Forest Service again pushes back timeline for decision on proposed expansion of Lutsen Mountains
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Outdoor News

Forest Service again pushes back timeline for decision on proposed expansion of Lutsen Mountains

It will be at least several more months before the public finds out what choice the U.S. Forest Service will make regarding a proposed expansion of Lutsen Mountains, a ski resort on Minnesota’s North Shore.

A decision on the request is now expected by June or July, according to officials from the Forest Service. This is the latest in multiple delays concerning the timeline of the decision regarding Lutsen Mountains. During an interview with WTIP last November, Forest Service personnel said the decision would likely happen in February. As the middle of the month nears, officials with the federal agency confirmed with WTIP that the soonest a decision will be made will be this summer.

Superior National Forest Supervisor Tom Hall will make the decision regarding the proposed expansion of the North Shore ski hill. That decision, which will be based on an environmental impact statement (EIS), was widely expected last year. The timeline was pushed back primarily due to the abundance of public comments the Forest Service received about the project.

Tofte District Ranger Ellen Bogardus-Szymaniak told WTIP last year the EIS review is taking longer than expected, or is typical, due to the volume of comments that came in about the proposed expansion. More than 600 comments in the form of handwritten letters or emails were submitted, including many substantive comments, according to the Tofte Ranger.

Lutsen Mountains is seeking a special use permit to “construct recreational ski trails and support infrastructure” on approximately 500 acres of federal land within the 1854 Ceded Territory on Superior National Forest. Forest Service officials have maintained that consultation and input from the Grand Portage, Fond du Lac, and Bois Forte Chippewa Bands remains paramount in terms of a decision regarding the proposed expansion. Tribal officials have spoken publicly and sent letters to local, state and federal officials expressing their concerns over the proposed expansion of the ski resort. If approved, the plan could nearly double the skiable terrain at Lutsen Mountains.

Jim Vick, operations and marketing director of Lutsen Mountains, told WTIP in late 2021 that ski hill officials started working on a development plan in 2014. The plan was presented to the U.S. Forest Service in 2017, which researched the proposal and initiated a scoping period, gathering public feedback on what should be considered before a special use permit would ever be granted. The Lutsen Mountains request and public comments were reviewed and compiled into the draft environmental impact statement (EIS), which was available for public comment until last December.

Hall took over as the supervisor of Superior National Forest last September. He replaced Connie Cummins, who retired in July 2022. Hall told WTIP Nov. 9 that a decision regarding the proposed expansion of Lutsen Mountains has been a top priority from the time he arrived to northeastern Minnesota.

“We’ve been working in the time that I’ve been here as the forest supervisor, for me to understand both what the issues are and how I want to move forward on that,” Hall said.