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Forest Service acknowledges lands traded to Mammoth would be redeveloped
SEATTLE—Last month the Forest Service published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for its land exchange proposal with Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA). The document did not include an analysis of the environmental impacts of redeveloping MMSA’s base area even though that analysis is required.
The DEIS leaves little doubt that the base lands would be redeveloped if the land exchange were completed. It explains that:
[i]n order to maintain the desired visitor experience, redevelopment of the MMSA Base Main Lodge is anticipated in the near future. Redevelopment would increase the intensity of use of the parcel and modernize or replace outmoded and decrepit facilities that have reached the end of their useful life. New or updated amenities may include skier facilities, visitor lodging, fractional and whole ownership condominiums, and employee housing.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the study of a proposal’s environmental impacts must include an analysis of all actions connected to the proposal. This allows the public, as well as the agency decision-maker, to have a comprehensive understanding of the true effects of a proposal. Without an analysis of connected actions there is simply no way to understand the overall impacts of this proposal.
Despite acknowledging MMSA’s future plans, the Forest Service says the analysis of the redevelopment will come later, separate from the analysis of the land exchange proposal.
“Analyzing the redevelopment later forecloses any real opportunity for the public to know the impacts of the land trade until after the deal is finalized and can’t be reversed,” said Chris Krupp, Public Lands Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “There’s no process for undoing the trade if that later analysis shows redeveloping the base lands will substantially harm the area.”
Federal law also requires that the agency make a formal determination that the land exchange would be in the public interest before it proceeds with the trade.
“The intensive redevelopment of Mammoth’s base operations can be expected to impact water quality, air quality, wildlife and traffic. The agency can’t reasonably evaluate whether this proposal serves the public—whether the benefits of the trade outweigh the impacts—if there’s no discussion of impacts,” explained Krupp.