By: David & Nancy Neal, Alamosa Valley Courier
October 18, 2012
Village at Wolf Creek Access Project
The Forest Service’s proposed exchange of public land near Wolf Creek Ski Area for property owned by the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture will enable private commercial development of the Village at Wolf Creek. We cannot support this exchange or development in any way. The action would be inequitable and far from serving the interests of the people living in the tri-counties corridor and those who treasure Rio Grande National Forest’s wild lands.
The lands evaluated in this exchange should be appraised at their value when fully developed. Then, comparing the properties’ relative values would show that the Forest Service is giving away pubic property of greater economic value than the property it would receive.
The mission of the Forest Service is to manage and protect the lands under its purview for the use of the public. To negotiate a land exchange with a private entity for commercial development within a pristine wild area is absolutely counter to serving public interest, to the responsibilities of the U.S. Forest Service and to the continued loud protest against this project by impacted communities.
The premise that the Village at Wolf Creek would benefit local business economies is, by the Forest Service’s admission, uncertain. It is unlikely that these rural communities’ costs for expanded infrastructure, increased safety and public health burdens, and altered quality of life could be balanced by unproven seasonal revenues.
Beyond the shortsighted economics of a land exchange, there remain even greater inequities from environmental impacts and ensuing pressures on natural resources and public services.
Environmental Impacts: Construction of a large commercial development with hotels, condos, and infrastructure poses detrimental consequences for the critical wildlife corridor for deer, elk, endangered lynx and diverse wildlife, for nearby wetlands, and for water and air quality in the Wolf Creek watershed. The Wolf Creek Pass area’s natural havens are too important environmentally to be sacrificed to the ambitions of one absentee landowner pursuing personal gain.
Socioeconomic impacts: Serous civic issues demand that economic and recreational benefits for the few be weighed against costs to the majority. The proposed development would intensify traffic pressures, compromise highway safety, raise demands on emergency and law enforcement services, and swell low-income housing sprawl. All of this would come at increased costs to taxpayers, threats to viability of long-time local businesses, and negative impacts on the quality of rural life so valued by our community.
This development does not support the positive progress our area deserves. The Forest Service should choose the “no action” alternative and not allow this shortsighted plan for development to move forward.
David and Nancy Neal