"Nope. I don't feel sorry for him one bit," one longtime resident says when I approach him in the parking lot of a local deli. "We didn't want it and he didn't give a damn. This isn't the perspective of poor folk resenting the wealthy local landowner. It's practicality. We didn't want the traffic, higher property taxes, expensive housing, and all the rich la-di-da yuppies that would have come with it. God bless this recession if it puts an end to that nightmare."
Most Lolo residents I speak to do not hesitate to offer their personal opinion, often a reiteration of the above, though most decline to give their name. It's just not polite to be bad mouthing a local family or rejoicing in their sudden hardship. Unless you can do it anonymously.
Pam Lunceford has no such compunction, even spelling out her name to make sure I get it just right. She doesn't mind if Tom Maclay knows exactly how she feels about him. "That man should be in jail," she says matter-of-factly. "He cut down my trees. He cut down our trees. Trees that belonged to all Americans."
Pam doesn't refer to trees on Maclay's own property, but to those of the Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests. The ski runs he carved out of the thickly forested slopes on his own land are an eyesore, but Pam can't comprehend why Maclay wasn't charged with a federal offense for cutting down trees along an access road he expanded without permission from the US Forest Service. Maclay needed a wider passage to transport construction and snow-blowing equipment, for which he felled an estimated 400 trees on federal land, including a number of rare species of larch. The Forest Service filed civil suit over the action in 2006, which Maclay settled with a payment of $20,000.
Organized resistance to the Bitterroot Resort has been most vehement toward Maclay's intention to use thousands of acres of federally-owned wilderness adjacent to his own property as part of the overall development plan.
The original iteration requested the US Forest Service issue a special-use permit for Bitterroot Resort to develop more than 11,000 acres of federal property for cross-country and Nordic skiing, mountain biking trails and snow touring. After multiple rejections and revised applications, Maclay was finally awarded preliminary approval in December 2008 for the use of 3,000 acres.
That stage of approval represented only a partial green light. To further advance his pursuit of a special-use permit, Maclay next needed to submit a thorough financial statement to the Forest Service, which would have laid bare his accounting at a time when the credit markets were constricting worldwide. Lolo residents noticed a lull in activity emanating from the Bitterroot Resort this past year, and the foreclosure filings earlier this month seemed to have sparked a ripple of relief, though little surprise.