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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Snoqualmie Ski Expansion Threatens Wildlife

Alpine Lakes Protection Society, Conservation Northwest and the Sierra Club urge old growth protection at Snoqualmie Pass

Alpine Lakes Protection Society, Conservation Northwest and the Sierra Club criticized the proposal to cut old-growth forests for new runs and ski lifts at Snoqualmie Pass. The conservation organizations were also concerned about expanding lifts into a roadless area near the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and building a gondola and restaurant on Denny Mtn.

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Jan 17, 2006

Alpine Lakes Protection Society, Conservation Northwest and the Sierra Club criticized the proposal to cut old-growth forests for new runs and ski lifts at Snoqualmie Pass. The conservation organizations were also concerned about expanding lifts into a roadless area near the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and building a gondola and restaurant on Denny Mtn. These are part of a proposed expanded ski resort use of 1,800 acres of national forest land.

 “While many aspects of the ski resort proposal are not controversial, the cutting of old growth forests in a key wildlife corridor is a significant impact,” said Charlie Raines, Director of the Sierra Club’s Cascade Checkerboard Project.

Protect Hyak Creek Wildlife Corridor

“The public has invested millions of dollars and decades protecting and connecting wildlife habitat along I-90. It just defies common sense that the Forest Service would approve a project that destroys some of the best old-growth forest and wildlife habitat left in the area,” said Jasmine Minbashian, Communications Director for Conservation Northwest. The proposal would log 45 acres of mature forest, cutting up the forest around Hyak Creek with two new ski lifts, several new runs and a new road. The Hyak Creek forest provides habitat for at least 120 species of wildlife, including spotted owls, martens and wolverines. She added, “Only Alternative #4 eliminates those impacts.”

The organizations questioned carving new steeper snowboard runs to connect Hyak with the Central resort area. Skiers already have crossover runs. In recent years, poor snow conditions have seriously limited operations at Hyak, and the situation may worsen with global warming. “The snowboarding is not that great at Hyak and I am opposed to cutting old-growth forests to expand it,” said Nete Leth, a snowboarder. “The Summit should provide a shuttle to connect Hyak to other areas,” she added.

Impacts to Alpine Lakes Roadless Areas

Another major impact is the expansion at Alpental. This would push two ski lifts and several runs west into a roadless area near Source Lake. In addition, they propose to construct a gondola and restaurant on Denny Mtn. This would bring thousands of summer visitors to fragile, high elevation lands very near the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. With the ease of getting to the top of the mountain, it will be nearly impossible to stop the damage from a multitude of boot beaten tracks across meadows and thin soils.

Improve Winter Recreation While Protecting Forests and Wildlands

“Skiing has been a fixture of the Pass for decades, but it has come at a price to our forests, wetlands and wildlife. While the ski area proposal would mitigate for some of those impacts, new construction must meet current standards to protect existing wildlife habitat, wildlands and water quality,” said Don Parks, president of Alpine Lakes Protections Society.

 Raines, of the Sierra Club, added, “We support improved winter recreation at the Pass. Without the impacts to old-growth forest and roadless areas, the ski area could still improve facilities and increase capacity by 20%.” This would include new and upgraded lifts, runs, restaurants, parking and base facilities.

Draft EIS for Use of National Forest Lands – Comment Deadline February 6th

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the new master plan for the four ski areas at Snoqualmie Pass was released in December, with a 45-day comment period (deadline February 6th). The new ten year plan would rearrange some lifts and runs, add some new ones, and expand ski terrain by 59 acres, increasing total capacity by as much as 39%.

The Summit at Snoqualmie (once known as Alpental, Snoqualmie Pass, Ski Acres and Hyak) spreads across both national forest (1,864 acres) and private lands (1,038 acres). They have asked to expand the special use permit into another 53 acres of public land at Hyak Creek.

Other issues include availability of other winter recreation such as cross country skiing, restoring the Pacific Crest Trail, expanding parking lots, roads adjacent to creeks, damage to wetlands, pollutants in runoff, and increased consumption of limited water supplies (projected 50% increase in daily use).

Mitigation Measures

Under the preferred alternative (#5), Summit would donate 390 acres in Mill Creek to the Forest Service as mitigation for impacts to old growth and wildlife connectivity at Hyak. “This may keep that land from condos, which is important; But, not only is that land clearcut, it does not solve the problem of cutting up the Hyak Creek wildlife corridor,” said Minbashian.

Environmental groups have asked for additional mitigation measures, such as a donation of about 140 acres of land near Guye Peak to offset impacts of development at Alpental. These are old mining claims owned by the resort adjacent to Alpine Lakes Wilderness. If donated, the land could be added to the wilderness without congressional action.

For More information:

Sierra Club Website: www.cascade.sierraclub.org/snoqualmiepass

Conservation NW Website: www.conservationnw.org

The Draft EIS is available on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest website: www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/projects/summit-at-snoqualmie/

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