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RENO, Nev. - U.S. Forest Service officials say they plan to authorize a special use permit to allow the Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe resort near Reno to expand — a move that has drawn the concern of the Sierra Club.
The agency's proposal would allow the resort to use 112 acres of Forest Service lands for a new chairlift and 11 new ski runs.
Plans call for construction of a skier bridge across the Mount Rose Highway to connect the current ski area on the south side of the highway to the proposed new ski terrain on the north side of the highway.
The project would enhance the skiing experience at Mt. Rose by providing suitable terrain for beginning skiers and snowboarders, according to the Forest Service.
The agency is seeking public comment on the proposal before taking final action. It plans to hold public open houses on the project on June 18 at the Winters Creek Lodge near Reno and June 19 at the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest supervisor's office in Sparks.
David von Seggern, chair of the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the project would affect land with high natural and scenic value that the Forest Service was supposed to protect under a 1994 public buyout of 3,700 acres of private land on the slopes of Mount Rose.
The acquisition resulted from a decade-long citizen effort to block a proposed ski area and condominium development in the Galena Creek drainage, and succeeded with assistance from the American Land Conservancy and then-U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev.
"Since these lands were originally acquired to prevent a ski area development proposal, we are dismayed to learn of the current proposal to expand a ski area into the acquired lands," he wrote in a letter to Bill Dunkelberger, supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
Von Seggern said over a third of the 112 acres targeted for the expansion are in a Forest Service roadless area that was designated in 2001 to protect its wilderness character from development.
He urged the Forest Service to develop a management plan for the lands acquired in 1994 before considering the ski expansion proposal.
Forest Service officials said they plan to take formal action to limit any further commercial development on the lands the agency acquired in 1994.
Paul Senft, Mt. Rose ski area general manager, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
His separate plans to upgrade the resort's current area with a new mountaintop lodge and a 30,000-square-foot expansion of the existing lodge have won approval from Washoe County officials.