Who would benefit from using public lands for the proposed Bitterroot resort-real estate development and Lolo Peak ski resort?
"Former Lolo Forest Supervisor Orville Daniels believed a ski area was not only technically impossible, but that the economic benefits would not offset the social and environmental costs. "What I found out was this: A ski area is not about skiing, it's about making great wealth out of real estate," said Daniels. "It all has to do with the value of the base property, and the real winners are not the skiers but the landowners."
Because of the financial potential of a ski resort on Lolo Peak, Daniels knew there would be other proposals. So when he had the chance to write a forest management plan for the Lolo National Forest, he specifically excluded the mountain's use as a ski area.
The public and taxpayers (including hunters, outfitters, conservationists, birders, hikers, horse trail riders, and other backcountry recreationists) would lose by letting an irreplaceable economic resource--wild public lands which we all own - to be used as a cash cow for high price real estate development.
The highest economic and community value of the Lolo Peak area—that benefits the most Western Montanans-- is as a road-less, wild country signature area for the Missoula, Bitterroot and western Montana area.
Area growth is stimulated by the attractiveness and quality of the area.
The Bitterroot and Missoula valleys are perceived as having high quality environment and amenities. Missoula is a city of around 60,000 people located in a county of over 96,000, and the city serves as the regional center to a population of about 180,000. This "Five Valleys" region can be seen as an interconnected regional community, with significant populations extending south from the Missoula valley south into the Bitterroot valley and north into the Flathead Valley. The city and surrounding smaller communities are located in valleys surrounded by foothills and mountains and large concentrations of public lands, including Forest Service national forest lands and wilderness areas. There are currently six ski areas within a 100-mile drive of Missoula.
Many of the jobs in destination resort real estate developments similar to the proposed development of Lolo Peak are lower wage and low skill service jobs that average around $8.00 per hour. Job surveys conducted for Colorado resort real estate developments such as Aspen and Vail show that many of these low wage service jobs do not offer health insurance or other benefits. Many of these jobs are taken up by workers from outside the area including undocumented workers from abroad; hardworking foreign-born, less educated laborers, many of them illegal, who commute long distances to work the menial jobs that keep four-season ski resorts functioning.
A majority of the jobs at destination resort real estate developments are for waiters/waitress; desk clerks; maids/housekeeping cleaners; fast food cooks; janitors and cleaners; and delivery drivers. These are not the kind of jobs that offer a living wage for working families in western Montana, particularly when many of these jobs do not offer health insurance and other benefits.
A majority of workers employed at destination resort real estate developments in Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming cannot afford to live near their jobs. Workers commute distances of more than 60 miles to get to their jobs since they cannot afford to live near their place of employment.
Friends of Lolo Peak, P.O. Box 7444, Missoula, MT 59807
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