NBC Montana: Tester presses Forest Service for answers in Holland Lake Lodge Expansion

by Joshua Margolis

HELENA, Mont. — Another layer to the controversy regarding a proposed expansion of the Holland Lake Lodge development in Condon, by Utah company POWDR.

During a press conference in Great Falls on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said the Forest Service needs to answer for their role in the initial approval of a “categorical exclusion” that allowed the project to avoid an environmental assessment.

The decision has since been reversed, but plans for expansion, which include doubling the size of the lodge, remain in the works, although an EA will now be necessary.

Tester has pressed Forest Service officials in Congress, but said he is still awaiting answers on why the exclusion was approved in the first place.

“They can’t give me an answer. Because any answer they give me will be the wrong answer. The truth is they should not have used a categorical exclusion for a large recreational facility, that’s not why categorical exclusions were put into the law,” said Tester. “They were put in for tree cuts and to hopefully mitigate fire. So look, they screwed up, and they need to really become much more transparent on what has transpired here. They need to start answering some questions. Because the truth is, this isn’t how government is supposed to work.”

Opponents of the lodge expansion have threatened to sue the Forest Service, alleging a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

In addition, Montana Public Radio reported last month that the Forest Service collaborated with POWDR before the proposal was unveiled in late 2022.

Officials with the Flathead National Forest have yet to respond to requests for comment.

Tester presses Forest Service for answers in Holland Lake Lodge Expansion | KECI (nbcmontana.com)