Asit Rathod knows Mount Hood.
Senator Ron Wyden has introduced a bill to force the Forest Service into action on the long-delayed Mt. Hood Land Exchange.
Wyden’s Mount Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act, co-sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley, would amend the 2009 law calling for a property exchange between the Forest Service and Mt. Hood Meadows to create firmer deadlines for action.
The goal of the exchange is to trade about 770 acres of land around Cooper Spur that is owned by Meadows for 120 acres at Government Camp that is owned by the Forest Service. But bureaucracy and environmental disputes have slowed progress, and the properties under consideration still have not been assessed for value to ensure a fair trade, more than six years after the law passed.
The delay compelled Senator Wyden to blast the Forest Service as “way over the line” over the summer at a gathering at Timberline Lodge, and compelled the Hood River Valley Residents Committee to sue the Forest Service.
“There is a law on the books to complete this exchange, and the Forest Service has failed to meet its terms," said Hood River Valley orchardist Mike McCarthy after announcing the lawsuit. "We don’t enter litigation lightly but five years late is egregious. We cannot afford to sit idly by and let the Forest Service run this into the ground through inaction and abuse of their agency.”
“It has taken longer than anybody would have anticipated just to get to where we are now," Mt. Hood Meadows President Matthew Drake told Shred Hood in August. "The last two years have been just been completely bogged down. We’re just stopped. There’s nothing more we can do.”
Meadows and Drake have been particularly frustrated by wetland delineations that would make much of the Government Camp property off-limits to building, deflating the value of the land the resort would receive.
Meadows agreed to the deal because it allows them to develop something they have wanted for years: on-the-mountain lodging with shuttle buses transporting visitors from town to the slopes. The 6:1 ratio of property lost to property gained was offset by the services and amenities already available in Govy, with zoning that allows for residential development.
In an unusual twist, environmental groups have lined up to support the deal even as the resort fights the government over wetlands. That’s because the exchange preserves some magnificent hiking and backcountry skiing, creates new wilderness areas and protects the Crystal Springs source of drinking water.
Senator Wyden introduced the bill on September 22, and it is scheduled to be discussed today, October 8, by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining. The website govtrackus estimates the bill has an 8 percent chance of passing.
Here is a map showing the property that Meadows will receive in Govy — if the deal ever goes through: