SHRED Act dropping in for a second run after Joe Neguse reintroduces bill in Congress
Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development Act passed the House last Congress, but died in the Senate
A bill that would direct ski area fees to be used in the communities where those resorts operate has been reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives after failing to pass the Senate last Congress.
Rep. Joe Neguse, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands (and Eagle County’s representative in the House), introduced the bill on Thursday along with Rep. Annie Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat; Rep. John Curtis, a Republican from Utah; and Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a Republican from California.
The bill’s origins trace back to former Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Yuma, Colorado, who worked with Vail Resorts and the ski industry to create draft legislation aimed at a faster turnaround on Forest Service reviews of resort projects by making fees paid to the Forest Service directly available for the processing of proposals for ski area development projects.
But the bill didn’t get much traction, receiving criticisms from outdoor recreation user groups and local governments, who weren’t among the beneficiaries of the original legislation.
Sen. Michael Bennet’s staff said the Colorado legislator heard concerns that ski resorts weren’t the only ones paying fees to the national forest, and other national forest needs existed outside of the permit areas of the ski industry. So Bennet, after Gardner left office, picked up the bill and began to make some tweaks.
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Bennet said the new version of the bill set aside funding for local recreation management — not just to support ski area permitting and programs, but also to manage special user permits, serve visitors, improve trailheads, and maintain facilities.
“This important change means that we’re actually investing in mountain communities near ski areas in Colorado and across the West, who’ve seen an increase in visitation and demand for outdoor recreation,” Bennet told the Vail Daily in an email.
The new version of the bill is called the Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development or SHRED Act, and the clever moniker has been met with equally clever quotes from the House members now introducing it back into the House.
LaMalfa, who is the representative for HD1 in California — which includes Sugarloaf Mountain and Mt. Shasta Ski Park — described his district as “pretty epic” and said he was “stoked” on the bill.
“This bill creates a new account within the Forest Service budget that keeps land use proceeds local and gives ski regions the opportunity to expand their recreation projects, address deferred maintenance and tackle land management issues,” LaMalfa said. “I’m stoked to see what good this bill will do for our ski towns and forests so our skiers can get out there and SHRED like they want to!”
Neguse was more measured in his comments.
“Colorado is home to some of the best skiing in the world, and the revenue generated from the growing outdoor recreation and tourism industry serves as a lifeline to the hardworking folks who call our mountain communities home,” Neguse said. “The SHRED Act delivers for Colorado, keeping ski fees local and bringing more federal resources to our National Forests. It’s time we invest in these lands, wildfire planning, and outdoor recreation permitting — and pass this bill.”
Vail Resorts, which worked with Gardner in drafting the original legislation, has come out in support of the SHRED Act revision, as well.
“The resources retained under the proposal would support (the Forest Service’s) work with ski areas to administer permits and review proposals for on-mountain improvements that enhance guest experience,” John Plack told the Vail Daily in an email in 2021, as the SHRED Act was being introduced for the first time. “Importantly, it would support the maintenance of our local recreation infrastructure on Forest Service lands.”
The National Ski Areas Association also supports the SHRED Act, saluting Kuster for her work on the bill.
“Interest in skiing and snowboarding on public lands continues to grow in New Hampshire and nationwide, and that’s a massive opportunity on all fronts,” said Kelly Pawlak, president of the National Ski Areas Association. “We applaud Rep. Kuster’s leadership on the SHRED Act, which will strengthen the essential partnership between ski areas, mountain communities, and the U.S. Forest Service.”
In addition to establishing a ski area fee account to retain the fees that ski areas pay to the U.S. Forest Service, the SHRED Act would also direct 75% of the retained funds to be used for ski area program and permitting needs, the processing of proposals for ski area development projects, the distribution of news and information for visitors, and some wildfire preparation measures. It would also make 25% of the retained funds available to support special use permit administration, visitor services, trailhead improvements, facility maintenance, search and rescue activities, avalanche information and education, habitat restoration at recreation sites and affordable workforce housing.