Mammoth buys land for swap with Forest Service |

Mammoth buys land for swap with Forest Service

LEE VINING, Calif. (AP) – The Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has acquired 120 acres near Mono Lake, protecting the land from private development of dozens of homes.

The $3 million buy, however, isn’t entirely altruistic.

Mammoth wants to swap the land for national forest land it leases at the base of Mammoth Mountain for construction of new ski and lodging facilities.

The U.S. Forest Service, which owns the Mammoth land, had wanted to buy the Mono Lake land on the lake’s western shore to expand the Inyo National Forest, but the sale price far exceeded the agency’s appraisal.

Rusty Gregory, Mammoth’s chief executive officer, said Mammoth wants to demolish the 1950s-era buildings and build new ski and lodging complexes.

“The whole area is quite old, and we’d like to redevelop it and are looking for ways to make that financially feasible. Owning the land is one way to do it,” he said.

In a Feb. 11 letter, a deputy of regional forester Jack Blackwell said the Forest Service supported the land exchange “in concept” but noted it would be subject to environmental approvals.

The development plan at Mono Lake called for 24 to 30 homes scattered across a highway from the lake, but the land owner said he would rather see the land preserved.

“I always wanted it as open space and they know that, but we have wanted a fair valuation of the property,” said Bill Cunningham, referring to negotiations with Forest Service officials.

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