weather icon Clear

U.S. Forest Service seeks input on Lee Canyon expansion plans

An ambitious and long-delayed plan to expand Southern Nevada’s only ski resort is now out for public review.

The U.S. Forest Service on Friday released its environmental review of Lee Canyon’s bid to become a year-round playground.

The public will have 45 days to comment on the plan, which includes new ski runs, lifts, snow-making equipment, zip lines, downhill bike trails and a thrill ride called a “mountain coaster.”

“We’re excited, and we hope everyone else is excited too,” said Jim Seely, marketing and technology director for the resort. “We hope everyone will take a look and give us feedback on how to make Lee Canyon better.”

Owners of the high-mountain attraction 50 miles northwest of the Strip first unveiled the proposed expansion in 2011, when the place was called Las Vegas Ski &Snowboard Resort.

Two years later, the plans were put at risk when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Mount Charleston blue butterfly as an endangered species.

The federally protected critical habitat for the rare insect includes much of the resort, which has operated on forest service land under a long-term permit since 1962.

Some butterfly experts have said that if done right, work at the ski area could actually enlarge and improve the butterfly’s range by opening up the forest canopy for the sun-loving plants on which it feeds and lays its eggs each summer.

In its review, the service examined the potential impacts of Lee Canyon’s proposal, as well as an alternate plan that would push the mountain coaster and other attractions away from the popular Bristlecone hiking trail.

Under both alternatives, the service predicts short-term, detrimental impacts to the Mount Charleston blue butterfly in areas disturbed by the expansion but possible benefits to its habitat overall.

“The forest (service) is eager to hear what the public thinks and if there are other considerations to take into account before a final decision is made,” said Forest Supervisor Bill Dunkelberger in a written statement.

At least one outspoken — and litigious — environmental group is already weighing in.

Patrick Donnelly, Nevada director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said his organization is gravely concerned by the prospect of “industrial summer recreation” in such fragile, isolated habitat.

“The Forest Service should have developed an alternative which allows expansion of winter activities while not permitting summer recreation expansion, which would maintain the relatively undisturbed conditions on the mountain during the summer,” Donnelly said in an email.

Seely insists the resort is simply trying to better serve its roughly 100,000 annual visitors, not turn the area into an amusement park.

“We’re stewards of Lee Canyon and the Spring Mountains,” he said.

Lee Canyon’s $35 million proposal includes three new chairlifts and a host of new runs that would more than double the amount of available ski terrain. The plan also would add restrooms and parking, upgrade the water system and existing lifts, and improve or replace existing buildings, some of which are roughly 50 years old.

Pending the outcome of the forest service review, work could start on some of the new downhill mountain bike trails as soon as next summer, Seely said.

The entire development plan is expected to take about 12 years to complete, he said.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Arts, crafts show set for historic Belmont Courthouse

The Belmont Courthouse will again be bustling with activity during the Friends of the Belmont Courthouse annual arts and crafts show on June 29-July 4, organizers announced.

California Lottery

No one matched all five numbers and the mega number in the Wednesday, June 19 drawing of the California Super Lotto. The next jackpot will be at least $55 million.

Pahrump Animal Shelter contract awarded to Desert Haven

After delaying the decision regarding the operation contract for the Pahrump Animal Shelter due to missteps by the county in the bidding process and the need for clarification on certain bidding points, the Nye County Commission readdressed the item at its June 18 meeting.

Pahrump radio station owner hosting anniversary party

KNYE 95.1 F.M owner Karen Jackson is reminding the entire Pahrump community to reserve some time on Saturday, June 22, as she is hosting the radio station’s 20-year anniversary party.

Aliya Bolton crowned 2019 Miss Pahrump

It would seem appropriate that a native Pahrumpian should win the annual Miss Pahrump Pageant, and that’s exactly what happened on Saturday evening inside the Saddle West Showroom, as Aliya Bolton was crowned the 2019 winner.

New stops going up around Pahrump

Pahrump residents and visitors familiar with the area are seeing some alterations to their usual traffic patterns as Nye County undertakes the installation of new stop signs at certain intersections in the valley, aiming to address safety concerns and reduce the number of vehicle collisions in those areas.

Pahrump bed build event a huge success

Sleep in Heavenly Peace hosted its nationwide Bunks Across America event on Saturday, June 15 and the Nye County chapter spent the day constructing new bunk beds for children who don’t have beds of their own.