By: Jonathan Romeo, The Durango Herald
September 30, 2016

A coalition of conservation groups on Thursday submitted an opening brief as part of a lawsuit that aims to stop a land exchange on Wolf Creek Pass that would allow a village with the capacity for 8,000 people in a remote part of Southwestern Colorado.

In a Friday news release, the coalition – which includes Rocky Mountain Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance and San Luis Ecosystem Council – said the U.S. Forest Service unlawfully limited the scope of an environmental analysis and failed to serve the public interest.

“Despite promises to carry out a lawful and transparent analysis of the landowner’s plans, the Forest Service produced an analysis of development concepts based on many of the same violations,” Travis Stills, attorney with Energy & Conservation Law, said in a prepared statement.

The lawsuit stems from a 2015 decision by the U.S. Forest Service’s Rio Grande district that would swap 205 acres of public land for 177 acres of private land within the boundaries of the Rio Grande National Forest. The lawsuit was filed in June 2015.

The deal would give Texas billionaire and developer B.J. “Red” McCombs road access his project – the Village at Wolf Creek, an Aspen-sized village at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area – has lacked since the 1980s.

Conservation groups opposed to the land exchange further argued the process to approve the deal was biased, evidenced by 100,000 pages of documents received under the Freedom of Information Act, which they say show collusion between the Forest Service and McCombs.

“The Forest Service erected road blocks at every juncture, forcing us to file suit to get information that should have been readily available to the public,” Matt Sandler, attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild, said in a prepared statement.

Read more at The Durango Herald.

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