Photo Credit: Joe Herron
August 25, 2023
After 7 years of advocacy and engagement by Winter Wildlands Alliance, Superior Highland Backcountry, and many others, the Superior National Forest in Minnesota announced that it would be denying Lutsen Mountains Resort’s proposal to expand its commercial operations onto the Superior National Forest.
The public lands on Moose Mountain—home to the best backcountry skiing in Minnesota—will remain wild.
What are the details?
In his decision to deny the proposed expansion, Superior Forest Supervisor Tom Hall recognized that the development would displace backcountry skiers from one of the most prime and accessible backcountry ski areas on the North Shore of Lake Superior and negatively impact the long-established Superior Hiking Trail.
He also cited significant concerns from and impacts to local Tribes who would have lost opportunities for hunting, fishing, and gathering native plants. The expansion would have also further eroded tribal access to ceded territory.
Significant effects on a variety of natural resources including white cedar and sugar maple forests, hydrology, and water quality were additional reasons the Forest Service chose to deny the ski resort expansion.
How did this all start?
We, and the rest of the public, first became aware of Lutsen Mountains’ proposed expansion in 2016 when the resort hosted an open house to pitch their proposal. Since then, local backcountry skiers organized into our first Midwestern grassroots group—Superior Highland Backcountry—and we worked together to bring national attention to the task of saving Moose Mountain from resort development.
If you watched the 16th annual Backcountry Film Festival season during the winter of 2020-2021, you got a taste of skiing the old growth hardwood forests on Moose Mountain in Last Call for Moose Mountain (watch it again here!).
Throughout the NEPA process, hundreds of backcountry skiers from Minnesota and across the country submitted comments to the Superior National Forest opposing the expansion and calling on the Forest Service to keep Moose Mountain as it is today—wild and undeveloped.
There’s still one more step in the process before this decision is final – anybody who has previously participated in the NEPA process has until October 10, 2023 to file an objection. This doesn’t mean the decision will change, especially as the Forest Supervisor has based his decision on multiple well-supported points.
Thank you to everybody who spoke up to protect this unique backcountry gem! Your voice, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)’s requirement that public engagement be a mandatory part of planning for any proposed development on public lands, makes a difference.