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HANSEN PLOWS AHEAD WITH PLAN TO ALLOW SALE OF LAND TO SKI RESORTS

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Even though ski resorts warn the slope may be slippery and unsafe, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, says he will likely slalom ahead anyway with his idea to allow ski resorts to buy Forest Service land they now lease.

He says most opposition he has heard is based on bad information about what his legislation would do - and says many resorts favor it, even though the National Ski Areas Association has asked him to withdraw it."I'm inclined to just let it go," Hansen said Thursday, instead of trying to pull it back off the huge budget reconciliation bill - the Republicans' multi-year deficit reduction plan - to which Hansen attached it.

The National Ski Areas Association said last week that it wrote Hansen asking him to withdraw the legislation because it needs more study. Hansen said he has not yet seen the letter, but that it likely won't change his mind to proceed.

"We've spent an awful lot of time through the years on constituent matters trying to iron out differences between ski areas and the Forest Service," he said. "The bottom line from ski resorts has always been: why don't you just let us buy the land?"

Hansen said some ski resorts called with worries that his bill might allow outside parties to outbid them for Forest Service land near resort areas and leave them holding lodges and lifts without a mountain to ski on unless they pay high fees.

"I told them to read the bill. It would allow the sale only to the first permit holder," Hansen said. The secretary of agriculture would be instructed to offer such sales for fair market value during a five-year window.

Hansen complained that environmental groups said the legislation could allow ski resorts to keep the public off such land. "Again, read the bill. The sale is on the condition that it be kept open to the public for recreational purposes."

Hansen said such sales would also have to receive state and local approval. He said the local agencies would also begin receiving property taxes on land that is sold and would have zoning and other power to protect canyons and watershed.

Despite trying to explain such views to others, Hansen said he has agreed with some worried House members from Colorado and Wyoming to exempt their states from the possible sales.

"They told me they might be back to request it later, though. I told them not to ask me. I'm only willing to walk the plank so many times," Hansen said.

"I'm inclined to still let it go. It would probably be good to have it on the books so that if a resort has the money and wants to take advantage of it, it could buy the land. It doesn't make them do it if they don't want to," Hansen said.

He adds that it would help decrease federal deficits by reducing the amount of money the Forest Service spends overseeing ski resorts.