After increased outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Barrasso introduced legislation Tuesday to direct a portion of money generated by the ski industry to support local public lands where resorts are located.
The 122 ski areas operating in national forests pay an average of $39 million in fees annually to the Forest Service. The bipartisan and bicameral Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development Act, or SHRED Act, would establish a framework for the Forest Service to retain a portion of fees to offset increased use.
Portions of the money would be used by ski areas and the Forest Service to support visitor services, trailhead improvements, facility maintenance, affordable workforce housing and other needs.
“Skiing is a vital component of Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry, creating jobs and boosting local economies,” said Bennet, D-Colo., in a news release. “The partnership between ski areas, the Forest Service and mountain communities is critical – especially in areas like the White River National Forest. This bill will rightfully keep funds where they are generated and help local communities tackle their own priorities, like making trailhead improvements or increasing staffing.”
Sen. John Hickenlooper and three other senators signed on as co-sponsors.
U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse, D-Colo.; Annie Kuster, D-N.H.; John Curtis, R-Utah; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.; also introduced a companion bill.
The House Public Lands Subcommittee, led by Neguse, held a hearing about the SHRED Act among other bills Tuesday.
“As a result of the pandemic, many parks, ski areas and outfitters were forced to close or limit capacity,” Neguse said at the hearing. “However, people continue to flock to our national forests and public lands – increasing visitation but reducing forest revenues and receipts. Going forward, the SHRED Act will help ensure that our highest visitation forests are equipped with additional resources to support their unique needs and responsible management.”
The measure is backed by the National Ski Area Association, Colorado Ski Country USA and the America Outdoors Association.
Under the act, 25% of the retained money would be available to support local recreation management in each national forest. Lands that receive less than $15 million in ski fees annually would retain 75% of fees, and forests that receive more than $15 million in ski fees would retain 60%.
Excess money would be directed to other national forests that host ski areas for the same uses. Additional reserves would be used to address other recreational needs.
Kaela Roeder is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a 2021 graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.