Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Baldy petition raises master plan concerns

Several mountain management changes questioned

Express Staff Writer

Tree runs on Bald Mountain can provide some of the ski area?s best skiing. One local resident has drafted a petition in the hope of making tree runs safer and more accessible. Photo by Willy Cook

The Bald Mountain Master Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement has raised a few eyebrows among some longtime skiers on Sun Valley Resort's signature skiing hill.

A Warm Springs resident has drawn up a petition that has been signed by more than 50 people in the first three days. The petition circulated by Nat Young is stated as being on behalf of "the riders of Bald Mountain," and seeks to "address the problems as we see them with managing our mountain."

Young and supporters "believe the most pressing problem for the above-average rider on Baldy is the huge amount of deadwood left lying in the tree runs."

Other concerns raised in the petition include watershed issues posed by additional snowmaking, the spread of mistletoe and pine bark beetles, the proposed new ski runs on Guyer Ridge and Seattle Ridge, and the planned gondola from River Run Plaza to Roundhouse restaurant.

"All four of the 'bullet points' are addressed in the DEIS," said Joe Miczulski, leader of the Sawtooth National Forest team working on the DEIS. As far as the deadwood in the tree runs, "we haven't had people calling us or telling us that this is their paramount concern on Baldy. The strategic removal of trees and deadwood is something we are open to and willing to hear any ideas Sun Valley Co. may have."

"We will let it (the petition) come in and we will consider it along with all other comments collected during the public comment period," Miczulski said.

In an e-mail to the Idaho Mountain Express, Young concedes that although "most riders of the mountain I have talked to cannot see any direct benefit to us with the proposed gondola ... we understand Sun Valley Co.'s desire to utilize Roundhouse (restaurant), this is just a mater of compromise."

Young also questions the need for Sun Valley Co. to "create another beginner area on Seattle Ridge when we have the perfect situation with Dollar (Mountain) ... We all came here because Baldy is the finest, steepest mountain in the world, bar none."

Although he has heard from some residents that his petition is against development, Young said "this was certainly not my sentiment. I just see development for what it is, a fact of life."

According to the petition, several of its issues go back to the amount of dead wood in the tree runs.

For example, the petition states that "the new runs proposed from International to Guyer Ridge and on Seattle Ridge are a waste of energy. These areas are in a perfect natural state and should simply be cleaned up."

Young suggests Sun Valley Co. keep its "transient staff" on for an additional few months following the ski season to alleviate excess deadwood in the tree runs.

"A lot of work can be done by gangs of three or four and an experienced forester cutting up timber into manageable lengths," Young said. The wood can then be "put through a wood chipper and placed back on the floor (of the forest) ... The stumps can be ground down to nothing by professionals very quickly as they are soft wood."

Young goes on to suggest that the larger logs can be used for firewood at the lodges.

"I know many people would volunteer to help, if allowed," Young said.

Ron Thaemert, University of Idaho Blaine County Extension Educator, sees no problem with placing wood chips from dead trees across the forest floor.

"The wood chipping process does not take anything out of the wood—if anything, the smaller pieces break down faster," Thaemert said. "I can't think of a reason adding humus back into the soil would be a problem."

The financial viability of clearing the mountain of deadwood is another question, one that spokesmen for Sun Valley Co. were unavailable to comment on at the time of publication.

Anyone interested in learning more about Young's petition, copies are at Paul Kenny's Ski and Sport, Apple's Bar and Grill, Board Bin and Rickshaw, all in Ketchum.

The proposed Bald Mountain Master Plan is designed to be the guiding document for managing development on the ski mountain for approximately the next 10 years. The U.S. Forest Service is accepting comments on the plan until April 9.


Baldy Master Plan

- Copies of the proposed Bald Mountain Master Plan are available in a number of formats. Hard copies may be reviewed at Forest Service offices in Ketchum and Twin Falls or at the BLM's Shoshone Field Office in Shoshone, as well as at all Wood River Valley libraries.

- Written, electronic or faxed comments are requested. Specific information on how and where to submit comments in contained in the draft environmental document.

- Further information can be obtained by contacting Ketchum Ranger District Winter Sports Manager Joe Miczulski at (208) 622-5371 or BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner John Kurtz at (208) 732-7296.

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