U.S. Forest Service and ski area officials say the impact of a possible Siskiyou Crest National Monument designation on a proposed Mount Ashland ski area expansion is uncertain.
"Because at this stage it's a citizens' proposal and not an official proposal, we have no comment on how it might be managed," Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest spokeswoman Virginia Gibbons said of the monument proposal.
"Any national monument designation would be declared by the administration."
The Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center's idea to designate 600,000 acres of mountainous land south and west of Ashland as a national monument has drawn both supporters and opponents.
In 2010, a leaked Interior Department memo named the area as one of more than a dozen potential national monument sites. The Obama administration has yet to take any action on a Siskiyou Crest National Monument designation.
On a website devoted to the proposed Siskiyou Crest National Monument, the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center touts the Mount Ashland ski area as a recreational asset inside the monument area, which would stretch roughly from the ski area west to the Oregon Caves National Monument outside Cave Junction.
The Siskiyou Crest monument would cross the Oregon border to also encompass land in Northern California.
"Recreation is definitely something we want to see maintained. We don't want to see the existing ski area go away," said Joseph Vaile, campaign director for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.
He said the organization has not taken a stand on the proposed ski area expansion.
Other environmental groups, such as the Rogue Group Sierra Club, have been more active in trying to block the expansion.
The Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center lists logging as a threat facing the land inside the proposed national monument.
In a 2010 report titled "Siskiyou Crest: America's First Climate Refuge," the center said logging has taken a heavy toll on the forests of the Pacific Northwest.
"The remaining intact public lands are a natural legacy critical for wildlife, clean water and recreation," the report continued.
Expanding the ski area would require logging in Ashland's municipal watershed, which because of its status has a more intact forest than much of the surrounding area. Studies of the ski area expansion proposal concluded that mitigation work accompanying the project would result in a decrease in sediment runoff in the watershed.
The ski area is on Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest land and is operated by the nonprofit Mt. Ashland Association.
"We, at this point, don't feel we have enough information to tell what impact a national monument designation would have, if any, on the expansion," ski area General Manager Kim Clark said.
A final supplemental environmental impact statement and record of decision on the expansion may come out in April, said Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District Recreation Specialist Steve Johnson.
An appeal period will follow release of those documents. Any appeals would be sent to a Forest Service regional office, Johnson said.
The Forest Service is preparing the documents to address environmental concerns raised by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after environmental groups sued to stop the expansion.
The court said the Forest Service needed to analyze landslide hazard zones on the mountain and possible impacts to the Pacific fisher, a weasel-like animal.
The ski area, which has about 125 acres of ski runs, would add 71 acres of new runs outside the existing area. It would add another 5 acres of skiable terrain inside the ski area through such means as widening existing runs, Clark said.
The expansion proposal includes a new chairlift, two surface lifts that would act as ground conveyor belts to transport skiers and an estimated 65 new parking spots. A warming hut with bathrooms would be built near the top of the mountain, just below the bowl, Clark said.
The improvements would cost $3.5 million and would be paid for through fundraising, which would start as soon as the Forest Service approved the expansion, Clark said.
"We will be ready as soon as they give us the green light," he said.