Forest Service officials are currently working through a federally mandated Environmental Policy Act review in order to exchange 20.6 acres of land in Mammoth Lakes for 1,715 acres of privately owned land.
The Mammoth Base Land Exchange proposes trading the 20.6 acres of National Forest system lands in Mammoth Lakes that is managed by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area for smaller parcels in Inyo, Plumas, Eldorado and Stanislaus national forests and two small parcels in Inyo County that are outside the National Forest.
“We are still working on the NEPA process for the exchange and none of the properties have been appraised,” Forest Service spokesperson Leslie Morefield said. “Our optimistic hope is to conclude the land exchange by the end of the calendar year.
According to the Forest Service, the Mammoth property is a tract located within the city limits of the Town of Mammoth Lakes, and would, if the land exchange is implemented, be an island of non-Federal land surrounded by NFS lands.
“The Federal parcel is an intensely developed tract containing structures providing lodging and visitor services facilities at the main base area for the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area,” James R. Webb, Forest Service Lands Specialist said via press release.
The facilities on the property include the Mammoth Mountain Inn, the Yodler Restaurant, two ski lift bases, a snowmobile and snow cat rental and tour service and several parking areas.
Five of the non-Federal parcels are located inside the boundaries of the Inyo National Forest. Those parcels include the West Mono Lake Parcel (located inside the boundaries of the Mono Lake National Forest Scenic Area near the west shore of Mono Lake), the Lundy Canyon Parcel (patented mining claims located in or adjacent to the Hoover Wilderness northwest of Mono Lake), the Watterson Meadows Parcel (a large inholding in the Benton Range east of Mono Lake), the Moran Springs Parcel (another inholding in the Benton Range) and the Pine Canyon Parcel (located at the trailhead of the Pine Canyon Trail).
Two of the non-Federal parcels are located in Inyo County outside the boundaries of the Inyo National Forest. The DWP-Visitor Center Parcel is located two miles south of Lone Pine, California, at the junction of California State Route 136 and U.S. 395 and contains the Interagency Visitor Center managed jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the California Department of Transportation, Mono County, Inyo County and the California Department of Fish and Game.
The DWP-Bishop Parcel is located in the city center of Bishop, adjacent to the White Mountain Ranger District Office of the Inyo National Forest and is used to store vehicles and large service items used in the management of programs of the Inyo National Forest. Because these parcels are outside the boundaries of the Inyo National Forest, legislation is needed to authorize acquisition of these parcels under the laws regulating land exchanges by the USDA Forest Service.
The Inyo County Board of Supervisors went on record back in October, opposing the proposed exchange, saying it conflicts with the county General Plan.
A letter from the Board of Supervisors to the Forest Service claims 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.”
If the exchange moves forward Mammoth Mountain hopes to replace all of the structures on the Federal parcel in Mammoth to improve visitor service facilities and promote easier skier movement in the area.