We are trying to protect Snow King Mountain, our Town Hill, from harmful development plans by new investors. We want Snow King to succeed as our Town Hill, not an amusement park. The Bridger-Teton office of the US Forest Service has been reviewing the development proposals in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We recently officially “objected” to the draft decision by the Forest Service. Objection is a formal step of the process intended to allow a mediated solution and prevent litigation of bad decisions. We were honored to stand alongside many long-time locals, local, statewide, and national conservation and winter recreation groups, and even the Town of Jackson in objecting to both the content and process that led to a very flawed decision. We are now waiting for the Regional Office of the Forest Service to investigate and hopefully recommend changes to solve the serious problems we’ve uncovered.
In this blog series, we’ll share the closing comments from us and two great partners, the Wyoming Wilderness Association and national Winter Wildlands Alliance. We want to bring you “behind the scenes” in the objection meetings, which were also covered well in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Be in touch with Clare (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn how to stay involved and stand up for our Town Hill!
Skye: I’ll start with the one piece that hasn’t come up yet, which is some really concerning evidence we found in a Freedom of Information Act request. I hate to even bring this up, but I feel like we have to talk about it. We’ve seen evidence that the district ranger worked with the proponents to bias the NEPA process – and this is an extremely serious problem. We provided the evidence in our draft EIS comments. I understand the idea that this is a proponent-driven process but it seems like it still has to be an objective and fair process and this was way over the line.
What we saw was the district Ranger worked with the developers to gin up positive comments and then reported that to the Town Council in a way that really is not appropriate either, presenting it as a vote – that the scoping comments were a vote and most people supported and anyone who raised issues (which is the whole point of doing scoping comments), these are people who had a “negative tone.” That’s all documented and it’s all on video, you can see it. [See page 9 in our Draft EIS comments here.]
I feel like we really need some oversight from the region because this is a grave process failure. It’s a completely broken process from the beginning. It just can’t lead to public trust. You can see how that plays into only looking at what the developers are asking for, not listening to the public at any step of the way.
You look at the purpose and need – these aren’t “needs” for the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BT), they are wants for a particular investment group with a particular investment strategy. The BT has amazing beginner terrain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort—you could say, “well it’s more expensive there” but Snow King is clearly going to become more expensive as well. There’s nothing in this that will prevent that.
So really we’re looking at a process that’s been broken from the beginning, completely biased and no way to look at the impact. And I guess I’d say that a proponent-driven process is great if there’s a proponent who wants to do something that doesn’t have major impacts. This is not the case. There’s huge impacts. There’s great middle-ground alternatives that have just been excluded at every step of the process.
It’s really shocking to me because the BT didn’t used to work like this. For decades we’ve had some great balanced NEPA processes. One was the Skyline Trail process, with a different District Ranger who really listened to and balanced a wide variety of interests, considered the impacts, mitigated them. I’m just utterly baffled at how this has gone so off the rails from the very beginning of the scoping process all the way to today.
This is why the remedy we’ve been asking for is a supplemental EIS to redo this process without bias and with very direct oversight from the regional office. Again I’m sorry for bringing up a hard topic, this is very uncomfortable for me to bring up, but I think it’s critical that we have it on the table and be honest about what happened and how this went wrong. Thank you.
Read the other comments here: