Gov. Shutdown Halts Logging Projects at MT Ski Areas - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Gov. Shutdown Halts Logging Projects at MT Ski Areas

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MISSOULA -

The federal government shutdown may have an impact on a Montana ski area, as furloughed forest service workers are forced to halt logging projects.

Snowbowl Mountain Manager, Pat McKay, has lived and worked at the ski area for 20 years, and even got married on the mountain, which lies on about 1,100 acres of Lolo National Forest land.

McKay said their hazard tree removal project was first put on hold this summer when crews were pulled off to battle wildfires, and then again in October, when the government shut down.

"So much stuff is up in the air, and nobody has any answers, these people back in D.C. just can't seem to act like grown ups and do their job," McKay said.

Forest Service officials said all timber contracts are currently suspended, because there's nobody on shift to manage the projects. McKay says they're not contracting with a timber company on the Snowbowl project, since the trees have no value.

"The timber that's coming out of there is the dead debris and stuff that's on the mountain."

Nonetheless, Forest Service officials said work on the logging project is on hold until furloughed employees can return to work. McKay says the goal of the project at Snowbowl is to remove rotting trees from densely forested areas surrounding main runs.

"You know, good winds blow these trees down and then it does become a hazard," McKay explained.

Employees said the U.S. Forest Service logging project will eventually, open up much more tree skiing, adding to the terrain variety at Snowbowl.

This season, skiers and boarders won't be affected if the project is delayed, but officials said they had hoped to complete the tree clearing by the end of next year.

"Now, whether they're going to give us some leeway on that because of the government shutdown, we don't know."

For now, McKay said he and the other seven year-round employees are working on smaller tree clearing projects in preparation for the 2013 ski season.

"Think snow, and hopefully the government gets their act together!"

The permitting process for a long term plan to expand Snowbowl is also put on hold amid the shutdown.

Officials said crews were able to complete a logging project at Lost Trail despite the shutdown, because it was so near completion.

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