Santa Fe residents win ski area fight

  The Big Tesuque, a mountain basin above Santa Fe, N.M., may yet be saved from ski area development.

Expansion of the Santa Fe Ski Area into the basin had seemed like a sure bet. Despite vocal opposition from Santa Fe locals, Santa Fe Forest Supervisor Al Defler approved the plan last December (HCN, 2/19/96). But after hearing an appeal this month, Regional Forester Charles Cartwright ordered Defler to reconsider his ruling based on the area's religious significance to nearby Indian pueblos.

"The Abruzzos (the family who owns the ski area) are in shock," says Victor Martinez, an opponent of the ski expansion. "And the community of Santa Fe is really happy today."

It's a rare move for an agency that typically approves ski expansions. "I'm a little bewildered," says Defler. "But now we've gotten over that and we're going to reanalyze it."

Southwestern Regional Forester Charles Cartwright directed Defler to do two things: reconsider the expansion in light of the area's importance to Native Americans, and ensure that the ski area has ample water rights to meet any future development. Although Defler could technically reissue his earlier ruling, he probably won't approve an expansion that includes the Big Tesuque; if opponents appeal Defler's decision a second time, the regional office will have the final word.

* Elizabeth Manning

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