Letter at Length

Why won't supporters discuss the watershed?

With regard to the Oct. 6 guest opinion from Messrs. Lemhouse and Golden, why is it that the supporters of the Mount Ashland ski expansion are so reluctant to explain or even discuss how the proposed expansion will affect the Ashland watershed? Proponents of expansion are strangely silent on this issue, preferring instead to castigate opponents through editorial comment instead of discussing the objectives of the matter.

During the public comment and discussion phases of the council's vote to relinquish the special use permit, no one from the Mt Ashland Association or the Forest Service addressed the impact on our watershed. About a dozen proponents spoke during public comment with the general drift that they like to ski and that MAA (which cost the city $400,000 in legal fees) was a great organization. However, no proponent addressed the outcome or impact on the watershed. By contrast, more than 85 people spoke out against the expansion with watershed preservation/protection as their consistent point.

The MAA and the Forest Service to date steadfastly refuse to discuss this topic in open forum. They appear content to sit on outdated information already collected. As for the City Council, when Councilwoman Carol Voisin tried to introduce new, credible, scientific landslide risk information as a concern, Mayor John Stromberg and Councilman Russ Silbiger shut her down claiming her discussion was "irrelevant."

Lemhouse and Golden pretend there is some mythical middle ground between opponents and proponents of expansion where "most of us" reside. However, you either support clearcutting 70 acres of old-growth forest within our watershed and disrupting the terrain or you don't. There is no middle path. You can't "sort of" build a ski run. You clearcut trees and build support roads, period.

Why do supporters ignore or discourage review of new scientific data that shows clearly that the Middle Branch is precariously subject to landslides? What evidence do proponents provide that this landslide risk can be ignored? How is refusing to discuss this information fulfilling the authors' call to "balance our personal beliefs with a broader responsibility to strengthen our community?" I say the balance of that proposition speaks loudly to keep MAA out of the Middle Branch of the watershed. Some of us like to ski but all of us need a good, secure source of water.

Lemhouse and Golden also misconstrue the point of the boycott as something to "punish local businesses." Not so; it's a simple proposition — if you support those who push for watershed degradation with your money, then others may choose not to support you.

It's not some toxic evil pushed by "rabid fundamentalists with no concern for anyone or anything." It's a logical next step, given the bureaucratic processes in place.

The City Council won't take a stand (or can't, given the lease restrictions that MAA is so vigorous to defend). The Forest Service is pursuing its processes based on outdated environmental and economic data. The MAA refuses to consider other noncontroversial options for expansion. Short of civil disobedience and lawsuits, a boycott is the right thing to do at this time.

Brian Comnes


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