The U.S. Forest Service announced today it has approved the expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area.

The U.S. Forest Service announced today it has approved the expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area.

"We're extremely pleased," Mt. Ashland Ski Area General Manager Kim Clark said.

He said logging to clear ski runs could start as soon as mid-September.

The Mt. Ashland Association, the nonprofit group that runs the ski area on Forest Service land, would need to raise about $300,000 to pay for ski run clearing, Clark said.

The first and most significant phase of the expansion would cost a total of $3.5 million, he said.

Clark said the Mt. Ashland Association Board of Directors met Monday night and reaffirmed that the expansion will be paid for through fundraising.

"We will not take on any debt for the expansion," he said.

Forest Service officials estimate that a 45-day administrative appeals period will start on June 2.

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Service Supervisor Scott Conroy approved the ski area expansion — which includes 71 acres of new runs, two additional chairlifts, three buildings and an expanded parking lot — without any substantial changes from a plan that had been the focus of litigation by environmental groups.

The Forest Service said the expansion would not have a negative impact on the Pacific fisher, a weasel-like animal, and would not harm Ashland's drinking water supply that originates in the Ashland Watershed. The ski area sits at the top of the watershed.

— Vickie Aldous