US Forest Service rejects expansion plans of premier Midwest ski area Lutsen Mountains
Aug 25, 2023, 10:42 AM
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service said Friday it has rejected the expansion plans of Lutsen Mountains, one of the premier skiing destinations in the Midwest.
Lutsen Mountains was hoping to expand onto 495 acres (193 hectares) of public land in the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota so it could add more runs, lifts and other facilities and essentially double its skiable terrain in the Sawtooth Mountains along the north shore of Lake Superior. It’s one of the largest ski areas in the Midwest, with a vertical rise of 1,088 feet (326 meters) and 95 runs.
In rejecting the permit application, the Forest Service cited impacts on tribal resources such as sugar maple stands, negative effects for users of the Superior Hiking Trail and backcountry skiers, and other impacts to the environment.
The company has until Oct. 10 to file objections. It asked the Forest Service last month to defer a decision indefinitely while it consulted with three Ojibwe tribes that hold treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather in the area. The resort signed a memorandum of understanding with them in May, and asked the Forest Service to give it time to modify its proposal and reach a solution that would benefit the tribes.
The company promoted the additional skiing opportunities and economic benefits that the project would bring to the area, including more tourism and jobs. But Thomas Hall, supervisor of the Superior National Forest, concluded that negative impacts would outweigh the benefits.
The three tribes — the Bois Forte, Fond du Lac and Grand Portage bands — said in a statement that they supported the Forest Service decision, saying the project would have destroyed natural resources that the tribes had relied on for centuries.
They said the expansion would “irreversibly impact this unique area that has been historically important to the Bands and will continue to be important culturally, spiritually and as a subsistence resource for future generations.”