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!
Hilary Eisen: Winter Wildlands Alliance is a national organization. We work on issues pertaining to snowsports primarily, so I have worked on a number of winter recreation proposals (proponent-driven projects) and I have never encountered an EIS process as poorly done as this one, with as slim of a range of alternatives, or really lacking in a range of alternatives.
It’s quite surprising given the high-profile location of Snow King, the national significance of the Bridger-Teton compared to many other National Forests, and the fact that this resort is basically in a town. This is not some isolated, distant place in the hinterlands somewhere, this is in the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in one of the most tourism-driven parts of this whole region. So to see an EIS that is really so lacking in alternatives and so unresponsive to the public and the community’s concerns is really quite shocking.
I agree with what others have said here that the only way to remedy this is a supplemental EIS. There have been a lot of really good ideas brought forward in the different comment periods throughout this process that were completely ignored. [Forest Supervisor] Tricia said that alternatives are considered but not analyzed in detail. If they aren’t analyzed in detail then they don’t really matter for the purposes of this decision-making process.
There are a lot of ways to allow Snow King to grow and develop without significantly changing the footprint of the resort or creating undue impact to wildlife and the community that shares this landscape with the ski resort. The Forest Service manages public land. This land, although parts of it are under permit from Snow King, and perhaps that permit area would expand, it’s still public land, it’s not Snow King’s land and the Forest Service’s responsibility is to be responsive to the public, including Snow King – they are a member of the public as well, but they do not have a special status above everybody else.
The Forest Service also needs to be responsive to its own policies and regulations, including following NEPA and fully complying with that. The Ski Area Enhancement Act requires the Forest Service to manage for ski areas but not at the expense of all other activities.
This is a small project with big impacts. The same sort of development can have very different impacts depending on where it is occurring, and in this particular place with this particular development, the impact is much larger than the square footage or the acreage in question here. We would like to see the Forest Service making science- and policy-based decisions and I hope that the regional office provides some oversight in this regard. Thank you.
Read the other comments here: