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vail expansion

The U.S. Forest Service has approved expansion plan’s for the Vail ski area which will open up 885 acres of terrain by the 1999-2000 winter season. But environmental groups say there is no reason for the Colorado resort to expand and have threatened a legal challenge to the Forest Service decision. Vail has been trying to open up an area of north-facing bowls, opposite the resort’s Back Bowls, for several years. The plan was originally approved in August, 1996 by the local Forest Service board, but several appeals by environmental groups had stalled the expansion. The main concern of environmentalists is the area proposed for expansion is lynx habitat. However, no lynx have been seen in the area since 1973. Lynx, which are expected to be listed as an endangered species in Colorado, can only survive in a narrow range of habitat and are too sensitive to changes in that habitat to co-exist with humans. Forest Service biologists say the Vail expansion would affect only about .2 per cent of suitable lynx habitat in the region and feel adequate habitat will remain after the resort’s expansion for a viable lynx population to survive. Vail has reached agreements with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Forest Service to work on re-establishing the lynx in Colorado. However, some environmental groups are just concerned that Vail is getting too big. Vail Resorts, which owns Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek, also has expansion plans for Breckenridge and Keystone which would add 265 acres of skiing terrain.

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