The forested hump of Pelican Butte stands like an island in Oregon's Cascade Mountains. Bounded by a wilderness area, a national park (Crater Lake), and a national wildlife refuge, the butte is known for its stands of old-growth Shasta red fir, nesting spotted owls and wintering bald eagles.
area proposal from Jeld Wen Inc., a development company that owns a
nearby golf resort, could disrupt the area's serenity. The company
says it wants to mix old-fashioned tourist attraction with modern
ecological sensitivity on the 8,036-foot mountain. It would do that
by limiting skiing to the top of the butte. A gondola would ferry
skiers up and over old-growth forest on the bottom to almost 700
acres of ski runs at the top of the mountain. Skiers would stay at
the company's Running Y Ranch, about 25 miles away, sparing the
mountain the usual rash of condominiums.
business boosters have tried at least three times to rally support
for a ski area on Pelican Butte. This time, the developer seems
more likely to succeed. "We're jazzed," says Klamath County Chamber
of Commerce Executive Director Brian Baxter. "We're trying
desperately not to become a burned-out industrial town."
But the plan is meeting resistance from
conservationists who say it would violate the Northwest Forest Plan
brokered by the Clinton administration in 1993. Under that plan,
much of Pelican Butte is designated as an "Ancient Forest Reserve,"
and protected from timber cutting.
Natural Resources Council, which recently won an appeal of four
timber sales in the area, would like to see Pelican Butte protected
as wilderness. "These roadless areas are basically the ecological
stronghold in the West," says Ken Rait, the group's conservation
director. "They're our bank for future wilderness area
Kurt Schmidt, a planner for Jeld
Wen Inc., insists the ski area won't harm the mountain's wild
values. "We're the first to admit that we'll have some impact to
those areas," says Schmidt, "but this project is a little
A draft Environmental Impact
Statement on the ski area is due out in March. For information,
call the Winema National Forest at 541/883-6714.
* Shea Andersen