Clash with Mt. A. averted
The Ashland City Council will not be asking the Mt. Ashland Association to hold off on logging until a lawsuit over the Mt. Ashland Ski and Snowboard Resort expansion is settled.
On Tuesday night, a council majority voted against adopting a resolution brought forward by a group of residents that would have asked the association and the U.S. Forest Service not to proceed with logging, construction or ski run development until the lawsuit is resolved in district and appellate courts.
The Forest Service approved the expansion, but the Sierra Club, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Headwaters and environmental activist Eric Navickas sued in Jackson County Circuit Court to stop the project. They likely will appeal to the Ninth District Circuit Court if the lawsuit is not successful.
Even though a council majority voted not to ask the Mt. Ashland Association to postpone logging, several councilors said they think it would be unwise for the association to log before the lawsuit is resolved.
"I don't think it's a good PR move or a fiscal move to move ahead while this is in the courts," said Councilor Kate Jackson, who voted against the resolution with Councilors David Chapman, Alex Amarotico and Russ Silbiger.
Chapman said he believes that if the Mt. Ashland Association took the opportunity to begin logging before the lawsuit was resolved, "civil war" would break out in Ashland. But, rather than passing the resolution, he said city officials should sit down with association officials for talks.
Councilor Alice Hardesty, who voted for the resolution with Councilor Cate Hartzell, said the association might begin logging soon.
"I feel like we don't have a lot of time," Hardesty said. "We should consider this could happen very quickly." In trying to convince the council to adopt the resolution, Lesley Adams, outreach coordinator for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, pointed to the example of her organization's lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management.
The center had argued the BLM did not adequately consider the cumulative impacts of four separate timber sales. The appeals court eventually sided with the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, but not until the majority of the timber sale acreage had been logged, she said.
Adams asked what would happen if a similar situation played out and the ski expansion halted but not before dozens of acres of clearcuts were left at the top of the city's municipal watershed.
Mt. Ashland Association Board of Directors president Bill Little said continuing delays of the expansion project will only cost the nonprofit ski area money.
"Every year that we delay this project costs us millions in inflationary costs," he said.
Fellow board member Douglas McGeary, an attorney, said the city would be breaching its lease agreement with the Mt. Ashland Association by interfering on the issue.
The City of Ashland holds the Special Use Permit for the ski area.
McGeary also said the plaintiffs in the case will likely ask a judge to grant an injunction to stop any logging and construction as the lawsuit is moving through the courts. A resolution from the city would be taken seriously by the court, he said.