The Land Exchange
On May 17 2017, the U.S. District Court reversed a land exchange on Wolf Creek Pass that had been approved by the U.S. Forest Service in 2015. This land exchange would have provided increased access to a roughly 300-acre inholding that has been proposed for development by Texas billionaire “Red” McCombs. This decision effectively stopped the construction of a “village” for 10,000 people in one our nation’s most important wildlife movement corridors.
In June, the developers (Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture), filed a Motion to Reconsider asking the judge to reconsider his decision. This motion was denied.
In October, the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture filed an appeal of the May 17 decision. They were joined by the U.S. Forest Service who filed their own appeal in November.
The Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture submitted their appellate brief on May 9, 2018, however, the US Forest Service decided not to appeal Judge Matsch’s Order!
On December 11, 2018, a federal appeals court dismissed the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture appeal, based on a lack of appellate jurisdiction. The dismissal leaves in place Judge Matsch’s findings, as well as his invalidation of the land exchange.
The Road Access
In early June 2018, we were made aware of a January 12, 2018 letter sent to the Forest Service by the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture where they demanded that the Forest Service ignore recent court decisions and instead approve road construction to begin the proposed real estate development.
In response to this new revelation, the Friends of Wolf Creek issued a petition to urge Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas to uphold Federal Court Orders and stand up to back channel pressures. Despite over 2,300 signatures gathered in a little over a month, on July 19, the Rio Grande National Forest announced its intention to circumvent a federal court ruling that invalidated prior approvals for the controversial Village at Wolf Creek real estate development.
To make matters worse, the Forest Service severely limited who could object on this action by limiting objections to those who “previously submitted specific written comments regarding the proposed project during scoping or comments on the draft EIS” in 2012. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to comment on changes to their public lands and encouraged everyone to submit their objections whether or not they had standing.
As was expected, supporters who did not have standing to object by the Forest Service’s definition began to receive rejections to their objections on October 17, 2018. However, people who had submitted comments in the past and therefore would have standing began to receive the letters as well. If you have received a rejection letter but believe you have standing, please follow the directions laid out in the second paragraph by contacting Olga Troxel so that your objection will not be set aside.
We are collecting these rejections from people and our litigating groups and counsel will chart a course on how to approach these generic denials. Please email your rejection letter with the approximate date you sent your objection (if known), a copy of your objection (if you feel comfortable sending it), if you submitted comments in the past, and approximate date you sent comments in the past if you can remember (years are also helpful if you can’t remember exact dates). We will track those and provide them to our lawyers.
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