President Barack Obama today signed the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011, which permits year-long recreation opportunities on U.S. Forest Service ski areas, boosting rural economies while continuing to maintain stringent environmental safeguards.
The year-long recreation season is estimated to annually sustain up to 600 extra jobs and is expected to bring in an additional $40 million to local communities in direct spending.
вЂњThe Forest Service is taking steps to promote job growth every day,вЂќ said USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman. вЂњWe look forward to welcoming hundreds of thousands more visitors throughout the entire year to their national forests.вЂќ
The new legislation amends the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986, which allowed only nordic and alpine skiing. Under the new legislation, other snow sports may be permitted on National Forest System lands, as well as year-round activities. Potential permitted activities may include zip lines, mountain bike terrain parks and trails, Frisbee golf courses, and ropes courses.
Currently, the Forest Service averages 27 million visits annually to ski areas. This has contributed $4 billion every winter and created approximately 80,000 full-, part-time and seasonal jobs in hard-hit rural communities. Under the new legislation, the Forest Service anticipates roughly 600,000 more summertime visits that may create and sustain up to 600 more full-, part-time and seasonal jobs. The addition of summer recreation is expected to infuse almost $40 million of direct funding into local mountain communities.
Protecting natural resources will remain a priority and year-long facilities will be subject to the same review and approval processes as those for ski facilities such as the construction of ski lifts and ski trails.
Not all recreation activities will be permitted. Those considered to be destructive to the natural environment will be excluded, including tennis courts, water slides and water parks, swimming pools, golf courses, and amusement parks.
вЂњThe national forests have always been some of AmericaвЂ™s greatest playgrounds,вЂќ said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. вЂњIt is exciting that our ski areas will now be able to offer more recreational opportunities and economic benefits.вЂќ
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.