In the summer of 2001, Meadows North, LCC, an affiliate of Mt. Hood Meadows, purchased the lease for the 1400 acre Cooper Spur Ski Area. This small family oriented ski area is located on land in the Mt. Hood National Forest on the northeast slope of Mt. Hood. In addition, Meadows purchased the nearby Inn at Cooper Spur and 155 acres of surrounding private land adjacent to the Mt. Hood National Forest.
Hood River County Commissioners formally approved a trade of forest lands between Meadows North and Hood River County in March, 2002. In the trade Meadows received about 620 acres of county land adjacent to the Inn at Cooper Spur, and thus enlarged it’s ownership of private land near the Cooper Spur Ski Area to nearly 800 acres. The county received about 785 acres of forest land, and paid Meadows North over $1 million for the difference in value of the properties. In various meetings with local homeowner associations and outdoor groups before the approval of the land trade, the general manager of Meadows indicated that their future plans included developing a destination resort, as well as constructing new facilities, lifts, and ski runs at the Cooper Spur Ski Area.
Friends of Mount Hood (FOMH) voiced opposition to any major development of private land near the Mt. Hood National Forest and to the expansion of the Cooper Spur Ski Area. We supported the lawsuit brought by the Hood River Valley Residents Committee to challenge the land trade between Meadows North and Hood River County. One of the issues raised in the litigation is that the Hood River County Commission never made a finding that the land exchange between Hood River County and Meadows North was actually for equal value and in the public interest. In otherwords, the Commission did not take into consideration the possibility of a destination resort being developed on the county land traded to Meadows North as forest land. Additional information on the lawsuit can be found on the website of Crag Law Center.
In order to coordinate efforts to oppose major development on the northeast slopes of Mt. Hood, Friends of Mount Hood along with other environmental and citizen groups formed the Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition (CSWF). At a series of public hearings held in early 2003 by the Hood River County Planning Commission, many members of groups associated with CSWF testified in opposition to the proposal by Mt. Hood Meadows to construct a destination resort in the vicinity of the Inn at Cooper Spur.
The Coalition has also advocated for an expansion of the existing Mt. Hood Wilderness on the north and northeast slopes of the mountain. For more information on the Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coaliton, visit the website www.cooperspur.org.
Bordering the Mt. Hood Wilderness, the national forest lands on the northeast slope of Mt. Hood provide a pristine mountain environment for various alpine activites such as camping at Forest Service campgrounds, fishing in mountain streams, hiking the Timberline or Tilly Jane trails, snowshoeing, and Nordic or backcountry skiing. Neither a destination resort nor an enlarged ski area would be compatible with these historic outdoor recreational uses on the northeast slope. Furthermore, most of the private land now owned by Meadows North is within the watershed of the Crystal Springs Water District, a source of water for many residents of Hood River County.
Congress Passes The Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act
On March 25, 2009, Congress passed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. This monumental legislation was a compilation of various conservation bills affecting areas throughout the United States. The legislation included the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act that designates wilderness protection to more than 127,000 new acres in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Also, an additional 80 miles of free flowing stretches of nine rivers near Mt. Hood have been classified as wild and scenic.
The many people who advocated for more wilderness in the Cooper Spur area will be pleased to know that the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness incorporates the Elk Cove/Mazama region on the northern boundary of the existing Mt. Hood Wilderness, and the Tilly Jane region on the northeast boundary.
Information and maps of the new wilderness additions in the Lewis and Clark Mt. Hood Wilderness Act can be found at the website of the enviromental organization Oregon Wild.
The following links provide additional information on issues relevant to the northeast slope of Mt. Hood: