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Know the West

Ski the Butte?

  Since the 1960s, some locals in Klamath Falls, Ore., have eyed Pelican Butte and dreamed of outfitting its snowy, timbered slopes with chairlifts and challenging ski runs. Past attempts fell flat when financiers ran out of money. Now, a Klamath Falls-based company with deep pockets is leading the effort to build a ski resort in the Winema National Forest. Jeld-Wen, a privately owned wood products manufacturer and developer, has plans to make the 8,000-foot mountain northwest of Klamath Falls a destination resort capable of hosting 4,800 skiers at a time. Critics say a ski area would destroy roadless old-growth forests - valuable nesting habitat for northern spotted owls and bald eagles - that were included in the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan. "They set it aside, or we thought they did, to protect old growth," says Ralph Opp, a retired wildlife biologist.

The preferred alternative of the Forest Service's draft environmental impact statement calls for nine chairlifts, a gondola and lodges. Comments on the draft will be accepted through Feb. 26. The 800-page Pelican Butte Draft Environmental Impact Statement and a 90-page summary are available on the Web at www.fs.fed.us/r6/winema/fpelbutte.htm or by contacting Forest Supervisor Bob Castaneda, Winema National Forest, 2819 Dahlia St., Klamath Falls, OR 97601 (541/883-6714).

* Dustin Solberg