Yakama Nation Rejects Golf & Ski Resort

In mid-November, the Yakama Indian Nation turned down a proposal to develop a 3,000-acre destination resort on tribal land near Mount Adams in south-central Washington. After completing a feasibility study that looked at the project’s effects on wildlife, fisheries, natural resources, cultural resources and water, the Nation rejected the resort idea.

The feasibility studies revealed that the project would have a negative impact on the environment. With that data, the 14-member tribal council turned down the resort-development offer by Mt. Hood Meadows Development Corp., which operates two ski resorts at Mount Hood in Oregon. The developer wanted to use tribal land to build a resort with eight ski lifts, gondola and tram reaching to the 11,100-foot level on the south side of the 12,276-foot mountain. The resort would have been located near the small town of Glenwood. Besides the ski resort, the plan included three 18-hole golf courses, a restaurant, a casino, nightclub and a mix of 2,500 condominiums and lodging units.

“Seeing that and hearing that,” said Tribal Council Vice Chairman Virgil Lewis Sr. of the project’s negative environmental effects, “we have decided it’s not something we wish to pursue at this time. I guess economically we could have benefited a very large sum of money to the tribe, but do we want to sacrifice an area of extreme cultural significance to the tribe? We’re not ready to do that.”

Dave Riley, a vice president for Mt. Hood Meadows Development Corp., said he didn’t think the idea was completely dead. He believes Mount Adams, one of the least developed of all the mountains in the Cascade Range, would be a wonderful location for a destination resort and the idea just needs more time to draw support.

“In my mind, it’s still up in the air,” Riley told Associated Press reporter Shannon Dininny. “We’re going to continue to work with the Yakama Nation and provide additional information to them so they can continue to consider the development.”

Lewis said a ski resort has been proposed for the mountain in the past and probably will be again, which is why the Yakamas conducted the studies. “We would be shirking our duty to not at least listen to the proposal,” Lewis said. But he added, “I believe we have a lot of other options that have not yet been considered. We don’t have to sacrifice an area that’s more or less sacred.”

Known as Pahto to American Indians in the Northwest, the mountain was returned to the Yakamas in 1972 by an executive order from President Richard Nixon following a nearly 50-year-long boundary dispute. The area – a 600,000-acre swath of wildlife habitat that stretches from the Ahtanum Ridge to Satus Pass – is closed to non-tribal members and remains a culturally significant and sacred site for fishing, hunting and food gatherings.

In addition to some vocal opposition from tribal members, the proposal drew fire from environmental and back-country skiing groups. Among those coming out against the project is Brent C. Foster, an attorney with the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest Task Force.