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Heavenly protests Forest Service plan

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POSTED February 16, 2014 6:46 p.m.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE  (AP) — Heavenly Mountain Resort is protesting portions of the U.S. Forest Service’s 15-year land management plan for Lake Tahoe.

In a letter sent to Forest Service chief Thomas Tidwell, Heavenly claims a plan to restrict future ski-resort development to 200 acres would apply collectively to all four ski resorts in the Tahoe Basin.

As a result, Heavenly contends, the plan could spark a “development race” by encouraging resorts to submit proposals to develop the 200 acres before other resorts do so.

In addition to Heavenly, the Alpine Meadows, Diamond Peak and Homewood resorts also operate in the Tahoe Basin.

Heavenly, which operates on 3,066 acres of national forest lands on Tahoe’s south shore, also maintains the plan would significantly constrain the ability to develop within its boundaries because it effectively revises the terms and boundaries of existing ski-area permits. Limiting what the resort could develop under the permit would impact its existing rights, according to the letter.

Heavenly also opposes creation of a special refuge area for whitebark pines within its boundaries, arguing that conservation is better served through an existing management agreement with the Forest Service.

The resort’s complaints are among 12 formal objections the Forest Service published to the updated plan for 154,000 acres of national forest lands around Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1ezOKhf ).

Various environmental groups complained about a lack of new wilderness designations, provisions allowing large trees to be removed, the amount of land open to over-snow vehicles, and management strategies for the California spotted owl and Pacific marten.

Fire chiefs around Lake Tahoe expressed “substantive concerns” about some of the plan’s firefighting and fuel -reduction strategies.

Forest Service spokeswoman Lisa Herron told the Tribune the agency put “the best plan forward” and will not comment on the objections while they are being reviewed by its top officials in Washington, D.C.

Following a 90-day objection resolution process, the regional forester will sign a record of decision for the plan to take effect.

A final environmental impact statement was released in November, following a draft statement that drew 18,500 comments.

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