HomeNews HCCA throws up red flags over proposed ski area plan
HCCA throws up red flags over proposed ski area plan
Written by Mark Reaman
Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Finding the sweet spot
The High Country Citizens’ Alliance has a few suggestions for Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Master Development Plan, including a recommendation to the Forest Service that the ski resort pen another draft of the document.
The plan is currently in front of the U.S. Forest Service for review and the resort is hoping for approval of the MDP document before spring. The MDP is meant as a 10-year master plan of conceptual ideas for the ski area. It has to be approved by the Forest Service but comes with no hard approvals from the agency. Among other things, the proposed MDP includes plans for eventual lift expansion into the Teocalli drainage, side-country skiing on Snodgrass and more summer bike trails within the resort permit area. In a letter to the Forest Service and a press release to local media, HCCA recommends CBMR draft a second version of the MDP “that provides more information to the public as well as a more details [sic] on the extent of environmental protection incorporated into the plan.” “There are several sections of the MDP that warrant significant scrutiny by the US Forest Service and likely additional clarification and refinement,” the HCCA release states. CBMR vice president and general manager Ethan Mueller said the concerns raised by HCCA would be appropriately discussed in the environmental review stage of approval for an expansion into the Teo drainage. “The issues brought up by HCCA would be addressed in NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] and the approval process,” he said. “We’ve even addressed some of them already such as the viewshed concern in Brush Creek. We didn’t take the lift to the valley floor in order to keep it hidden from the road. “But let’s hope this isn’t like the Snodgrass process,” he continued. “Let’s not put the cart before the horse. This is still just an idea. Hopefully the MDP will get approved and we’ll continue within the proper process.” CBMR director of planning and sustainability John Sale agreed. “We expected HCCA to be a part of this process. We’ve been talking with them and took some of the staff on tours of the area. We knew they would be sending comments. We met with HCCA’s new director Greg Dyson and went over some of the issues. But a lot of these issues don’t apply to the MDP process. It’s a conceptual document. Some form of extensive environmental review would have to be done if we move toward putting a lift in there. There is a whole series of events and that is the point of NEPA, to investigate the environmental impacts in detail. There are no approvals granted just because something is in the MDP,” Sale said. Dyson said the environmental group is just looking for more detail up front to make things easier in the long run. “This is a document that the Forest Service and community will rely on for a while,” he said. “So the more information they can put in early, the better. We aren’t trying to say they shouldn’t do the expansion into Teo, but they should do it carefully. We are just wanting to get more details and put everyone on notice that these are environmental concerns that the community cares about as the plan goes forward.” Dyson stated in the press release, “Many in the community have asked me if HCCA is ‘for’ or ‘against’ the new MDP. We are neither. We simply urge CBMR and the Forest Service to exercise greater caution before development proceeds in the Teo drainage and the Snodgrass area. We are also pushing for stronger oversight on trail maintenance in the summers and on how CBMR’s water rights are put to use. These issues are resolvable in a way that protects the local pristine landscape, which is ultimately the draw for those of us who live or play here.” HCCA then outlines several concerns in the release. The organization sent a seven-page letter to the Forest Service detailing those and other concerns with the proposal. See a complete copy of the press release at www.crestedbuttenews.com. “Our mission is to look at the environmental impacts of what happens in this community,” Dyson explained. “We prefaced the press release and letter with a desire to take into account the economic impacts as well as the environmental. That’s new ground for our organization. We want to find the sweet spot between the economy and the environment.” The first paragraph of the press release makes it clear HCCA understands CBMR’s role in the community. “HCCA has analyzed CBMR’s MDP and is eager to work with CBMR, the US Forest Service and the public to maintain the community’s economic viability while minimizing environmental impacts,” the press release begins. “CBMR is the economic driver for the Upper East River Valley, and HCCA supports its economic success, balanced with the equally compelling need for environmental sustainability. In fact, we view the two goals of economic success and environmental protection as complementary and inseparable.” Among the stated concerns in the letter is that the Teo expansion is outside the current Special Use Permit area and “within a different Management Area that calls for a natural appearing environment.” HCCA asks that “Any development of public lands outside of the current SUP boundaries should be minimized to that necessary to meet the goals and objectives of CBMR in conjunction and balanced with healthy public lands management.” The Teo drainage is directly above and viewable from the East River/Brush Creek areas, and HCCA said mitigation measures should be incorporated to lessen visual impacts. “It is also imperative that impacts to the East River/Brush Creek Valleys (the landscape directly below Teo Drainage) be avoided. These valley floors offer unparalleled views and vistas, and harbor some of the Upper East River Valley’s last working ranches,” HCCA contends. The environmental organization is asking for in-depth detail as part of the MDP. “HCCA requests that CBMR and the USFS analyze potential geologic and hydrogeologic impacts that would result from earthworks, grading, glading and other development in the proposed expansion area. HCCA encourages not consideration, but implementation, of best management practices and other mitigation measures to minimize impacts from new development, in conjunction with USFS practices and recommendations. It would behoove CBMR to provide details on exact locations of earthwork, type of earthwork actions proposed at each location, how much soil and rock material would be altered, and specific mitigation measures,” the release states. Other concerns raised by HCCA include an investigation into whether or not the area is lynx habitat, the location of glading in the area and impacts to wildlife habitat and a big game migration corridor. Overall, the HCCA press release ends with this statement: “Environmental health translates to economic health, and we support a balanced approach between development and sustainability for CBMR.” “There’s not much justification to say we should draft a second version of the MDP,” said Sale. “That starts to smell like they are just putting up roadblocks as opposed to constructively working with the resort and the public. We want to work with everyone to make the product better but we hope to do it in the proper way and we want to stay within the Forest Service process. We won’t be doing another pre-NEPA process this time like we did with Snodgrass.”