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 has decided not to appeal Judge Matsch’s Order!
“When the government doesn’t defend a decision it made that a federal judge has struck down, that should be the end of things, and we’re hoping this puts an end to this land exchange,” Travis Stills, an attorney with Energy & Conservation Law stated.
We are waiting to see if the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture proceeds with the appeals process without the US Forest Service, or if Judge Matsch’s decision stands and they need to restart the environmental analysis for the land swap.
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 is trying to severely limit who can comment 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. Please continue to follow this activity on our website or sign up for our action alerts to be notified when actions are available.