Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Department of Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Joel Iverson

Committee Co-chair

Steve Schwarze

Commitee Members

Christina G. Yoshimura, Sarah J. Halvorson


Environmental Rhetoric, Argument Analysis, Outdoor Recreation, Public Lands Management, Frames, Montana


University of Montana

Subject Categories



Sharp, Philip, A., M.A., Spring 2022

Communication Studies


The Request Is Not Compatible: Competing Frames of Public Lands Discourse in the Lolo Peak Ski Resort Controversy

Co-Chair (in absentia): Steve Schwarze Co-Chair: Joel Iverson

In mid-2003, the United States Forest Service (USFS) received a pre-application for a Special Use Permit to build and operate an all-season ski resort on public lands near Missoula, Montana. The ensuing public deliberation over the possible use of protected lands for outdoor commercial recreational purposes provides a site of rhetorical inquiry. In this rhetorical criticism I analyze and evaluate arguments presented by the USFS, resort proponents, and opponents, in documents submitted by the USFS in the ensuing legal battle over their rejection of the proposal. Rather than focus solely on the context and the political factors that drive policymaking, this rhetorical inquiry focuses on the textual indications of assumptions, strategies, and appeals embedded in the discourses through frames and topoi. While arguments within this controversy do primarily align with the previously identified environmental frames of Ecological Soundness and Public Interest, the way the groups engage various topoi provides potential insights into the use of anthropocentric land ethics and varied, flexible, and conditional frames in effective environmental advocacy campaigns. Additionally, I conclude that this case study contributes to theoretical understanding of the localism frame and procedural discourse within environmental communication.

Keywords: Environmental Communication, Rhetorical Criticism, Argument Analysis, Public Lands Management, Land Management Ethics, Frames, Topoi, Environment-based Controversy, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing, Montana

Included in

Rhetoric Commons



© Copyright 2022 Philip A. Sharp