County leaders are crying foul about a U.S. Forest Service plan to trade property with the Town of Mammoth Lakes in exchange for more than 1,000 acres of non-federal land in Inyo, El Dorado, Plumas and Stanislaus counties.
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors said Tuesday the proposed land exchange, known as the Mammoth Base Land Exchange, conflicts with the Inyo County General Plan, which states that the county is opposed to any loss of private property in Inyo County.
According to Planning Director Josh Hart, the Forest Service is considering trading 20.6 acres in Mammoth Lakes to a company related to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in exchange for 1,729 acres of non-federal land in six counties.
Lands in Inyo County include property owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at the Inter Agency Visitor Center just south of Lone Pine, DWP lands accommodating a Forest Service equipment and material storage facility on the south side of East Yaney Street adjacent to the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop and the Tungstar mill site in Pine Creek Canyon.
An environmental document to evaluate the land exchange is scheduled to be done in early 2012.
“Subsequently, a decision whether to complete the exchange will be made based on whether the land exchange is determined to be in the public interest,” Hart said. “The Inyo County General Plan Government Element encourages expanding private land ownership and land exchanges that benefit the county … The project is inconsistent with these provisions.”
The Board of Supervisors approved a letter to Forest Service officials working on the exchange, asking that county leaders be involved in the process, as Inyo County lands are being considered in the exchange.
“On behalf of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, I wish to convey to you our dismay that no coordination or dialogue with the county occurred prior to scoping for the Mammoth Base Land Exchange,” the letter, which will be signed by Board Chair and Second District Supervisor Susan Cash, states.
The letter goes on to state that “the proposed land exchange will eliminate private lands in Inyo County, reduce the tax base and does not appear to provide any benefit to the citizens of Inyo County. Little taxable land remains in the county, and the population cap on the Payment-in-lieu-of-taxes formula will ensure that no PILT funds are provided to offset revenue lost due to the proposal.”
The letter also informs those working on the land exchange that less than 2 percent of the land in Inyo remains in private ownership.
“The Mammoth Base Land Exchange, as proposed, is inconsistent with the Inyo County General Plan and will result in significant socioeconomic impacts.”
The board is encouraging the Forest Service to consider mitigation measures to reduce impacts of the proposed exchange, including a means to recoup lost tax revenue and the erosion of private land ownership.
“We request that Forest Service staff meet with the Inyo County Board of Supervisors as soon as possible and throughout the review process to discuss these issues further,” the letter states.