SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A state appeals court has halted plans to expand the Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park until the state Parks and Recreation Commission studies how a new chairlift would impact old-growth forest, meadows and wetlands.
Plans for the 279-acre expansion had been challenged by The Lands Council, The Spokesman-Review reported Tuesday ( http://is.gd/PBF4Fl).
"It's a major decision to turn what was a de facto natural area into a ski area expansion in a state park," said Mike Petersen, executive director of the Spokane environmental group.
Preparing the environmental impact statement could take at least two years, Petersen said.
"This really sets them back," he said. "We think it just might put an end to it."
The ski resort operates on 1,450 acres of the 14,000-acre Mount Spokane State Park. The operator, Mt. Spokane 2000, wants to add the chairlift and seven runs on the mountain's northwest side to access deeper snow in a desire to extend its season and compete with other ski resorts.
The parks commission had designated the land for recreation in May 2011, allowing the expansion and deferring the environmental impact statement until it submitted a detailed development proposal.
The Lands Council challenged the decision and the Washington Court of Appeals agreed Tuesday, saying the law requires decision makers to "be apprised of the environmental consequences before the project picks up momentum, not after."
The ruling cited Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife concerns that the resort expansion area provides habitat for elk, moose and rare lynx and wolverines.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com
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