Ski Area Summer-Use Bill Passes the House

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SAM Magazine-Washington, D.C., Oct. 4, 2011-A measure that would explicitly allow and encourage a wide range of summer activities on Forest Service land leased by winter resorts passed the House this week.

The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011 (H.R.765) updates the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 to outline a variety of uses the U.S. Forest Service can authorize. Some of these, such as mountain biking, have already been approved despite a lack of specific guidance about these activities in the 1986 law. The Forest Service has already begun writing rules to implement the new act in anticipation of its passage.

The 2011 act would give regional foresters guidelines that would permit a range of activities that aren't addressed by current Forest Service rules, including mountain roller coasters, disc golf, zip lines and ropes courses.

The summer-use bill was originally introduced in the House by current Colorado Senator Mark Udall a few years ago. A similar bill is also being considered in the Senate; it is sponsored by Udall and a host of mountain-state Senators, both Democrats and Republicans.

"My bill would help the mountain communities create jobs and boost their economies while creating more recreational opportunities for Coloradans to visit the mountains," Udall said. "It's time for the Senate to follow the House's lead and pass my bill on the floor."

Conservation groups have expressed concern that the measure could spur development of attractions that aren't related to the natural resource-based mission of the Forest Service. However, the bill specifically prohibits tennis courts, water slides and water parks, swimming pools, golf courses, and amusement parks on Forest Service land subject to a ski area permit.