Laura Lundquist

(Missoula Current) With the official withdrawal of a permit application, Holland Lake Lodge will be managed as it has been since 2017, according to the Flathead National Forest.

On Friday, the Flathead National Forest published an update on its Holland Lake Lodge webpage saying the Flathead Forest has accepted the withdrawal of a special-use permit application submitted by POWDR, a Utah-based ski corporation, to manage the lodge facilities near Seeley Lake.

“On January 31, 2024, the Flathead National Forest was notified that E3 Destinations/POWDR provided needed documentation of controlling interest of Holland Lake Lodge, Inc. The Forest Service has accepted the withdrawal of the E3 Destinations/POWDR application,” the Flathead Forest Feb. 23 update said.

That awkward wording means the Flathead Forest received proof in January and was able to verify that the original Holland Lake Lodge owner, Christian Wohlfeil, now holds the controlling interest in the lodge. POWDR’s withdrawal means Wohlfeil’s 2017 special-use permit remains in effect with no modification or proposal for a new master plan.

However, in April 2023, when E3 Destinations/POWDR applied for the new special-use permit, it had the controlling interest in the lodge, said Flathead Forest spokesperson Kira Powell. So in October, when E3 Destinations/POWDR told the Flathead Forest that it wanted to withdraw its application, the Forest Service needed proof that E3 Destinations/POWDR no longer had a controlling interest or responsibility.

“Our special-use process requires us to document controlling interest. E3 Destinations/POWDR provided documentation showing a change in controlling interest of Holland Lake Lodge, Inc.,” Powell said in an email Monday. “The controlling interest of Holland Lake Lodge, Inc is now Christian Wohlfeil.”

Powell didn’t elaborate on how the controlling interest changed over time from Wohlfeil to POWDR and back again. Wohlfeil refused comment.

With the application withdrawn, Holland Lake Lodge, Inc., owned by both Wohlfeil and POWDR, is moving ahead under the 2107 permit, having submitted an operating plan for 2024, which is currently being evaluated by the Forest Service. However, the Forest Service has decided the wastewater treatment ponds are unusable, so a new system will have to be designed, which could affect summer operations for the lodge and the Holland Lake Campground.

In the meantime, Holland Lake Lodge was listed for sale in October for $3.5 million, and Wohlfeil said then that he was seeking offers through Jan. 28. In October, Wohlfeil told the Daily Montanan that he owned 80% of the shares and POWDR owned 20% and the partners were updating agreements to amend the management structure, separate from the ownership shares. The Forest Service said in an Oct. 13, 2023, update that if the lodge sold, “the purchaser of the business must apply for, and be issued, a special-use permit to operate.”

Holland Lake Lodge sits on land owned by the Forest Service, so the lodge requires a federal special-use permit to do business. Wohlfeil has owned the lodge and held the permit since 2002. He renewed the 10-year permit in May 2017 and listed the lodge for sale that same year.

POWDR appeared on the scene in September 2022 when the Swan Lake Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest announced that it was taking public comment on a Master Development Plan to expand the Holland Lake Lodge facility. The proposal, submitted by POWDR, would have tripled the rooming capacity of the site to 156 people by adding more cabins, a larger lodge, a visitor center and new restaurant. The majority of public comments were opposed, and two months later, the Forest Service rejected the development plan but said POWDR could submit a revised plan.

But then, Forest Service emails – acquired through Freedom of Information requests by the nonprofit group Save Holland Lake – indicated that POWDR was proposing big changes for the lodge as early as December 2020, even though POWDR didn’t buy in until November 2021.

At that time, members of the public questioned who actually had the controlling interest in the lodge. If POWDR was the new majority owner, some said the Forest Service should have had to approve a new special-use permit for POWDR before considering a new Master Development Plan. Some said that was possibly the case even for the addition of minority owners.

While POWDR’s proposed development plan was still under consideration, former Flathead Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele and his staff insisted they’d been told there had been no change of ownership, because Wohlfield still owned a majority of the business. But in a letter dated April 12, 2023, Steele reversed himself, saying Holland Lake Lodge, Inc., was controlled and managed by E3 Destinations, a subsidiary of POWDR. POWDR registered E3 Destinations LLC as a business in September 2019 and activated it on Jan. 23, 2023, according to the Utah Department of Commerce.

In his letter, Steel said the “Forest Service is currently reviewing an application for a new permit because of this transfer of control.” That application is the one that was finally withdrawn in recent weeks. In June 2023, Steele was reassigned, and the Forest Service started looking for a new Flathead Forest supervisor.

Last week, during a Feb. 20 public meeting, newly appointed Flathead Forest Supervisor Anthony Botello confirmed for the Swan Valley Community Council that Wohlfeil now has the controlling interest in the lodge and that POWDR has officially withdrawn its application for a new special-use permit.

Botello, who took over as supervisor on Dec. 31, told the Community Council last week he was committed to establishing trust and implementing transparency with the public. Community Council member Grace Siloti said she was encouraged.

“We welcome new Supervisor Botello and look forward to working closely with him to ensure that the public has a voice in determining how our public lands are used and to protect this rural working landscape for future generations,” Siloti said in a release. “His words were received warmly at our community meeting, and we’re excited to work with him and his staff as he settles into his new job.”

Siloti has recently started two groups that could play big roles in preserving the rural working landscape of the Swan Valley. One is a new nonprofit called “Stewards of the Swan Valley,” dedicated to preserving the community, culture and environment of the Swan Valley from the Blackfoot River to the south to Big Fork to the north.

The other is a planning committee Siloti helped form in December to advise the Community Council and ultimately Missoula County on community and land planning, regulations and potentially zoning. The Missoula County Board of Commissioners have dedicated a planner to help.

Stewards of the Swan spokesman Bill Lombardi said Stewards of the Swan wants to work with Wohlfeil and the Forest Service to help determine the future of Holland Lake.

Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at

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