FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 20, 2018
The Rio Grande National Forest announced its intention July 19, 2018 to circumvent a federal court ruling that invalidated prior approvals for the controversial Village at Wolf Creek real estate development. 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.
A Colorado federal district court set aside the Forest Service’s approval of a land exchange to facilitate the development in May 2017. “The Forest Service cannot abdicate its responsibility to protect the forest by making an attempt at an artful dodge,” the court declared. Now, the Forest Service hopes to use the same artfully dodged analysis, previously deemed in violation of multiple federal laws, to approve a different means of providing the developers access.
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 the developers’ own agreement to subject any access request to federal scrutiny. We are disappointed the Forest Service will not honor the binding settlement agreement and federal court orders. Should the Forest Service cave to pressure, we will take the steps necessary to protect the National Forest.”
Not only is the Forest Service bulling ahead in violation of legal decisions, it is cutting out the public in its latest decision. The Forest Services hopes to prevent the public from reviewing new biological information by fast tracking the approval process.
Local advocates and conservationists are particularly concerned about the project’s massive impacts to one of Colorado’s last best places. “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?”
Conservation organizations battling this development for over a decade expected the Forest Service might capitulate to the continued demands by developers for access. “We anticipated backroom pressure to bend to the billionaire’s demands, hence over 2,300 people recently contacted Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas encouraging him to stand up for the public interest,” said Tehri Parker, Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Wild. “We are disappointed he chose the wishes of a Texas developer over local forest protection advocates.”
“Once again, it falls to the public to demand protection of Wolf Creek Pass, a place long cherished by generations of visitors and residents alike,” said Jimbo Buickerood, Lands Program Manager at San Juan Citizens Alliance. “Though the Forest Service might be inclined to renege on its stewardship responsibilities, we are ready to insist on compliance with the law and the public’s will.”
- 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
- Christine Canaly, Director, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, firstname.lastname@example.org, (719) 256-4758
- Tehri Parker, Executive Director, Rocky Mountain Wild, email@example.com, (720) 446-8582
- Jimbo Buickerood, Lands Program Manager, San Juan Citizens Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org, (970) 560-1111