By: Tehri Parker, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Wild
May 11, 2016
It’s finally spring on Wolf Creek Pass and the air is filled with the sounds of songbirds, rather than bulldozers. This feat is due to the efforts of local residents, activists, philanthropists, and the Friends of Wolf Creek coalition who have fought for years to make sure that this important wildlife movement corridor and backcountry haven has been protected from development.
The latest efforts to protect this special place have been happening behind the scenes, in the offices and courtrooms frequented by our legal team. Over the last few months our attorneys have been combing through more than 100,000 pages of records released by the Forest Service pursuant to Court Orders in litigation involving our two Freedom of Information Act requests. The documents we’ve reviewed paint a picture of improper interactions between the “village” developers, third-party contractors, and the Forest Service, as well as undue pressure from Red McCombs who is described as “rattling cages” to get the decision he wants.
While these records are voluminous, they only represent part of the story. What’s missing? Records in the possession of the contractors that the Forest Service hired to prepare the environmental analysis of the land exchange. While these records legally belong to the Forest Service, they have refused to ask the contractors to supply all of them.
“These records could be very important to our case,” states Matt Sandler, Attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild. “The developers have a history of improperly influencing the outcome of what should be ‘objective and transparent’ processes.”
In March we filed a motion in the U.S. District Court to have these records disclosed and potentially added to the Administrative Record. The attorneys for the Forest Service and the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture responded to the court arguing that the Administrative Record was complete without these additional records. Last week we filed a 23-page Reply brief, and now we are awaiting the Court’s decision.