Spokane Tribe asks Inslee to seek halt to ski area expansion

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee was asked Wednesday to help stop the proposed expansion of the Mt. Spokane ski area located within the largest state park in Washington.

The Spokane Tribe and various environmental groups oppose the logging of an old-growth forest that is required to expand the ski area within Mt. Spokane State Park.

Members of the Spokane Tribe have used the forest for centuries and consider it sacred to their culture.

"The Spokane Tribe of Indians, a sovereign nation, has a strong historical and cultural connection to this area and mountain," said David Browneagle, vice chairman of the tribe

The Washington State Parks Commission decided in late 2014 to allow the expansion to go forward. The commission reclassified the alpine forest on the west side of the mountain for high intensity recreational use.

The Spokane Tribe, along with The Lands Council, Spokane Mountaineers and Spokane Audubon, want Inslee to ask the Parks Commission to reconsider its decision.

"The governor has made it his mission to reduce global warming," said John Roskelley, a mountaineer and former Spokane County commissioner.

"A necessary aspect of reducing global warming is to also value the importance of intact old growth forests to store carbon," Roskelley said.

Inslee's office did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the request.

Brad McQuarrie, general manager of the ski area, said this was another attempt to delay a long-sought expansion.

"State Parks held many public meetings, and took public and agency comments at every turn," McQuarrie said. "Everyone was heard."

Last week, conservation groups also appealed a recent Superior Court decision to allow the project to proceed.

Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park is located about 30 miles north of Spokane, near the Idaho border. It is the closest ski area to the state's second-largest city, and the peak looms over the Spokane region.

Ski area officials have said the expansion will help with overcrowding. The 279-acre expansion would add seven additional trails and a new chairlift.

"The final plan balances recreation and environmental stewardship, while also benefiting the region socially, recreationally and economically," McQuarrie said.

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