Oral arguments concerning Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s appeal of the Forest Service decision to not allow pursuit of ski lifts on Snodgrass will be heard this Friday in California.
The appeal-deciding officer is Region 5 Deputy Regional Forester Jim Peña. He has scheduled one hour for the presentation at the Pacific Southwest Regional Office in Vallejo, Calif. Resort owners Tim and Diane Mueller, along with their company attorney Ezekiel Williams, will make the trip to present their argument. Regional Forester Charlie Richmond will not travel to California.
“We will explain the appeal, and identify why the decision by Regional Forester Charlie Richmond and the process he used to make the decision are fundamentally unfair, why the test he relied on in his November decision is impossible to meet, and why the Forest Service actually violated the law in making the decision,” explained Williams. “We will also emphasize the extraordinary outpouring of support for Snodgrass and the NEPA process that occurred after Charlie made his decision.”
In a 55-page reply filed last week to Richmond’s “responsive statement,” CBMR argues that Pena should set aside Richmond’s decision and direct Richmond to “immediately begin a good faith evaluation of the Snodgrass Mountain proposal in an objective and public NEPA process.”
The ski area argues that Richmond made his decision based on a “test that is impossible to meet: NEPA review of a ski area development proposal is appropriate only if uncertainty as to each issue is eliminated (without formal public involvement) before starting the NEPA process to review those issues.” The resort states that no ski area expansion authorized in the last decade could meet that test.
The response was filed by Crested Butte, LLC and CNL Income Crested Butte, LLC.
CBMR feels it met every requirement requested by Richmond to move into the NEPA process. They make it clear Richmond told them that if they got over the humps of getting public support for the proposal and re-shifting part of the plan to avoid geological problems, NEPA was next. The Muellers claim that Richmond officially informed them on July 30, 2009 that they had satisfactorily resolved the two primary issues. But then suddenly in November, he rejected the Snodgrass proposal. The resort reply refers to the abrupt about-face as a “bait and switch.”
The resort representatives make it clear they feel there was some undue influence on Richmond to reverse the course that had been laid out. “CBMR agrees it is appropriate for the Forest Supervisor to consult with his superiors on issues of the magnitude of the Snodgrass proposal. But the Forest Supervisor is not disclosing the entire record of how he made the November decision, and the involvement by the Regional Office and Regional Forester Rick Cables.”
The resort’s response states the following: “Forest Supervisor Richmond submitted his July Decision to the Regional Office for approval on July 30, 2009. Ten days later, the GMUG submitted a briefing paper to the Regional Office. In late summer, Forest Supervisor Richmond told CBMR President Tim Mueller that he would not make a decision that Rick Cables did not agree with, and arranged for Mr. Mueller to meet with Regional Forester Cables on August 16, 2009.”
The reply goes on to state, “Something happened (between the July and November decision). Forest Supervisor Richmond moved the goal line and adopted the new, impossible test after Regional Forester Rick Cables reviewed the Supervisor’s July Decision. These facts call into question the rationale Supervisor Richmond stated to the public in the November Decision and the GMUG Response. The July Decision shows that Forest Supervisor Richmond decided to start the NEPA process. The Supervisor reversed himself after requesting Rick Cables to approve his July Decision.”
Peña’s final decision on the appeal is expected sometime in May.