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USFS chief upholds denial of Crested Butte expansion bid

A view of Snodgrass Mountain from Crested Butte Mountain Resort. PHOTO COURTESY FRIENDS OF SNODGRASS MOUNTAIN.

Ski resort could challenge Forest Service in court or work with agency to revise forest plan

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell this week announced that he is upholding a lower-level agency decision that denies a bid by Crested Butte Mountain Resort to expand on to nearby Snodgrass Mountain. Gloria Manning, Reviewing Officer for Tidwell, affirmed (with instructions) the previous appeal review findings made by Jim Peňa and clarified some of the points made in the findings.

Tidwell said that Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest Supervisor Charlie Richmond’s determination to reject the proposal to develop lift-served skiing on Snodgrass Mountain was consistent with policy, law and regulation.

“This has been a long process and filled with much passion on all sides of the issue,”  Richmond said in a press release.  “I am pleased that the chief’s review agreed that we complied with the intent and requirements of federal law and Forest Service regulations. Now, we can focus on further strengthening our relationships within the community and work toward a sustainable future for the Gunnison Valley-economically and environmentally.”

Manning’s decision (on behalf of the Chief) is the final administrative determination of the United States Department of Agriculture regarding CBMR’s appeal. The first-level appeal was affirmed previously by Appeal Reviewing Officer Jim Peňa, resulting from an administrative review of the documentation and process used to reject the Master Development Plan and Snodgrass development proposal submitted by Crested Butte Mountain Resort to the Forest Service.

Copies of this decision will be posted as soon as possible on the Forest’s webpage.  Other related documents including CBMR’s appeal, the Forest Service Responsive Statement, the Reply from CBMR and the Appeal Reviewing Officer’s Decision are already on the Forest’s webpage at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/gmug/policy.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s final avenue to overturn the decision would be in court, where the resort’s lawyers would have to show that the decision was arbitrary and capricious, a difficult task, since federal courts give land managers a lot of discretion in their decision-making.

The resort could also work with the Forest Service to amend the forest plan to look at other opportunities for expanding lift-served skiing.

Read more at the Crested Butte News.

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