The Montana Ski Area Association is asking the U.S. Forest Service for more authority to remove dead trees from their slopes. There are several dead trees strewn about several areas, posing dangers to skiers and snowboarders. Currently, the Forest Service is the only association that has authority to remove these beetle-killed trees.
“We lease the place from the Forest Service and we think it’s their problem,” said George Willett, owner of Showdown Ski Area, southeast of Great Falls. “They should handle it.”
Governor Brian Schweitzer explains what the ski areas are asking for: “They would like the authority to do some cutback logging to reduce some dead and dying timber,” he told The Montana Standard earlier this week. “There has to be a way to work with these ski areas to do the right thing.”
Rose Davis is the Forest Service spokeswoman, and she claims the trees are owned by the public. “As the taxpayer owns that tree, if somebody’s going to cut it then they need to pay the taxpayer,” she said. “If there’s just a few here and there, they can be dropped as hazard trees, but if there are a lot of trees, there could be value to those trees for a mill, and they have to be accessed. We want to work together with [the ski areas] on a solution so that they can continue to operate and we can do the right thing by the taxpayer, the land and the laws and regulations under which we operate,” she said.