By Michael Howell
Tom Maclay has presented another application to construct a downhill ski facility on Forest Service land at the north end of the valley. Maclay’s two previous applications on behalf of the Bitterroot Resort failed to pass the Forest Service’s screening process for Special Use Permits. Those applications included using his 3,000-acre ranch as a destination resort at the base of the ski lifts that would ascend to Lolo Peak. The current application for a Special Use Permit is being made by Maclay on behalf Public Resort Benefits, LLC.
Stevensville District Ranger Dan Ritter said that the new proposal does not include any private land and is located only on Bitterroot and Lolo National Forest land above the ranch which is now owned by Met Life Agricultural Investments following its foreclosure on the property in 2009.
Ritter said that he could not discuss any details of the application since Maclay has asked that the application be kept confidential to protect “proprietary” information that was included in the submission.
The Bitterroot Star, along with other news organizations and some private organizations according to Ritter, has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain copies of the application. Ritter said responding to those requests would probably take a few weeks. He said it involves writing the applicant and requesting what information they believe is “proprietary.” When that response is received the agency then makes a determination as to whether the information is “proprietary” in their estimation.
Maclay’s previous application did not pass the initial screening process which involves determining if it is congruent with Forest Plans. In both cases it was determined that the applications did not comply with Forest Plans that prohibit downhill ski development in the Lolo Peak area.
If it is determined that the new proposal does comply with Forest Plans, the second part of the screening process would consider if the project is technically and economically feasible.