Flathead County Coverage

Jan 31, 2012 2:01 PM by KPAX/KAJ Media Center

Whitefish Jesus statue staying put

KALISPELL- The Jesus Statue on Big Mountain won't be going anywhere anytime soon as Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber announced that he's reauthorizing a special use permit so the statue can stay where it is.

The Knights of Columbus Council No. 1328 of Kalispell were given a reauthorize permit that's good for 10 years, meaning the display of a statue of Jesus Christ on a 25' by 25' piece of land near the top of Chair Two at Whitefish Mountain Resort can stay.

Weber says he is reauthorizing the permit because "I understand the statue has been a long-standing object in the community since 1955, and I recognize that the statue is important to the community for its historical heritage based on its association with the early development of the ski area on Big Mountain."

The decision was reached using an environmental analysis process for Categorical Exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) according to a news release and the Flathead National Forest accepted public comment from October 19, 2011 until December 8, 2011.

USFS officials say that around 95,000 comments were received and reviewed "and those comments did not identify substantive concerns related to environmental conditions" according to a news release issued Tuesday. Click here to view the documents associated with the special use permit reauthorization.

The statue, which was erected by the Knights of Columbus and Montana veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, caused quite an uproar of controversy between people who believe the religious statue shouldn't be on public land and those wanting to let it stay.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation out of Wisconsin had asked the USFS to reject a request from the Knights of Columbus to renew the lease for the statue at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

The group said in formal comments filed last year that the USFS made a mistake in 1953 when it granted a special use permit to the Knights of Columbus to erect the statue.

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