On Tuesday, May 30th, Colorado Wild and two other organizations representing thousands of citizens throughout Colorado and the nation challenged the Forest Service’s April 3rd approval of two access roads for Texas Developer Red McCombs to build his “Village” at Wolf Creek Ski Area. Our Administrative Appeal alleged that the agency made major errors in the scope and substance of its analysis, and failed to live up to its responsibilities to the public.
Toeing the line, on July 13th, the Regional Office of the Forest Service denied our appeal and upheld the decision to authorize two separate access roads across public land for purposes of building Red McCombs’ “Village” at Wolf Creek. In denying the administrative appeals brought by various entities including Colorado Wild, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, San Juan Citizens Alliance and even the developer, the Forest Service decision is now final, and susceptible to legal challenge.
The Appeal also alleged that the developer improperly influenced the Forest Service decision-making process, and compromised the integrity of the analysis. These allegations are also currently being reviewed by the USDA Inspector General, who was asked by Colorado Wild and Senator Ken Salazar to investigate the developer’s political influence on the process.
Unfortunately, the Forest Service continues to ignore major problems raised by the public as well as other State and Federal agencies. Shirking its lawful responsibilities, the Forest Service adopted the developer’s legal argument as their own thinly veiled justification for the project after generous lobbying and influence from the developer.
Although the appeal denial is a setback, it also poses and opportunity. The public has been waiting for 20 years for their government to take a hard look at the threat posed by the Village to their water, wildlife, local economies, and way of life. Freed from the tainted administrative process of the Forest Service, the Friends of Wolf Creek look forward to the court taking a fresh look at the evidence.Meanwhile, several other hurdles still stand before the developer, including obtaining a permit from CDOT, as well as returning to Mineral County for development approval. Together, it remains highly unlikely that the developer will have any opportunity to begin construction before the public gets a fair hearing on this matter in court.