Forest Service Decision: No Public Input on Crested Butte Snodgrass Expansion

U.S. Forest Service decision refuses to consider the Crested Butte Snodgrass Mountain expansion proposal with public involvement.
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Crested Butte, CO

In November, it was reported that the US Forest Service had squashed a Crested Butte Mountain Resort plan to expand the resort and add terrain to nearby Snodgrass Mountain, blocking its application for an environmental review of the area. Now the Forest Service has denied the appeal of CBMR to enter the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to request public input on the proposal despite working with the resort for the past five years. "I am shocked at this decision and feel blindsided," said Mayor of Mt. Crested Butte and current President of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns, William Buck. "All indications were that the process was moving forward." Crested Butte maintains that it had received clear indications from the Forest Service that all requirements for entering the NEPA process had been met. However, a letter signed by Charles Richmond, Supervisor of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, cites a lack of community support for the project, increased public demands upon the forest, and unstable soil and hydrology of the site as the basis for his decision. "Polarization in the community has increased and organized opposition to development of Snodgrass has intensified," Richmond wrote. "Based on what I have heard and read, I am convinced that the community is deeply divided over the proposed development of Snodgrass Mountain." Richmond's letter also indicates that his decision is not subject to an administrative appeals process, leaving Crested Butte without many options. Tim Mueller, president of Triple Peaks Resorts and Crested Butte is disappointed, saying that the manner in which this proposal has been dismissed is contradictory to the procedure endorsed by Congress. He also points out that in the past few years several Colorado resorts have proposed similar public land terrain expansions, such as Vail, Copper Mountain, Steamboat and Telluride, and in each case the proposed expansions received support and opposition from the community, but the Forest Service made its decision only after conducting a public NEPA process. "It is difficult to express the depth of our disappointment regarding this decision," said Mueller. "We have worked methodically with the US Forest Service over the past five years to address concerns and meet and exceed requirements with the goal of entering into the NEPA process as so many of our competitors have done. We've never received any indication that an objective, fair and public process would be denied after so much time and money had been invested." The plan was to open three new lifts and a gondola to serve what would be much gentler terrain than what is currently available at Crested Butte, known for its steep and gnarly runs and extreme in-bounds skiing. Because the most marketable target audience for ski resorts happens to be those who ski intermediate blue runs, the idea was to ease the reputation of Crested Butte and open the resort to an entirely new demographic. Unfortunately for Crested Butte, that plan seems to be dead -- at least for now.


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