Ski expansion lawsuits, boycotts will continue

Let's face it. No amount of evidence, concern or science will dissuade the Mt. Ashland Association from forging ahead with its ill-advised proposed expansion.

No amount of damage to the environment, no analysis that expansion will doom Mount Ashland to bankruptcy (on which it is already teetering), and no public outcry that the public's roadless land and the public's drinking water cannot be sacrificed. Neither will a lack of funds, lack of public accountability, lack of fundraising and a lack of money set aside to ensure that the public's interests are protected.

No, nothing has gotten in the way of the MAA — yet.

Not scientific evidence that expansion will forever alter hundreds of acres of habitat for the Pacific fisher, the northern spotted owl, the Englemann spruce and dozens of other species. Not evidence that our water supply would be imperiled. Not evidence that the most glorious part of the 10,000-acre McDonald Peak Roadless Area will be violated.

Not a half-dozen meetings, all initiated by the Sierra Club, with the Forest Service and MAA to try and work out a compromise. And not six attempts by the Forest Service and MAA to push this expansion through since 1991 — all of which have been defeated by the community.

Appeals, litigation, a court injunction, persuasion, offers of compromise, public uprising, hordes of people at City Council meetings opposing the expansion, a petition with more than 1,500 names of citizens who oppose the expansion — all have had no effect on the outdated and antiquated mission of the MAA, or the two-decade overzealousness of the Forest Service to implement this project.

So, what is left to those who want to protect the valuable Middle Branch? The law.

The Sierra Club is preparing to defend the injunction that remains in place protecting the Middle Branch from destruction. The Forest Service will have to go to court to try and get the injunction lifted. The Rogue Group and Oregon Wild will work to oppose the lifting of the injunction.

In addition, these groups plus the Center for Biological Diversity will soon file a second lawsuit against the Forest Service for its apparently willful disregard of important information. For example, the Forest Service had newer, more accurate technology to measure landslide hazards in the Middle Branch seven years ago, but chose to use the now outdated technology from the '80s when compiling the 2004 and 2007 environmental reports. The newer technology shows that the FS has underestimated the landslide hazard by more than 80 percent.

Climate change has been inadequately analyzed. The decrease in skier visits, the change in laws protecting roadless and riparian areas, the ski area's more precarious finances, etc., etc., all have not been analyzed.

Money talks. That's what the powerful people in this town understand and that is where the economic boycott will be felt. Economic boycotts get the attention of corporations and businesses who tend to ignore the public and only understand money. This would include the MAA and its biggest supporters.

Economic boycotts have been used to oppose nuclear weapons, to oppose apartheid in South Africa, to protect old-growth forests and to oppose hormone-laced milk and pesticide-laden grapes. They have been used to deter racial discrimination and discrimination against gays and lesbians. They have been used by Mahatma Gandhi and also by Martin Luther King Jr., who urged a boycott of Alabama buses in the '60s. American colonists initiated several economic boycotts of the English Crown. According to an author on the subject, "Economic boycotts have a long and illustrious history... ."

I urge you all to have your voice heard — in whatever way you choose. Continue to speak out about this travesty and continue working to protect the Middle Branch.

The Sierra Club is working hard to win on the legal issues and we urge you to join us as we work hard to get the attention of those who have, to date, ignored us all.

The people will be heard.

Tom Dimitre is chairman of the Rogue Group Sierra Club.

Share This Story