Viewpoint: Sen. Tester urges Forest Service to slow Holland Lake decision
Sen. Jon Tester
I'm writing regarding the proposed expansion of the Holland Lake Lodge. Your September 1 scoping letter received over 2,500 comments in a matter of days, illustrating the weight Montanans are giving to their consideration of this project.
While your decision to briefly extend the comment period is a step in the right direction, an additional extension and further analysis may be necessary to ensure that the public has the opportunity to give due consideration to this project.
The relatively short timeline on the initial scoping letter and public comment period may be inadvertently limiting further input from local stakeholders, including Missoula County.
Missoula County relies on input from its community councils, which meet monthly, and will need additional time to solicit and secure input from those councils. This is especially relevant as Missoula County will need to grant additional permits for the site development beyond the Forest Service process.
In addition to county-level input, the high volume of comments submitted so far strongly indicate that the public is extremely interested in providing input on this project. Extending the comment period further will allow both local government and the general public the opportunity to provide informed input on this project.
In addition to the public comment period for this project, I believe that the Forest Service should also carefully consider whether the proposed categorical exclusion from additional environmental review is appropriate for this proposal.
The public comments after the public meeting indicate a great deal of concern remain regarding environmental, social, and economic impacts.
It is important for Montanans and new neighbors to be able to discuss management of public lands and understand a full picture of impacts of any proposal on the local resources and consider impacts beyond the physical footprint of this permit.