Snow King alternative

“Alternative 4” for Snow King Mountain, pictured, was developed in response to public comments.

Federal land managers on Friday published a long-awaited environmental study of the possible historical, wildlife and recreational impacts of a proposed overhaul of Snow King Mountain.

Since last fall, the public has had a preview of four options the Bridger-Teton National Forest is considering for the future of the historic ski area rising over the south side of Jackson.

Those options, dubbed “alternatives” in federal government planning lingo, are unchanged — as is the forest’s lack of preference for any of the four plans. (Confusingly, an option in the document labeled “proposed action” is not actually preferred by the forest, but rather is the proposal submitted by Snow King Mountain Resort that led to the analysis.)

What’s new in the 255-page draft environmental impact statement is an analysis of how proposed expansions, additions and changes at Snow King will affect wildlife, resources and the resort’s cultural history. The document was commissioned by Snow King, written by its consultant, Cirrus Ecological Solutions, and vetted by the Bridger-Teton Forest, according to Jackson District Ranger Mary Moore.

Snow King officials say the plans reflect community feedback and multiyear stakeholder processes.

“Snow King Mountain appreciates all the work of the U.S. Forest Service, Town of Jackson and our community members who have all reached out, provided public comment and have been engaged in this process,” Snow King Vice President Ryan Stanley said in a statement. “We are excited about this next phase as it is critical to continue to move these improvements forward and invest in Snow King’s future.”

The public has until March 16 to weigh in on the document, which is attached to the online version of this story at JHNewsAndGuide.com. Comments can be submitted online at TinyURL.com/SK-EIS.

Moore said all of the options being considered, other than taking no action, will have “some adverse impacts” to Snow King’s historic landscape, which is eligible to be protected under the National Historic Preservation Act. The three “character-defining features,” she said, are the ski runs, the Panorama House and the terminal building where current Summit Lift skiers unload.

Working with the State Historic Preservation Office, the Bridger-Teton is seeking to come up with an agreement that mitigates harm to historic eligibility.

Three primary wildlife issues are examined in the analysis, Moore said: effects to ungulates like elk and mule deer and critical winter range in Leeks Canyon; effects to a goshawk nest near Snow King’s current east boundary; and the potential impacts to federally protected lynx, a species that hasn’t been verified anywhere on the forest for a decade.

“We worked closely with Wyoming Game and Fish,” Moore said, “and did a bunch of field trips to the back side.”

Skye Schell, who directs the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, believes the analysis lacks the “reasonable range of alternatives” demanded by the National Environmental Policy Act.

“We are disappointed that the Forest Service is running this review without a fair and full analysis,” he said in an email, “as the end result may be that they have to start over and do it right, after wasting everyone’s time with a flawed process.”

The Bridger-Teton’s Moore disagreed.

“We developed what we feel is a reasonable range of alternatives associated with the issues identified by the public,” she said.

If people weighing in on the draft EIS feel differently, Moore said, the final document could include additional alternatives.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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