UPDATED 2:20 p.m. :
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) _ The latest plan to establish a Bitterroot Valley resort partly on federal land has advanced a notch in the U.S. Forest Service's screening. The agency says it needs additional information to evaluate the project further.
Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor David Bull told developers of Bitterroot Resort that their proposal cleared the agency's initial screening, and the Forest Service now needs information about their finances and technical expertise. If the project passes the second-tier screening and the Forest Service accepts the developers' application for special use of national forest land, then an environmental analysis will be conducted and still more information will be required, Bull said in a letter.
Last summer, the Forest Service rejected the application for a special-use permit, citing concerns about the resort's effects on lynx, winter range for elk and alpine scenery. Bitterroot Resort then submitted a revised plan and said it was intended to address those concerns.
The resort would use Forest Service land for alpine skiing accessible by snowcoach, for Nordic skiing and for mountain bicycling. Lodging and dining would be on private ranchland next to U.S. 93.
Resort Chief Operating Officer Jim Gill said Wednesday that the Forest Service's request for information likely will be fulfilled within weeks.
"Now that we've got further direction from them, we'll proceed as quickly as we can and get them a good answer," Gill said.
In the latest proposal submitted to the Forest Service, resort developers changed plans for skiing so it would be away from a lynx analysis area and winter range used by big game. The proposal for tree thinning to accommodate skiers was changed in response to the concern about the scenery.
Tom Maclay, whose family owns ranchland that would be part of Bitterroot Resort, announced development plans several years ago. The proposal has been through several revisions in efforts to obtain Forest Service approval.