How do wild public lands and wilderness areas contribute to a community’s economy?
Wild public lands represent highly-valued amenities. Open lands, mountains, forest lands, free-flowing streams, and similar amenities help support a high quality of life for area residents and have become "magnets" to new migrants in the region. They have become key economic assets.
Public lands contribute to a human-resource based economy. The economy is less and less "natural resource based," and more and more "human resource based." Do we know how to invest in human resource development? Well-designed, well-funded, adaptive systems for education and work force development are essential for economic prosperity. In the new economy, a quality environment is a key economic asset. Protecting and enhancing environmental qualities is not the enemy of economic development. It is essential for economic prosperity. The larger Rocky Mountain West region – Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado – is one of the fastest growing regions in North America. Communities in this region with quality businesses and quality workers will likewise grow and prosper. When people are asked why they are moving to these areas, they say "for the quality of life, the open lands and the natural environment".
Lolo Peak is Missoula, Montana's loftiest landmark at 9,096'. This impressive peak stands at the northern boundary of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and lies at the heart of the 16,000-acre Lolo Creek Roadless Area on the Lolo National Forest. The area is home to a variety of game and non-game wildlife species. Elk, deer, moose, pileated woodpecker, goshawk, golden eagle, pine marten, mountain goat, hoary marmot, and wolf are just some of the species present in the area. Lolo Peak and adjoining Carlton Ridge is excellent lynx habitat, and is in a grizzly bear recovery area. Local streams support cutthroat trout and threatened bull trout. Cross-country skiing and winter mountaineering are popular recreation activities as well as hiking, camping, environmental education, horseback riding, big-game hunting and fishing.
A real estate development with 2200 housing units and a four-season destination ski resort is being proposed for the area. The proposed "Bitterroot resort" is being billed as the largest ski resort development in North America. As proposed, it would include a full-service village of high-end shops, 2200 exclusive housing units, ice skating rink, a golf course, even a restaurant on top of Carlton Ridge. Ski runs, lifts and a supporting road system are planned through wild public land, reaching all the way to the summit of Lolo Peak!
The potential impacts to wildlife, water quality, access, and recreation are dramatic.
The entire area currently serves as summer, winter and crucial winter elk habitat. Disturbances such as ski runs, golf courses, fences, subdivisions, chair lifts, and maintenance roads destroy critical habitat. The inevitable increase in human activity including noise, vehicle traffic, dogs, and ski lifts will displace elk and other wildlife.
The industrialization and development of public lands for the proposed real estate development and ski resort on Carlton Ridge and Lolo Peak is illegal under the current Forest Service travel plan. The proposed new resort development seeks to lease and develop wild national forest lands classified as Management Areas 11 and 12 in the Lolo Forest Plan. The Lolo Forest Plan prohibits new road construction, recreation developments or motor vehicle traffic within the wild lands proposed for the proposed ski resort.
Friends of Lolo Peak, P.O. Box 7444, Missoula, MT 59807
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