for the Land and Serving People.