Udall lauds ski area recreation bill | VailDaily.com

Udall lauds ski area recreation bill

NWS Vail Mtn. biking KA 7-15-11

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – They’re mountains, not amusement parks, and that’s the way they’ll stay under a new bill that sailed through the Senate this week, Sen. Mark Udall said Wednesday.

Sen. Mark Udall’s Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act was approved by the U.S. Senate on a unanimous vote earlier this week.

The Senate vote comes on the heels of bi-partisan House approval earlier this month, ram-rodded by Rep. Diana DeGette.

“The only time a piece of legislation of mine that got this many votes with no opposition was when I introduced a bill to name the post office in Vail after President Ford,” Udall said Wednesday, speaking with reporters via a conference call.

The recreation bill is supposed to help create jobs by making it easier for ski areas to expand year-round recreation opportunities.

For example:

• It could be things like zip-lines, mountain biking and ropes courses.

• Out, still, are things like water slides and amusement park rides.

The ski areas have to include anything new in their master plans, and those ideas will need Forest Service approval, Udall said.

The old law was so vague and convoluted that since it did not specifically allow snowboarding, it wasn’t clear whether it should be allowed, Udall said.

“The way the statute was written, it could be interpreted as snowboarding being on the edge of what’s allowable,” Udall said. “The Forest Service is a very decentralized organization and much of the responsibility for managing land is pushed down to the local level.”

The bill was first introduced in the House of Representatives by Udall in 2008. It was reintroduced in the House by Rep. Diana DeGette last year and U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah during the current Congress.

Udall championed the bill in the Senate.

“The law we had was so vague that the Forest Service didn’t feel they had clear directions from Congress. So the ski areas could not get clear directions from the Forest Service,” Udall said. “Both groups approached me asking for help.”

Udall has been trying to push this bill through Congress for five years. It died last year on the final day of last year’s session.

This year, it was so popular that seven other bills were attached to it. Lawmakers saw it as a way to pass legislation, Udall said.

“I made it job one, because I knew if I didn’t go all in, it would continue to go nowhere,” Udall said. “I just decided a few weeks ago that enough is enough.”

The ski industry promised it would create jobs, Udall said.

The bill now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature, which Udall said he hopes it will have by the end of the year.

“This will not cost taxpayers a dime,” Udall said.

Big potatoes

In another matter, Udall also managed to get a school lunch amendment included in the Senate’s agriculture spending bill late Tuesday night. The amendment will prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture from limiting the amount of potatoes and other starchy vegetables that can be served in school lunches.

“This is a debate about preparation,” Udall said. “You can fry anything. You can pour butter on anything.”

He called it a “triple win.”

“Potatoes are loaded with fiber and potassium,” Udall said. “This also helps create Colorado jobs in producing this home grown food.”

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