Forest Service delays decision on proposed expansion of Lutsen Mountains
It will be at least another month turned on the calendar 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 was expected in late May, local Forest Service officials told WTIP in early April.
That decision, which will be based on an environmental impact statement (EIS), has now been pushed back, according to an update shared with WTIP May 24.
“Late-May was the original timeline, however, due to the number of substantial comments we received, we are still working through some aspects of the project and finalizing the EIS,” said Joanna Gilkeson, a spokesperson for Superior National Forest.
Gilkeson said the Forest Service hopes to have a decision in the near future, though the agency would not give a specific date or month for when a decision is likely.
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.
Tofte District Ranger Ellen Bogardus-Szymaniak told WTIP in April 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.
As of April 4, the Forest Service was about three-quarters of the way through the review process of the comments, she noted.
Jim Vick, operations and marketing director of Lutsen Mountains, told WTIP last November 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.
In other news related to the local ski hill, Lutsen Mountains ownership announced May 25 they were involved in the purchase of Big Snow Resort in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.