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The office of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., on Tuesday issued the following press release on his visit to Vail to discuss his proposed Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development (SHRED) Act, which he says will generate more than $17 million a year for Colorado communities and national forests:
Vail –– Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet met with community leaders from the ski industry, the White River National Forest, and local governments at the base of Vail Mountain to discuss the benefits of his bipartisan Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development (SHRED) Act. New data from the United States Forest Service indicates that the SHRED Act will help generate over $17 million every year for communities and National Forests in Colorado.
Bennet introduced the bill in June with U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to ensure National Forests retain a portion of the annual fees that ski areas operating within their boundaries pay to support local recreation and community priorities. The bill has nine additional bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate. U.S. Representatives Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), John Curtis (R-Utah), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), and Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) introduced a companion bill.
“The partnership between ski areas, the Forest Service, and mountain communities is critical to Colorado’s economy, but for years, national forests, like the White River National Forest, have struggled with inadequate funding to meet the demand for outdoor recreation,” said Bennet. “Our bill would fix that by keeping fees paid by ski areas in Colorado, where they belong, to support summer and winter recreation alike. These additional resources – which are long overdue – will bolster local economies and help mountain communities thrive.”
“The SHRED Act will strengthen the important partnership between ski areas and the US Forest Service,” said Beth Howard, COO of Vail Mountain. “We thank Senator Bennet for his longtime leadership and support for the outdoor recreation economy on behalf of our mountain communities.”
“The amount of revenue from ski and winter activities on national forests is also an indication of the impacts of that use and the need for investment to serve that use,” said Matt Scherr, Chair of the Eagle County Board of County Commissioners. “The SHRED Act will finally allow the Forest Service to more adequately invest in our natural resources that Eagle County residents and visitors alike clearly value so much.”
“Our regional economy is driven by outdoor recreation and the SHRED Act will help ensure that the ski area fees generated locally are put back toward building a resilient & sustainable tourism experience,” said Chris Romer, President & CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership. “This legislation is a win-win-win as it will positively impact our local businesses, our local communities, as well as those who visit.”
“CAST is proud to have collaborated with federal land managers, the ski industry and local governments on the SHRED Act and we thank Senator Bennet for his leadership on this bill,” said Margaret Bowes, Executive Director, Colorado Association of Ski Towns. “The SHRED Act will direct much-needed funding to some of the nation’s most visited national forests and give the USFS additional resources to manage and protect the public lands on which mountain town economies are so dependent.”
“NWCCOG congratulates Senator Bennet and his staff on this groundbreaking bill which will bring millions of dollars back to the White River National Forest and other forests with ski areas to give a leg up to underfunded offices and forest staff who manage permits and recreation in the busiest national forests in the U.S.,” said Jon Stavney, Executive Director, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “With the impacts of COVID and Climate this funding comes at a critical time for our beloved forests. The Senator and his staff worked hard to negotiate a bill that would allow our local governments to stop having to backfill recreation management budgets on nearby national forests as they have in recent years. Now more than ever, our forests need active management, and this legislation provides the funding for our National Forest managers to do just that.”
In exchange for using some of America’s most stunning forestlands, the 122 ski areas operating on Forest Service lands across the country pay fees to the Forest Service that average $39 million annually. The SHRED Act would establish a framework for local National Forests to retain a portion of ski fees to offset increased recreational use and support local ski permits and program administration. The SHRED Act also provides the Forest Service with the flexibility to direct the recreation funding from the bill to where they are needed the most to address broad recreation management needs.
The SHRED Act would:
· Keep Ski Fees Local: By establishing a Ski Area Fee Retention Account to retain a portion of the fees that ski areas pay to the Forest Service. For National Forests that receive less than $15 million in ski fees annually, 75% of the fees are retained. For forests that receive more than $15 million in ski fees annually, 60% of the ski fees would be retained. The retained funds are available for authorized uses at the local National Forest.
· Support Winter Recreation: In each National Forest, 75% of the retained funds are directly available to support Forest Service Ski Area Program and permitting needs, process proposals for improvement projects, train staff, and prepare for wildfire. Any excess funds can be directed to other National Forests that host ski areas for the same uses. After all of the winter recreation uses have been addressed across the country, excess funds are carried over to the pot of funding that supports broad recreation needs.
· Address Broad Recreation Needs: In each National Forest, 25% of the retained funds are available to support a broad set of local recreation management and community needs, including special use permit administration, visitor services, trailhead improvements, facility maintenance, and affordable workforce housing. This set-aside would dramatically increase some Forest Service unit’s budgets to meet the growing visitation and demand for outdoor recreation.
The SHRED Act is supported by: National Ski Area Association and its 122 member ski areas operating on public lands, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Colorado Ski Country
USA, Colorado Association of Ski Towns, America Outdoors Association, Vail Resorts, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The SHRED Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).