Tribal liaison dives into Minnesota ski area expansion talks

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — The Superior National Forest’s first full-time tribal liaison says he wants to work with the federal government on proposed expansion of the Lutsen Mountains Ski Area.

Juan Martinez started his new role in January, but he didn’t move to Minnesota until July. He coordinates communication between the national forest and the three Ojibwe bands in northeastern Minnesota.

The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa occupied the nearly 4 million acres that now make up the Superior National Forest long before the federal government acquired it. They maintain rights to hunt, fish, gather and practice their spiritual traditions on the land as part of an 1854 treaty signed with the federal government.

Lutsen officials want to expand onto 494 acres of adjacent Forest Service land to build new ski runs, chairlifts and other amenities they say are needed to compete against big ski resorts. The Grand Portage Band has argued the project compromises its treaty rights, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Both Martinez and Forest Service officials say all sides should be involved in the discussion.

“It’s a partnership,” Martinez said. “It’s not us, and it’s not them, it’s a together type thing.”