Citing environmental and other concerns, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources has rejected a plan to connect Smuggler’s Notch Resort to Stowe Mountain Resort by gondola.

As first reported by the Vermont News & Citizen, a memo by the Barre District Stewardship Team, which evaluated the project, concluded the proposed connector would interfere with the long-term management of the state-owned land; pose environmental and mitigation concerns; and threaten various endangered species.

The memo prompted the resorts to withdraw their request for the agency’s support in obtaining an Act 250 permit.

“The proposal conflicts with some of those land use designations, the challenges with our management goals for the area,” said Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore.

Bill Stritzler, the owner of Smuggler’s Notch, disagrees. He says he consulted environmental experts familiar with Vermont’s restrictions and is confident the resorts meet the state’s requirements, including protections for the Bicknell Thrush habitat.

And Stitzler said he is going back to the drawing board. “We’re going to look at alternative approaches,” he said. 

Moore says the agency would likely never approve a project in an area with such ecological sensitivity. But she said regulators are still willing to work with the resorts on the proposed project.

But the project would need to inspire more confidence from the agency.

“There are a handful of instances where we didn’t even stamp the application because we didn’t see a path to yes,” she said. 

News of the proposed gondola earlier this year set off speculation that Smuggler’s Notch could be sold to Vail Resorts, which owns Stowe Mountain Resort.

Stritzer said he doesn’t intend to let that happen.

“We have to reevaluate how we can retain our independence, and still have a successful and sustainable business,” he said.