Asit Rathod knows Mount Hood.
A Mt. Hood Land Exchange bill authored by U.S. Representative Greg Walden gained unanimous approval from the House Natural Resources Committee on March 16, a big step toward closing a deal that has been stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire for years.
Walden, a Republican from Hood River, co-sponsored the Mount Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act (H.R. 3826) with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) in a bipartisan move that reflects broad community support for the exchange. A 2009 law authorized the land exchange to allow Mt. Hood Meadows to develop 120 acres of federal land in Government Camp in exchange for 770 acres of land currently owned by Meadows around Cooper Spur.
The legislation “clearly stated that the Forest Service should complete the land exchange within 16 months,” Walden stated. “Now, 85 months later, the agency still has not complied with the law. In fact, they have said that they made need another year or two even under this new plan to complete the transfer. That’s simply unacceptable.”
The bill earned wide support from the Oregon environmental community and Hood River Valley citizens because it would create new wilderness areas and protect the Crystal Springs source of drinking water. Meadows supported it because it would allow them to build on-the-mountain lodging in Government Camp. The deal has been in the works since 2003 but remains tangled in Forest Service bureaucracy.
An attempted Senate Bill by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, a formal mediation process between Meadows and the Forest Service and a lawsuit by Hood River Valley citizens all have failed to force action on the issue. The properties still has yet to be appraised, and a complicated NEPA process lies ahead.
“Our new bill would force the Forest Service to complete its work in a timely manner,” said Walden. “I’m pleased that the House Natural Resources Committee has unanimously approved this bill, and hope that the full House will pass it soon.”
As you can see from the map above, the exchange would add substantially to the size of Government Camp and would eventually create more on-the-mountain lodging options for skiers and snowboarders, connected to Meadows by shuttle buses.