Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mr. McCombs and Ms Shields, please reconsider your intentions, VillageWolfCreek speculation. (an open letter)


Today I was doing some clean up and came across an open letter I'd sent by US Post to both Red McCombs and his daughter Marsha M. Shields along with posting it here.  What shocked me is that in a few days it'll be year since I sent it.  Never did get a response, still it list issues and reasons that can't be ignored and it's as timely today as it was a year ago and it's also worth posting again. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

I believe it is appropriate to personally petition Mr. McCombs and his daughter Marsha M. Shields, asking them to completely reconsider their out of date plans for a mountain village at Alberta Park. I encourage others to send their own thoughtful and constructive petitions on behalf of yourself, Alberta Park and all the wildlife and biology going on that can’t speak for itself.  

Open letter to Mr. McCombs and family, 
written while visiting Alberta Park mid June 2017.


____________________________________________________
Dear Mr. McCombs and Marsha Shields,

We’ve met a couple times. Once was in Creede, at your 2005 Village at Wolf Creek presentation. I was passing out my No-VWC pamphlet and though we never got close, we did share a couple eye-to-eyes during the many speeches. Then at Congressman Salazar’s 2010 (Adam's State College) roundtable in Alamosa.  You walked up to me and accepted my flier, then you surprised me by extending your hand.

I was honored to shake it. Not much was said, just two guys sizing each other up and walking away. I honestly cherish the memory since it made you a real person to me and not some distant cartoon. 

Given Judge Matsch’s decision and the Village at Wolf Creek land trade being nullified, I feel it’s a good time to personally explain why I’ve been dogging your project and to ask that you and your daughter stop to consider Alberta Park as the irreplaceable biological treasure that it is.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Village at Wolf Creek Poker update: USDA/USFS Folds, Red Holds.

With a tip of my hat to Jimbo Buickerood, at the San Juan Citizens Alliance, for alerting me to Jonathan Romeo's report in the May 10th Durango Herald on the latest Village at Wolf Creek development.  Namely, as the time limit ran out the USFS appears to have decided not to appeal Judge Matsch's decision of last May.  

Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture's Attorney Bill Leone defiantly announced that it doesn't matter to them what the USFS does.  They have gone ahead on their own and filed an appeal on Wednesday, arguing that "the environmental review was done according to the law and the land swap should be approved."

May 14th Update - USDA/USAF filed an "Unopposed Motion to Dismiss Appeal by Appellant United States"

But Judge Matsch sets this lawyerly 'misrepresentation' straight, when he clearly explained in his decision:
(Page 21 of 40)
ANALYSIS
The following aspects of the Record of Decision and the Biological Opinion that forms part of the basis for the ROD require relief under the APA. Defendants failed to consider important aspects of the issues before them, offered an explanation for their decision that runs counter to the evidence, failed to base their decision on consideration of the relevant factors, and based their decision on an analysis that is contrary to law.

(Page 39 of 40) 
The 900 public comments in the record show this heightened public awareness of the effects of human disruption of the native environment. The Rio Grande National Forest has two designated wilderness areas near the area involved in this action. It has unique features. 

Notably, responses to the public comments were prepared by the contractors who did the work. 

They would not be expected to find that work to be flawed.

What NEPA requires is that before taking any major action a federal agency must stop and take a careful look to determine the environmental impact of that decision, and listen to the public before taking action. The Forest Service failed to do that in the Record of Decision. The duty of this Court is to set it aside.

VII. ORDER
Where an agency action is found to be arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law,

(Page 40 of 40)
the Court must “hold [it] unlawful and set [it] aside.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2). The Court finds and concludes that Defendants actions violated the APA in the respects specified in this decision.  

Thursday, May 10, 2018

News Release: Forest Service Declines to Appeal Decision Nullifying Wolf Creek Land Exchange


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 10, 2018
   
Forest Service Declines to Appeal Decision 
Nullifying Wolf Creek Land Exchange

Denver, CO – The United States Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service has declined to appeal an Order issued last May by Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch setting aside decisions approving a land exchange that would provide necessary road access for the long-sought Village at Wolf Creek development. The agency failed to file the required appeal brief by the May 9th deadline despite having originally notified the court last November of its intent to appeal.

Friday, November 3, 2017

What's the Village at Wolf Creek Good For?

The following appears in the November Four Corners Free Press.

The suspense is over, Red McCombs and family have decided to appeal Judge Matsch’s May decision which nullified the 2015 “Village at Wolf Creek/LMJV, landswap agreement with the Rio Grande National Forest/US Dept Agriculture.

There's much to be said, but here I focus on the headline quote from Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture’s attorney William J Leone a top notch legal gunslinger at Norton Rose Fulbright* who assures us:   
“The Leavell-McCombs Joint-Venture believes strongly the project is a good project and the Forest Service did everything it needed to do to study the environmental impacts of that project.”
Good for who?  Good for what?  What good will it be for the Rio Grande National Forest?

What good will it be for the Alberta Park watershed at the source waters of the Rio Grande River?  What good will it be for the wellbeing of this wildlife corridor and its occupants?  What good will it be for tax payers and local governments who are left holding a boondoggle?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

UPDATE Oct18th, they're baaack. Red appeals Judge Matsch's VWC decision.


So sad, nothing is ever learned.  

The McCombs have turned a deft ear to all the reasoned arguments.  Facts don’t seem to matter.  Objectively speaking, considering the community, the Rio Grande River, the Alberta Park watershed, all would best be served by that Alberta Park parcel being left alone to continue fulfilling it’s biological and hydrological services as the keystone to the Wolf Creek watershed and wilderness and an integral part of the Rio Grande National Forest from which it was absconded through a 1980s game of shady land grab poker.

Only obsessive greed and some bizarre need to despoil land for the sake of proving one’s own mastery can explain such obsession.  Here we go again.  

For a look at Senior Judge Matsch’s Order May 21, 2017 see the end of this post.

_____________________________________________________________
Village at Wolf Creek appeals decision blocking access

Opponents say Forest Service skirted its duties
By Jonathan Romeo Herald staff writer, the DURANGO HERALD, October. 16, 2017


Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture – spearheaded by Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs – has filed an appeal with the next tier of the federal court system, challenging a previous federal judge’s decision that the massive development atop Wolf Creek Pass was approved “contrary to law.”

“The Joint-Venture believes strongly the project is a good project and the Forest Service did everything it needed to do to study the environmental impacts of that project,” said Bill Leone, an attorney representing the developers. The appeal was filed Friday.  …


In May, Judge Richard P. Matsch, a senior U.S. district judge for the District of Colorado, in no uncertain terms, agreed.

“What NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) requires is that before taking any major action, a federal agency must stop and take a careful look to determine the environmental impact of that decision, and listen to the public before taking action,” Matsch wrote in his decision. “The Forest Service failed to do that.”

In September, Matsch denied a request from Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture to reconsider the May decision.
“The Forest Service cannot abdicate its responsibility to protect the forest by making an attempt at an artful dodge,” Matsch wrote in that decision. …

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Open Letter to Mr. McCombs and Marsha Shields, please reconsider your intentions.


I believe it is appropriate to personally petition Mr. McCombs and his daughter Marsha M. Shields, asking them to completely reconsider their out of date plans for a mountain village at Alberta Park. I encourage others to send their own thoughtful and constructive petitions on behalf of yourself, Alberta Park and all the wildlife and biology going on that can’t speak for itself.  
(It was suggested that my letter lacked an appropriate ending.  Upon reflection, they were right.  Revised June 20th.)


Open letter to Mr. McCombs and family, 
written while visiting Alberta Park earlier this week.


____________________________________________________

Dear Mr. McCombs and Marsha Shields,

We’ve met a couple times. Once was in Creede, at your 2005 Village at Wolf Creek presentation. I was passing out my No-VWC pamphlet and though we never got close, we did share a couple eye-to-eyes during the many speeches. Then at Congressman Salazar’s 2010 (Adam's State College) roundtable in Alamosa.

You walked up to me and accepted my flier, then you surprised me by extending your hand and I was honored to shake it. Not much was said, just two guys sizing each other up and walking away. I honestly cherish the memory since it made you a real person to me and not some distant cartoon. 

Given Judge Matsch’s decision and the Village at Wolf Creek land trade being nullified, I feel it’s a good time to personally explain why I’ve been dogging your project and to ask that you and your daughter stop to consider Alberta Park as the irreplaceable biological treasure that it is.

Letter to Mr. McCombs and LMJV - supplemental information


List of links and other supporting information for my letter to LMJV’s Red McCombs and his daughter Marsha McCombs Shields pleading with them to consider abandoning all their development dreams for Alberta Park, in favor of leaving that precious landscape unmolested to continue serving the many biological and wildlife support functions it currently fulfills.
_________________________________________________

“Creede, at your 2005 Village at Wolf Creek presentation”
____________________________________________
“2010 (Adam's State College) roundtable in Alamosa"
____________________________________________
“surrounding watershed”
____________________________________________
Fens “provide a real service”
____________________________________________
“La Garita Wilderness Area”
____________________________________________
“Weminuche Wilderness Area”
____________________________________________
“Silverton” 9,813 feet above sea level
____________________________________________
WOLF CREEK PASS, COLORADO
Elevation: 10326 feet     Latitude: 37 29N     Longitude: 106 52W
Köppen Classification: Continental Subarctic Climate
____________________________________________
“the wind blows incessantly”
____________________________________________
“Why would we expect calm days”
____________________________________________
Defining “subarctic weather conditions”
____________________________________________

Federal Judge Has Ruled - Red McCombs and LMJV land swap nullified.

US District Court Colorado, Judge Matsch's ORDER: 

"Where an agency action is found to be arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or 39 otherwise not in accordance with law, the Court must “hold [it] unlawful and set [it] aside.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2). The Court finds and concludes that Defendants actions violated the APA in the respects specified in this decision.  

Accordingly, it is ORDERED that the Record of Decision dated May 21, 2015, is SET ASIDE.

For Text of Ruling: