The developers of the controversial Village at Wolf Creek recently demanded the Forest Service simply ignore recent court decisions and instead approve road construction to begin the proposed real estate development. In a January 12, 2018 letter to the Forest Service, the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture told the Forest Service to immediately grant access so the developers can proceed with the work needed to construct roads and “begin development of the private land immediately.”
The developers casually brushed off a federal court’s decision from May, 2017 that voided the Forest Service’s decision to approve a land exchange, secondary road access, and utility easements necessary for the development. The developer’s letter, asked the Forest Service to simply ignore the many deficiencies the court found in the agency’s compliance with federal environmental laws.
In his May decision, Senior Federal Judge Richard P. Matsch unequivocally set aside the Forest Service’s decision as not in accordance with the law, but now the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture is trying to persuade the Forest Service that the federal court’s order can be willfully ignored. LMJV requested reconsideration, which the court denied. LMJV’s appeal to the Tenth Circuit is subject to a pending motion to dismiss based on the Forest Service acquiescence to Judge Matsch’s ruling.
“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?” said Christine Canaly, Director of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council. “What will it take for common sense to prevail in providing a lasting legacy to future generations of the public, over building a tombstone of housing units that enables ecological ruin at the Rio Grande headwaters?”
The Village at Wolf Creek is a planned massive real estate development located atop Wolf Creek Pass that would house up to 8,000 people in as many as 2,000 housing units. It has been mired in controversy for 30 years, and courts have repeatedly stymied attempts by the developers to fast track approvals or short-circuit environmental studies and public input.
“It has become obvious that the Village at Wolf Creek cannot withstand scrutiny and a full accounting of the enormously destructive impacts of their intended development, ” said Mark Pearson, Executive Director of San Juan Citizens Alliance. “Why else would LMJV go to such great lengths to hide its development plans from public scrutiny by the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service (lynx), Corps of Engineers (wetlands), Federal Highway Administration (U.S. Hwy 160 interchange), and other agencies with jurisdiction over the impacts posed by a town-sized development project.”
The developers were apparently unsuccessful in convincing the Forest Service that it proceed with approving the project even in the face of a federal court’s explicit rejection of the agency’s decision. The Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture wanted to start construction during 2018 and insisted on expeditious approval of its request despite the Forest Service’s failure to comply with the law.
Travis Stills, Attorney with Energy and Conservancy Law, who has represented the groups in several rounds of successful litigation, said, “This proposal flagrantly violates federal laws and LMJV’s own agreement to subject any access request to federal scrutiny. We expect the Forest Service will honor the binding settlement agreement and federal court orders, even if LMJV does not. Should the Forest Service cave to pressure, we will take the steps necessary to protect the National Forest.”
- Travis Stills, Attorney, Energy & Conservancy Law, firstname.lastname@example.org, (970) 375-9231
- Matt Sandler, Staff Attorney, Rocky Mountain Wild, email@example.com, (303) 579-5162
- Jimbo Buickerood, Lands Program Manager, San Juan Citizens Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org, (970) 560-1111
- Christine Canaly, Director, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, email@example.com, (719) 256-4758