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Forest Service extends public comment period for ski hill expansion to December

The view of the existing Ski Hill area from the Lutsen Mountains gondola. File photo Rhonda Silence
The view of the existing Ski Hill area from the Lutsen Mountains gondola. File photo Rhonda Silence

The Forest Service is extending the public comment period for an additional 45 days for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) analyzing the proposal to expand Lutsen Mountains Ski Area.

This announcement extends the original comment period to Dec. 9.

The Lutsen Mountains Ski Area DEIS addresses the potential impacts of a proposed ski area expansion onto nearly 500 acres of land on Superior National Forest and provides a set of alternatives for implementation of this proposal.

The public comment period extension will allow additional time for the public to ask questions about this complex project and submit comments, according to the Forest Service.

Electronic comments can be submitted via email to: comments-eastern-superior@usda.gov

To support the public in further understanding the DEIS, the Superior National Forest plans to hold a second virtual open house Tuesday, Nov. 16. Details about the open house will be released soon, according to the Forest Service. An initial open house was held on Oct. 5 and a recording of this session will be available soon on the project website.

After the full 90-day comment period, the federal agency will revise the Draft EIS into a Final EIS based on public input and consultation with Minnesota Chippewa Tribes, according to the Forest Service.

The final EIS will be issued with the selection of an alternative and Forest Supervisor Connie Cummins’s decision about whether or not to grant the special use permit to allow the expansion.

Comments must be submitted in writing, electronically, or by U.S. mail, by Dec. 9.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service and officials from Superior National Forest hosted a virtual open house that could be one of the final steps toward a decision on whether or not to allow the Lutsen Mountains Ski Area to expand ski runs and operations onto nearly 500 acres of adjacent U.S. Forest Service lands.

The meeting lasted more than two hours, including a question and answer period at the end of the slideshow and presentation. Most of the concerns or questions from the public focused on the impact an expansion of the local ski hill would have on the environment. Topics addressed ranged from climate change to light pollution, for example. Other concerns have been expressed about housing for employees at the ski hill to the impact of more traffic on Highway 61. 

WTIP spoke Oct. 7 with Tofte District Ranger Ellen Bogardus-Szymaniak about where these publicly expressed questions and concerns fit into the decision making process for the forest supervisor. Ultimately, it is Cummins who will sign off on the document to approve or deny the special use permit from Lutsen Mountains that would allow the ski hill to expand.

During the update, which aired live on WTIP’s Daybreak program, the Tofte ranger said an abundance of feedback from the community would likely to lead to an extension of the public comment period for the environmental impact statement regarding the ski hill expansion.

WTIP is scheduled to speak again with the Tofte District Ranger during a live interview Oct. 22 at approximately 7:40 a.m. on the Daybreak program.