SJCA Appeals Over Deeply Flawed Approval of Silverton Heli Ski Expansion

By July 13, 2017 Lands Protection
Picture of backcountry skier

We just couldn’t let it slide. There were too many egregious, and frankly illegal, errors in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) process that resulted in approval of Siverton Guide’s proposed heli-ski permit expansion. Despite hundreds of public comments against the proposal and a failure to address valid issues of concern raised in those comments, the BLM rubber stamped the proposal in May.

And boy were you all mad! Quiet users and snowmobilers alike saw the danger and inequity in how the process was managed, as well as the outcome. Your energy and commitment to the issue, fueled our desire to appeal the decision.

Along with our partners at Winter Wildlands Alliance and Colorado Mountain Club, we filed an appeal with the Interior Board of Land Appeals. You can see the press release and a link to the actual appeal below. Thank you to all of you who have been speaking out on this issue. These are the local, but important issues on which our organization was founded.

Its imperative our public agency’s serve the public with integrity. And when they don’t, it’s critical we call them out on it. If you value what we are doing, please consider supporting our work.

Full Press Release is below.

Additional Resources:

For Immediate Release: July 13, 2017

Process to Approve Silverton Heli-Ski Permit Expansion Deeply Flawed

Bureau of Land Management Failed the Public

 

San Juan Citizens Alliance filed an appeal with the Interior Board of Land Appeals over the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) veiled and illegal process to approve Silverton Guide’s proposal to drastically expand heli-ski operations on public lands surrounding Silverton, CO managed by the agency.

The BLM conducted a scoping process for the proposal in the summer of 2015, which generated 300 pages of public input. In the fall of 2016, nearly 400 comments were submitted on the Environmental Assessment (EA). The unusually large level of engagement for a commercial recreational use permit is indicative of how controversial the proposal was. In May of 2017, despite failing to account for missing comments, address significant public concerns or analyze sufficient alternatives, the BLM approved the company’s proposal.

When the BLM refused to release the public comments on the EA, San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA) obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request. Upon making them public, individuals realized their comments were missing. An analysis of a subset of comments through the SJCA website identified at least 25 unaccounted for public comments. The BLM made no substantial effort to reconcile why so many public comments were missing.

Of the hundreds of comments submitted and released, at least 85% opposed the expansion and user conflicts topped the list of concerns. Although the law requires the BLM to address issues brought up in the scoping period, user conflicts was mentioned only in passing and the agency failed to analyze and address it. Commenters also suggested alternative proposals to consider in addition to the one proposed by Silverton Guides. BLM nonetheless considered only a ‘No Action’ alternative to approving what was initially proposed.

“The Bureau of Land Management is legally responsible to serve the public interest, but in this process they discarded public input in order to reach what seems to be a predetermined outcome benefiting one commercial interest to the detriment of a diverse array of winter recreationists. We simply couldn’t let that go,” said Jimbo Buickerood of San Juan Citizens Alliance.

Media Contacts:
Jimbo Buickerood, jimbo@sanjuancitizens.org (970) 560-1111

3 Comments

  • Steve A Stahl says:

    Thank you for filing an appeal.

  • Bruce E. says:

    Thanks for filing the appeal also.
    I thought that appeal had been done. Many people do not know this and think that it is a done deal. I am really glad to hear that it is not. Will you keep us all informed on any public input or anything that can be done to stop this intrusion into our public land.
    Thanks.
    Bruce E.

    • Hi Bruce. The BLM did finalize their decision, but the process was so egregiously poor that we have appealed it to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. We don’t know the timing of when they might respond, but we suspect it will likely take a while. We will certainly let the public know when we get any news.

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