Badger Bulletin

Flathead National Forest Denies Holland Lake Lodge Expansion

Badger Bulletin

Flathead National Forest Denies Holland Lake Lodge Expansion

Glassy lake with a mountain in the background

The public spoke and the Forest Service listened. For now.

The day before Thanksgiving, the Flathead National Forest rejected a proposal from Utah-based POWDR corporation to significantly expand and upgrade Holland Lake Lodge near Condon in the rural and wild Swan Valley. The proposed expansion would have more than tripled the capacity of the current lodge, which was built in the 1940s after the original lodge from 1924 burnt to the ground. The Forest Service’s rationale for rejection was a technicality. The proposal encompassed 15 acres, when the current special use permit limits operations to 10.53 acres. The Service, disappointingly, did not publicly address the potential environmental impacts in issuing its rejection

The proposed expansion and redevelopment of Holland Lake Lodge received substantial public blow back, and for good reason given the scope and potential ripple effects of the proposed changes that will extend far beyond the physical footprint of the Lodge. POWDR Corporation, as it has at other properties it manages, would likely intensively markets the Lodge as a base for commercial and general recreation, including a new winter season, that the current unwinterized facility does not support.

Why GTMA got involved

Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance, at the encouragement of many of our conservation partners, decided to comment on the proposed expansion even though it falls outside our mission area. We did so because of the extraordinary impacts the lodge expansion would have on wildlife (including grizzly bears and lynx), wildlife habitat security, wilderness solitude, and the rural character of the Swan Valley. We also wanted to continue to push back on the Flathead National Forest’s troubling pattern of trying to use Categorical Exclusions to minimize environmental review and public involvement of proposed recreational developments and commercial special use permits.

Under its current supervisor, Kurt Steele, the Flathead National Forest appears bent on prioritizing expanded recreational development and use on the Flathead over the protection of wildlife and other environmental or social resources and values. At this month’s semi-annual grizzly bear managers meeting for the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), Supervisor Steele made troubling comments to this effect that calls into question the Forest’s commitment to the NCDE Conservation Strategy for grizzly bears.

Next steps

While the Flathead’s decision to deny the current proposal is a win for wildlife and wilderness, it is likely not the end of the story. POWDR has stated its intention to slightly modify and resubmit its proposal, which the Forest Service has welcomed it to do. We will continue to monitor the situation and let you know when further action is required.

Thank you to everyone who submitted comments on the terribly ill-thought proposal to expand and commercialize Holland Lake Lodge. Together our collective voices really do make a difference.

You can read the comments we submitted here.

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