The Flathead National Forest (FNF) rejected POWDR’s Master Development Plan (MDP) for Holland Lake Lodge, creating a temporary calm after residents of Condon overwhelmingly rejected POWDR’s MDP proposal. The FNF did not consult the Condon community or Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) prior to MDP submission. On Sept.14, during the public comment period, FNF Supervisor Kurt Steele wrote on the USFS website that he will consider what “is in the best interest of the American People.” Having grown up in Condon and now a property owner there, given the lack of community and ecological considerations demonstrated by the USFS throughout the process, I am left to wonder which “American People” Supervisor Steele is referring to.
Those “American People” should be the community of Condon and members of the CSKT whose legacy within the Swan Valley and Holland Lake area demand involvement prior to any MDP submission. To be clear, a few informational meetings held in Condon or engravings of land acknowledgement placed on the lodge’s grounds is insufficient. Genuine consultation with the communities affected looks like: 1) regular listening and consultation sessions between the USFS, the Condon community, and the CSKT held at times not conflicting with important community events, such as basketball tournaments or hunting season and 2) discussing what to include in a thorough Environmental Impact Statement, as demanded by the Condon community. All this needs to happen before a MDP is submitted. Developers do not tend to want to take the time community planning requires, but it is the responsibility of the USFS to authentically engage affected communities when considering development proposals on public lands. It is past time for the USFS to work in collaboration with the communities that will be directly impacted by major development plans on their public lands before any MDP may be submitted.
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