November 12, 2010 in Idaho

BLM offers backcountry permit deal

Ski company operates in wolverine habitat
By The Spokesman-Review

U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials say they’re offering a one-time permit to allow a backcountry ski business to operate in the St. Joe Mountains this winter.

Peak Adventures uses tracked vehicles to take clients to snowy ridgetops – the same type of high-elevation terrain where wolverines build winter dens under downed logs.

“It’s a compromise,” said BLM spokeswoman Stephanie Snook, describing the temporary permit.

But Peak Adventures owners Carey and Ryan Stanley called BLM’s terms “unacceptable” Thursday, saying the conditions would make it difficult to operate the backcountry ski business they purchased last year.

Wolverines are elusive carnivores that look like small bears. They’re classified as a “sensitive species” by the BLM, and the agency’s planning documents prohibit commercial activities near wolverine dens or potential den sites, Snook said.

In their permit application, the Stanleys had asked for the ability to operate on 13,000 acres in the Latour Peak, Rochat Divide and St. Joe Baldy area. Peak Adventures’ previous owners had used that acreage, Carey Stanley said.

The temporary permit would allow Peak Adventures to use ski terrain on 3,200 acres of BLM-owned land in the St. Joe. But no cross-country travel by snowcats or snowmobiles would be allowed. Motorized vehicles would have to stay on designated roads.

The smaller acreage wouldn’t provide access to a yurt that offers clients overnight accommodations, Carey Stanley said. She also said it would be difficult to set up ski courses or emergency evacuation routes in the new terrain on such short notice.

“It’s almost December,” she said.

Kurt Pavlat, a BLM field manager, said in a news release that the Stanleys’ permit is for the 2010-’11 ski season only. He said the agency has no plans at this time to authorize a permit for future operations.

Carey Stanley said she and her husband have a meeting with BLM officials today to discuss the temporary permit and its conditions.

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