METHOW VALLEY, Wash. - Only by sticking determinedly to their vision of this valley for 20 years did environmentalists force a compromise from all-out development.
the Aspen Ski Corp. and the Forest Service wanted to develop a
downhill ski resort here in 1974, the Methow Valley Citizens'
Council and the Friends of the Methow organized opposition so
effectively that eventually the corporation dropped the Methow from
its sights and instead developed Whistler Ski Resort in British
But other developers, with the Forest
Service still going along, kept pressure on this
The biggest threat came in 1984, when the
Forest Service approved the Early Winters resort, which would have
drawn as many as 8,200 downhill skiers a day. The proposal called
for 4,000 condos on 1,200 privately owned acres that were an
amalgamation of former hard-scrabble
Snowmaking and the increased population
would have consumed more than 3.6 billion gallons of water a year
in a county that sits in the rain shadow of the Cascades and
receives less than 12 inches of precipitation a year. The
environmental impact statement for Early Winters spilled the battle
The citizens' council sued, charging
that the environmental review of Early Winters was flawed for,
among other things, failing to adequately consider alternative
sites, air-quality deterioration in the Pasayten Wilderness and
impacts on migrating mule deer.
environmentalists lost in U.S. District Court, but won substantial
victories on appeals that wound up in the U.S. Supreme Court. The
Forest Service had to fork out some $240,000 in legal fees and
revamp the impact statement.
The spotted owl
flitted into the picture, and the possibility that the North
Cascades could be home to the endangered bird delayed resort
development again. In 1992 a partnership went broke, and through
foreclosure, the core parcel of private property was acquired by
R.D. Merrill Co., which saw a way to satisfy its bottom line
without downhill skiing.