Forest Service expected to make decision this fall

By: Jonathan Romeo, The Durango Herald
September 16, 2018

A majority of people who weighed in on the U.S. Forest Service granting the Village at Wolf Creek road access opposed the decision, citing many faults with the proposed resort atop Wolf Creek Pass.

In the approximately 200 comments submitted during a 45-day public input period, about 140 people opposed the Forest Service’s decision, with about 60 people speaking in favor of the project.

Those who opposed the Forest Service’s decision, which effectively paves the way for the Village at Wolf Creek, called out many issues related to environmental damage, destruction of lynx habitat, fire danger and detrimental impacts to water quality.

“This is a massive development that will dramatically alter the wilderness,” wrote Kevin Bruce, a Pagosa Springs resident. “What part of creating a massive development in the middle of one of the last remaining core habitat areas in the Southern Rockies do the developers not understand?”

Efforts to build a resort at the top of Wolf Creek Pass have been ongoing for more than 30 years, driven by Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs. The property, however, has always lacked road access to U.S. Highway 160.

Challenged almost every step of the way, the proposed Village at Wolf Creek would have a capacity for 8,000 to 10,000 people with lodging and businesses.

The resort would be located about 20 miles from the nearest towns – Pagosa Springs and South Fork – at an elevation of about 10,000 feet, adjacent to the relatively small Wolf Creek Ski Area.

About four years ago, the Forest Service approved a land swap that gave the developers road access, but it was immediately challenged by environmental groups that said the Forest Service failed to take environmental concerns into account and was unduly influenced by McCombs and his political pressure to grant road access.

A federal court judge in May 2017 agreed, calling the Forest Service’s decision biased, and the environmental review that justified the land swap an “artful dodge” of its responsibilities to protect public lands.

In July, however, the Forest Service announced it would grant road access through other means, which kicked off the 45-day public comment period. A final decision is pending.

“In my view, adding 8,000 people to the area is in no way a ‘reasonable use,’” wrote Cathleen Enns. “It’s hard to imagine two times the population of my town, Bayfield, on the mountain top and traveling the pass.”

Pagosa Springs resident Jim Milstein wrote, “It is such a bad project, environmentally, aesthetically, socially, and physiologically. If started, it is bound to fail and would irreparably harm the important ecosystem at the headwaters of the Rio Grande.”

Read more at The Durango Herald.

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