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Bitterroot Resort supporters challenge Forest Service over special use rejection

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Nov 02 2012 07:29:08 PM MDT
LOLO, Mont. -

Supporters of a proposed ski resort near Lolo want an environmental review of the forest land above Maclay Ranch.

They're asking the Forest Service to explain why a resort isn't compatible with the forest service plan.

It's the latest chapter in a decades long saga over the Bitterroot Resort.

Tom Maclay wants a special use permit for several thousand acres above his family's historic homestead.

He's already developed ski runs on his ranch.

He'd like to extend the ski area into the Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests.

Maclay said the Forest Service saw the area as a potential ski area years ago.

"It has little development on it ," said Maclay, "because the dictates of the forest plan were to reserve any development until they had a viable ski plan."

Maclay's supporters said the forest service contradicts itself.

The Forest Service said the area Maclay wants to use is environmentally sensitive.

It's a unique research area for larch trees.

"Two different kinds of larch trees," said Lolo National Forest supervisor Debbie Austin," that are hybridizing  and they happen to be doing it on a very deep soil and so it is unique."

Maclay said he has shown his plans are compatible with research areas and would steer clear of sensitive spots.

Maclay said this could be some of the best skiing in the world.

But Austin said at this point in time our forest plan is a contract with the public and it was developed  with massive public involvement.

The Maclay Ranch is now facing foreclosure.