The Forest Service released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Access Decision April 3rd, granting the developer two access points across Forest Service Land . The decision is a slap in the face to the public, who spoke out with near unanimity in opposition to the agency granting access. Follow this link to the Forest Service webpage to download the FEIS.
The Friends of Wolf Creek oppose the access decision. Based on our preliminary legal review, we are now compelled to file an administrative appeal and may eventually be forced litigate the decision. Although the decision is clearly a setback for anyone who cares about Wolf Creek , the resources that the area supports, and the communities that depend upon them, it also opens the door for us to formally challenge the Forest Service approval process.
The Forest Service decision to grant not one, but two accesses to McCombs is only as valid as the process that created it. As retired Forest Service employee Ed Ryberg just exclaimed in an April 6th article in the Denver Post, “The no-action alternative is bogus. If you have a bogus no-action alternative as the basis for the whole EIS, then all of the analysis is bogus.”
Colorado Wild has spent the last several months compiling evidence demonstrating that the entire EIS process and therefore the final decision are fundamentally flawed, and biased towards the developer’s interests. Ryberg’s statements confirm the allegations made in Colorado Wild’s White Paper. Ignoring the impacts of the proposed “village,” the Forest Service chose to only study the impacts of the access road. In so doing we believe that the Forest Service has abdicated its responsibility to analyze the impacts of its actions on the public and our natural resources.
Under closer scrutiny, we are confident that the agency’s final decision will fall short of the requirements of the law. It is unfortunate that we had to wait for the Forest Service to issue its decision before the public can get a fair hearing on the matter, but that door is now open.
Our concerns about the Forest Service decision are not unique. Congressman John Salazar stated yesterday, “I am extremely disappointed that the Forest Service chose not to analyze the full impact the Village of Wolf Creek development will have on our watersheds and wetlands, but instead chose to focus solely on the access issue. This is more than a matter of road access – this is a matter of the well being of our communities.”
Fortunately, the Forest Service decision is only one of a number of hurdles that stand in the developer’s path. The Colorado Department of Transportation, Army Corps of Engineers, and Mineral County must all approve aspects of the development before it can move forward. Our effort to stop the Pillage at Wolf Creek has only just begun!