By: Dan Rudolph, San Juan Citizens Alliance, The Durango Herald
September 12, 2012

It’s the same old story with a slightly different spin.

Once again, we are faced with a proposal for a community of many thousands perched at the Continental Divide, at the top of Wolf Creek Pass. Local communities have consistently opposed the potentially environmentally and economically damaging proposal to build a large residential and commercial development atop the pass.

The latest attempt to circumvent the public comes in the form of a proposed land trade on the east side of Wolf Creek Pass between an out-of-state and absentee developer and the U.S. Forest Service. Ultimately, the result would be the same as the earlier proposals – a large development in the wrong place.

The past proposals were defeated by an overwhelming public outcry, primarily local to both sides of Wolf Creek Pass. Once again, we need to have your help to stop the Pillage at Wolf Creek. By submitting comments to the recent Draft Environmental Impact Statement by the Forest Service that analyzes the proposed land trade and potentially paves the way for the development of The Village at Wolf Creek (otherwise known as “The Pillage at Wolf Creek”), we can hopefully succeed again.

The village proposal has always been one man’s personal vision of greed at the expense of the experience and livelihoods of local people and the environment.

While the details of the proposal may have changed over the decades, it is still fundamentally about building a personal money-maker, even if most residents in the area don’t want it. The proposed village is not likely to substantially help local businesses, but it has the potential to be economically harmful to local business by drawing away from existing businesses in South Fork and Pagosa Springs.

Unfortunately, the land appraisal process used to put a value on the land proposed for trade is not fair. The assessment is skewed toward development and overvaluation of the economic benefits rather than the long-term values of the wildlife and natural area.

Wolf Creek Pass provides an important wildlife linkage for animals such as endangered lynx, elk, bear and mule deer to use the pass to connect between vital habitat to the south and the core wilderness of the San Juans to the north. It is an unroaded complex at the crossroads of several core natural areas. Allowing a huge commercial and residential development in this mostly road-free area would put sprawl and industrial activity amid this natural haven.

Although you may have made your voice heard in the past, this may be the last opportunity for public comment and we encourage you to speak out one more time. The Forest Service and the Colorado congressional delegation need to hear from you:

We do not want The Village of Wolf Creek constructed on Wolf Creek Pass and causing irreversible damage to our local environment and economy.

The Village at Wolf Creek is a bad idea at any size. It’s the wrong kind of use for scenic Wolf Creek Pass. The Forest Service should choose the “no action” alternative and not allow such a short-sighted plan for development to move forward. Dan Randolph is executive director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.

Read more at the Durango Herald.

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