Heavenly objects to Forest Service plan
February 10, 2014
Heavenly Mountain Resort is objecting to portions of the U.S. Forest Service's land management plan for the Tahoe Basin, claiming it impedes on an agreement that allows use of some federal grounds.
The resort is protesting against sections of the plan that focus on recreational development and expansion, among other things.
"We support the overwhelming majority of the Plan," said Andrew Strain, vice president of planning and governmental affairs at Heavenly and Northstar. "However, our objection letter focuses on two specific issues we had previously raised during the public comment period for the Draft Plan and (Environmental Impact Statement) circulation."
In an objection letter sent to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell, Heavenly claimed that the new Land and Resource Management Plan restricts additional ski resort development to 200 acres, which would apply collectively to at least four ski resorts on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
"As written, if one resort implements a 200-acre development, the other resorts would be precluded from developing because (the plan's) cap would be reached," according to the letter. "This may encourage resorts to submit proposals to use up the 200-acres before another resort does."
Heavenly has a special use permit with boundaries that exceed the size of its operations. Limiting what the resort could develop within that permit would impact its existing rights, according to the objection.
"(The plan) effectively revises the terms and permit boundary of existing ski area permits by significantly constraining the ability to develop permitted lands," the letter states. "(The plan) makes this revision without following the procedures for terminating or modifying existing permits."
Officials at the LTBMU this week said they felt they had put "the best plan forward" and will not speak on objections further while the grievances are being reviewed in Washington, D.C.
"Where we are now, we are not getting into specifics on the objections," said Lisa Herron, public affairs specialist with the LTBMU.
The plan, which will guide management of National Forest System lands in the basin over the next 15 years, received 12 objection letters from individuals and groups in its revised stage. One of them was Heavenly.
Heavenly operates on 3,066 acres of National Forest Service lands, making it the largest resort on the LTBMU, according to Forest Service documents.
Other ski resorts on the LTBMU include Alpine Meadows, Diamond Peak Ski Area and Homewood Mountain Resort, but Northstar could also expand into the region.
Because the 200-acre cap would apply to all of these resorts, Heavenly claimed the plan could encourage a "development race," or a rush to propose new terrain.
The resort also opposed the adoption of Species Refuge Areas for Whitebark Pine within its perimeter, stating that the development of a conservation strategy for the trees is not appropriate in a ski resort's operational boundaries.
"Whitebark Pine conservation inside a developed ski area such as Heavenly is best addressed with resort-specific management direction, such as that contained in Heavenly's 2013 (memorandum of understanding) with the LBTMU," according to the letter.
The plan is currently in a 90-day objection resolution period, which involves Forest Service officials working with objectors to determine if the agency can resolve their issues.
When the objection resolution period ends, the revised plan will take effect after the Regional Forester signs a Record of Decision.