We always like to start with a heartfelt THANK YOU! for your many years of partnership. This effort by the Friends could not have gone on for three decades without the financial support of donors like you.
TIMBERLINE. This year, the books were finally closed on the 2011 Timberline Mt. Bike Park Campaign. After two years of administrative appeals, we joined with three like-minded groups to challenge the US Forest Service (USFS) decision to allow a bike park business in sensitive watersheds below Timberline Lodge. We were represented by the dedicated attorneys of Crag Law Center, and although our efforts delayed the project almost seven years, and led to many changes and improvements, the federal court ultimately ruled in favor of the USFS. In 2019, the court awarded court costs of about $500 to RLK & Co. (Timberline), and over $7,000 to the federal government.
Courts have long recognized the importance of nonprofits like FOMH, and have often waived federal awards to prevent a “chilling effect.” The court in our case did not believe there would be a chilling effect since, as she stated, “Plaintiffs have brought and continue to bring similar lawsuit despite similar costs being awarded in the past.” While this may apply to some of our past partners, this is the first time costs have been awarded against us. Anything you can contribute to help reduce the impact of that award would be greatly appreciated.
At the very beginning of our campaign the USFS discovered that they had not been properly monitoring the land at Timberline. For many years, since the construction of the newer ski lifts, there had been a serious problem of continuous erosion and water pollution. There were several contributing factors, but the most egregious was silt feeding into the headwater streams from the unimproved road network used to service the lifts.
Ultimately, the lawsuit came down to differing expert opinions on the likely outcomes of the hydrology, soil, and biological impacts. The USFS and Timberline experts predicted there would be no significant impact, whereas ours predicted there would be. When an argument comes down to a dispute between experts, the courts will typically rule in favor of the government – which is what happened here.
The bike business is a seasonal operation, and we will continue monitoring to find out which prediction turns out to be correct. Due to our efforts extra protections were added for sensitive species, and, in addition to the large restoration project to correct the old damage, the USFS added improvements to the park construction and monitoring standards. Only time will tell if the designs employed will mitigate the totality of disturbance being done by the bike business.
LAND TRADE AND SOUTH SIDE DEVELOPMENT. When it comes to the future of Mount Hood we have always held the position that development should be focused at Government Camp. And, the forest that remains between the village and Timberline Lodge has to be preserved. The Land Trade will hopefully help that vision come to pass by moving the proposed Mt. Hood Meadows north side development to Government Camp. The revised appraisal is now under USFS review so we hope to see movement in the new year.
Recent developments also indicate that RLK & Co. may be starting to think as we do on this issue. In 2018, Timberline purchased the Summit Ski Area at Government Camp. They are proposing a major development plan there which is causing them to re-think their other plans, some which directly impact the forest that needs to be protected. Timberline withdrew their proposal to build five small cabins for overnight lodging at Phlox Point. And, they state they will re-prioritize the idea of a lodge and parking at Molly’s Portal based on the development plans for Summit.
Timberline released a series of important planning documents in 2018. To learn what they are thinking go to: timberlinelodge.com/master-plan. There you will find the 2019 Timberline Master Plan, the new Summit Ski Area Master Plan, and a report on public outreach efforts. There has been much talk, but little action, about comprehensive planning on the south side. There are indications that Timberline is serious about taking on this responsibility. We find this encouraging if done with meaningful stakeholder input.
MT. HOOD MEADOWS. For a number of years FOMH has been meeting with MHM to discuss their development plans. We don’t always agree with their proposals, but we are encouraged by Meadows’ willingness to be transparent and to engage in thoughtful discussions on the issues. This summer they started construction on a new lodge connected to South Lodge. Sahale Lodge will open December of 2020. Meadows is also planning a network of hiking trails and other low impact activities to increase their summer business.
For over three decades FOMH has been fighting with one purpose: Protecting the alpine meadows, wetlands, streams, wildlife, and forested slopes of Mount Hood. We hope that you will continue partnering with us in this grand effort! Due to space constraints there are other topics we could not include so please go to our web site for more information: friendsofmounthood.org
FOMH has an all volunteer board of directors. There is no paid staff, rent, or overhead. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.