After over five years of court battles and exhaustive analysis of potential environmental impacts, the United States Forest Service is on the cusp of final approval of the Timberline Bike Park. The final piece of the process is to hear from the public whether or not to reopen the formal Environmental Analysis (EA) process — a move that would delay the project yet again.
If this feels like déjà vu that’s because the Forest Service already approved the permit four years ago. After determining that the proposal by Timberline Lodge for 17 miles of singletrack and a skills park on the western side of Mt. Hood was in compliance with federal environmental policy, the permit was granted and construction was poised to begin.
But a consortium of environmental groups weren’t convinced. Bark, one of the groups who oppose the Bike Park, says the trails will be built for “lift-assisted extreme mountain biking” that would take place in “fragile alpine habitat,” and “could erode sensitive volcanic soil, harm water quality and fish habitat, and dramatically chance the historic character,” of the area. They also contend the project will only benefit a private company and the lucky people wealthy enough to buy a ticket.
So in 2013, two appeals were filed against the Bike Park permit. When the Forest Service denied both appeals, Bark and several other organizations filed an injunction to stop construction of the trails.
After comprehensive analysis, the federal government disagreed with the environmental groups’ concerns.
“We would appreciate any brief comments that you may want to provide to the Forest Service that agree with the conclusion that no further NEPA process is warranted, and supporting construction of the bike trails and other implementation of the project without further delay.”
— Timberline Lodge
During the injunction, the Forest Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) continued to study the potential environmental impacts while a federal judge presided over the case. This past spring the judge ruled in favor of Timberline Lodge, the Forest Service and the NMFS. The only thing left was a final “biological opinion” about fish habitat from the NMFS and results of a survey on Western Bumblebee habitat. If significant impacts were believed to be possible on either of those fronts, it might have triggered additional environmental analysis processes.
On Friday the Forest Service published their review of these latest studies and found the findings are consistent with their previous work. Put another way: No new EA is required.
Just to play it safe, the Forest Service has opened a two-week comment period to hear what the public thinks and advocates on both sides of the issue are imploring supporters to make their voices heard. The question is simple: Should the EA process be reopened? Or is it time to finally start building trails?
“It is our firm belief that the environmental analysis and other processes that were followed regarding the Bike Park have been professional, exhaustive, and more than adequate,” Timberline Lodge wrote in their most recent statement on the issue. “We would appreciate any brief comments that you may want to provide to the Forest Service that agree with the conclusion that no further NEPA process is warranted, and supporting construction of the bike trails and other implementation of the project without further delay.”
If you’d like to comment, send an email to email@example.com with the subject line “Timberline Mountain Bike New Information”
To learn more about this issue come to the Northwest Trail Alliance monthly meeting tomorrow (10/25) at Velo Cult Bike Shop & Tavern (1969 NE 42nd) at 7:00 pm.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org