Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s desire to expand lifts onto neighboring Snodgrass Mountain has turned into a lengthy and complicated issue. They were originally denied their request by Forest Supervisor Charlie Richmond. They have since filed an appeal to Region 5 Deputy Regional Forester Jim Pena, but Richmond is arguing the appeal.
Mark Reaman explains:
“In a 54-page “responsive statement” from Forest Supervisor Charlie Richmond to the appeal officer looking at the Snodgrass situation, perhaps no sentence rings more true than: “The history of consideration of Snodgrass Mountain is long and convoluted.”
That history continues to be made as Crested Butte Mountain Resort follows through with an appeal of the Richmond decision to not allow ski lifts on Snodgrass. In fact, CBMR has asked for a four-day extension to respond to the Richmond statement. They hope to have until March 26 to file a written response. The company also wants to present oral arguments in the appeal but no date has been set.
The appeal-deciding officer is Region 5 Deputy Regional Forester Jim Peña in California. He is out of the office until March 17 and thus unavailable for comment.
Richmond’s statement is an extensive document responding to CBMR’s 71-page appeal filed last December. (For a copy of the statement go to www.crestedbuttenews.com) In the response, Richmond contends there has been plenty of opportunity for the public to comment on the resort’s Snodgrass proposal. “Nearly every person, entity, group, organization, elected body or representative with any interest in Snodgrass Mountain, or the upper East River Valley has weighed in,” he writes.
“No notice or comment opportunity is required in the consideration of special use proposals… [but] it would be difficult to design a more thorough scoping, or opportunity to comment from the community than has spontaneously occurred both before the Decision was released, and since,” the statement continues. “The sharp reaction on both sides, provoked by the Decision, and the community discussion that ensued, revealed even deeper division than we understood. Yes, the amount of support for CBMR was surprising, however, the outpouring of thanks to us for the decision made, and even substantive support for that decision, was substantial.”
Richmond states that CBMR did not follow through in gaining overall community support for its plan to expand onto Snodgrass. He says the resort has no guaranteed right to a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review and no formal written commitment was ever made to CBMR that the plan would proceed to NEPA. “NEPA does not and did not apply, and would, in our view, produce no better answer than we already have. A perpetuation of the debate for several years would serve only to deepen division in the community,” the document states.
Richmond again said allowing lifts on Snodgrass was not in the public interest. “We emphasize that, while no single factor or concern leads us to reject the proposal, the accumulation of negatives considered altogether, does,” the responsive statement says in an emphatic and underlined nature. He also addressed myriad other topics including geologic stability, lynx, avalanche and roadless issues.
In his conclusion, Richmond feels the long history of the Snodgrass debate, more than 30 years of discussion, “is proof in itself of the many problems associated with the Mountain.”
In a press release issued last week, the resort states, “CBMR is disappointed that the Forest Service continues to overlook its obligation to following longstanding laws and policies regarding public lands. The Forest Service’s position deprives the resort and local citizens of a full and fair review of CBMR’s proposal, and directly affects CBMR and the economic health of the surrounding community.
“CBMR remains hopeful that the Forest Service will recognize that federal law provides a more fair and appropriate review process—in the form of public notice and comment under NEPA—before it issues a decision about the use of public lands,” the resort stated.
Peña’s final decision on the appeal is expected sometime in May.”