Forest Service hold as much power as MMSA when it comes to June Mountain

The final say regarding June Mountain Ski Area’s destiny—this coming winter and from here on—lies as much with Inyo National Forest supervisor Ed Armenta as it does with MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory.

Although Gregory was the focus of much of the public’s ire at last week’s meeting between the June Lake community and Gregory, Armenta was the other real power in the room. He had just returned from his first meeting with Gregory earlier that day, July 10. Armenta said it was very clear to him how critical to the community of June Lake and to Mono County it is to keep June Mountain open.

“We are sensitive to the issue that June Lake area residents are facing with this closure and I want to do everything in my power to ensure that we all put forth our best effort as we look for sustainable solutions to the June Mountain closure issue, ” he said.

At that meeting, residents asked for more information from the forest about how it enforces the special use permit the ski area is operated under. Here are some of the most common questions raised, along with several new questions asked by the MT.

Nancy Upham, public affairs officer for the Inyo National Forest, answered the following questions.

Q: What are the next steps that the Forest Service will be taking?
A: We will be issuing MMSA a letter of non-compliance and working with them in their design of a process to develop a plan for sustainable operations at June Mountain Ski Area. MMSA has stated that they are open and willing to talk about options. The Forest Service is open to listening to and working with any credible ideas that come forward regarding solutions to the closure of June Mountain. We are also consulting with other national forests that have dealt with Ski Area closures, as well as our legal counsel.

Q: What would trigger revocation of MMSA’s permit?
A: Taking steps to revoke MMSA’s permit would be a last resort effort. It is not the most feasible, practical, or easy solution to this issue, and could be a lengthy process as MMSA does have appeal rights.

Q: Can someone else, right now, come in and buy the resort and begin operation of June Mountain Ski Area?
A: Mammoth Mountain has the ability to sell their infrastructure and improvements on June Mountain. The buyer would have to provide appropriate documentation and the Forest Service would have to make the determination that the applicant has both the financial and technical ability to hold the permit and operate the ski area.

Q: What came out of the meeting between the forest service and Rusty Gregory, et al?
A: MMSA was told that they will be issued a letter of non-compliance with the terms of their permit and that the forest service will be requesting that an audit be performed on the June Mtn. Ski Area operations and books. Both MMSA and the forest service stated that they are open and willing to discuss any credible options leading to a solution to the issue of the closure of June Mountain.

Q: Based on the forest service/MMSA discussions of July 10, and the June Lake CAC meeting that same day, what are the forest service’s thoughts regarding the timeframe for Gregory’s planning process? How will you determine what is reasonable?
A: Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta has agreed to meet within two weeks with MMSA, June Lake Community members, and representatives of Mono County, for the purpose of taking a look at options for keeping June Mountain open. Based on this discussion, a reasonable timeframe for the planning process can more accurately be set. The 180 days written notice regarding revocation of a special use permit that was referenced at the CAC meeting is a non-negotiable timeframe required by forest service policy. Armenta is hoping for a workable solution before this point, so that we don’t have to go there.

Q: How quickly can a permit change hands? Or is a sublease for next winter more feasible?
A: A sublease for operations for next winter may be more feasible than switching the permit to a new owner, as both the permit and the permittee are already in place, and government permitting processes do take time to work through. Armenta also stated that he is willing to modify the June Mountain permit and operating plan, within his authority to do so, to accommodate any activities that would allow June Mountain to be open and operating this winter.