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SAM Magazine—Lutsen, Minn., Aug. 3, 2023—Lutsen Mountains, part of Midwest Family Ski Resorts, has submitted a letter to the USFS asking it to defer a decision on the resort’s proposed $60 million expansion onto 500 acres of the Superior National Forest.Lutsen Local Tribes retain recreational rights to the land under the 1854 Treaty, an agreement between the Chippewa and U.S. Government.  

Plans changed in May, when the USFS and officials from three Chippewa bands signed a first-of-its-kind Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide for co-stewardship of the land and ensure that input from the Tribes is incorporated into Forest Service decision-making. The MOU “will usher in a new era of government-to-government relations and respect,” said Lutsen, via press release.

“The Forest Service’s approach toward Tribal-retained rights has changed significantly since we began our process,” said Charlotte Skinner, CFO and chief of staff at Midwest Family Ski Resorts. “We welcome the shift to honor Tribal rights in our region and believe it is long overdue. While we wish the MOU had been in place from the start, our decision is to pull back our proposal and start fresh.”

The proposed expansion, in the works for nearly a decade, would more than double the resort’s downhill ski and snowboard capacity and provide additional parking and skier services buildings. In 2021, the Foret Service issued an environmental review of the expansion that received more than 500 comments. 

The project has been widely criticized by environmental groups, Ojibwe bands, backcountry skiers, and Superior Hiking Trail supporters, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press news. The Forest Service was originally expected to deliver its decision on the project this summer.

For now, the expansion remains on hold indefinitely. “We desire to ensure that a modified proposal would include a clear net benefit for the retained rights of the Chippewa Tribes,” said Skinner. “We have no timetable and understand that engagement with the Treaty parties will require considerable time. Our only goal is to take the time that is needed to find a solution that will benefit the Tribes, the community, and the public.”