Thursday, August 2, 2018

RGNF responses to July 31st challenge.

shared my previous post, which presented the FriendsofWolfCreek.org's challenges to the RGNF/USDA interpretation of their conflicting legal mandates and how it's playing out with the Alberta Park Parcel, with the RGNF Supervisor's office and received the following response from Public Affairs Specialist Mike Blakeman.  I have added a few paragraph breaks for clarity, but haven't altered anything else.  Nor do I have any comments to add. I hope you find the information useful.

Forest Service
Rio Grande National Forest, Supervisor's Office

Hi Peter, 
I read your blog and maybe the following from the Draft Record of Decision will help add a little clarity.

In June 2015, a lawsuit was filed challenging my 2015 ROD but the land exchange was completed subject to a stipulation that would allow “unwinding” the exchange in the event of an adverse ruling.

On May 19, 2017, the district court held that the Forest Service abdicated its duty to consider imposing deed restrictions on the federal land to be exchanged, that the power to impose deed restrictions demonstrated “actual power to control” the private development and this failure led the Forest Service to unlawfully limit its NEPA analysis. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Questioning RGNF/USDA's Village at Wolf Creek response.

Recently I asked Dan Dallas a couple questions which he kindly answered.   I reprinted Supervisor Dallas's complete response July 23rd.  Today I was able to review Rocky Mountain Wilds' writeup at http://www.friendsofwolfcreek.org/background/ and I must say the information contradicts the supervisor's simple response and the Friends of Wolf Creek produced the supporting quotes from Judge Matsch's decision which I share in this post.  
I understand that officials do follow 'The letter of the law' - but what's left unsaid is, which letters of the law have they chosen to follow.  I don't have the answers, that's for the lawyers to spend yet more months and years haggling over.  
In the end, for me, all I know is down to Earth physical reality, and if you take that into account everything screams for Red McCombs' 80s Pipe Dream to once and for all be laid to rest. Leave Alberta Park alone!

A Detailed Recent History VWC

Petition: Keep Wolf Creek Wild - Change.org - Rocky Mtn Wild

Judge Matsch responded: “I understand the public interest but there is also the natural environment’s interest, which is what this is all about.”
Photo courtesy of: Alex Pullen
I’m a bit embarrassed that I didn’t know about this petition until today, but its a crowded life and there’s only so much bandwidth.  That’s why networking is important - and why I believe there needs to be more communication between like-minded folks if we hope to have real impact.  But I reckon that’s a different story.
Rocky Mountain Wild started this petition to 

For 30 years conservation groups, outdoor enthusiasts, and local residents have fought to protect Wolf Creek Pass in southwestern Colorado. 
At over 10,000 feet in elevation, the pass connects two wilderness areas and is a hot spot for biodiversity. Wildlife, including black bear, elk, and the rare Canada lynx use this area to move between large undeveloped swaths of forest. Irreplaceable fen wetlands are the home to hundreds of plant and bird species. And, the deep winter snowpack provides much-needed water to downstream communities and agriculture.
The pass is also the home of Wolf Creek Pass Ski Area, one of Colorado's last remaining family-owned ski areas. Wolf Creek is cherished for providing a nostalgic ski experience. Free from traffic, long lines, condos, nightclubs and chain restaurants, skiers at Wolf Creek are treated to deep powder at affordable prices.
Unfortunately, a questionable land exchange in 1987 gave Texas billionaire B.J. "Red" McCombs a private parcel at the base of the ski area. Mr. McCombs and his business partners have repeatedly tried to develop a massive "village" for 10,000 people on this site. They have been stopped by the Courts, who have consistently found that the developers have not conducted a complete environmental analysis of their scheme.
Now, however, hidden from public view and input, the developers are attempting to brush Federal Court decisions and environmental laws aside and pressure local Forest Service staff into granting them increased access to their parcel. Their goal is to start construction this summer.
You can help us keep Wolf Creek Pass wild! Please sign the petition urging Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas to uphold Federal Court decisions and stand up to back channel pressures. Together, we can stop the bulldozers on Wolf Creek Pass.
_________________________________________________
Some important background information can be found at:

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Friends of Wolf Creek, Call to Action! Submit Comments to RGNF/USDA

I received the following email today and am sharing it as a public service announcement.

Submit your objection to the Village at Wolf Creek Pass 
Road Access Project to,

The Forest Service intends to give the Village of Wolf Creek road access. The Rio Grande National Forest announced its intention on July 19 to circumvent a federal court ruling that invalidated prior approvals for the controversial Village at Wolf Creek real estate development. 

As you know, a Colorado federal district court set aside the Forest Service's approval of a land exchange to facilitate the development in May of last year. "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.

The Forest Service is also trying to severely limit who can comment on this acton by limiting objections to those who "previously submitted specific written comments regarding the proposed project during scoping or comments on the draft EIS" in 2012.

We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to comment on changes to their public lands. We encourage everyone to submit their objections.
Please email Friends of Wolf Creek with a copy of your comments, so that we have a record of what the Forest Service is receiving (this is obviously not a requirement for objections, we would just really appreciate it!).

Objection requirements, how to submit your objection, talking points, and how to write comments that stick can be found on our website.
Submit your comments before the September 5 deadline.

Monday, July 23, 2018

RGNF Supervisor responds to questions.

Rio Grand National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas, did me the courtesy of a prompt and thorough response to the email I shared in the previous post.  Here I share his email which I have reformatted for clarity without altering any of his words, beyond bolding some of them.  It's food for thought and creates a sort of baseline to work with, or argue against, as the case may be. 
___________________________________________
Village at Wolf Creek Environmental Impact Statement and draft Record Of Decision 
are available on-line at: 

Comments are to be sent to before September 4th: 
Reviewing Officer, Tammy Whittington, Deputy Regional Forester, USDA Forest Service, Region 2, 1617 Cole Blvd., Building 17, Lakewood, Colorado 80401 or email r02admin_review@fs.fed.us. 
______________________________________________________ 
With that I'll give the stage to Dan Dallas and will save further commentary for future posts.
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Subject: Why are comments on VWC recent Draft Decent being limited.
Response received Monday, 1:46PM, July 23, 2018
Dallas, Dan -FS

Peter, good questions, I will answer below within your letter below, highlighted in yellow using direct quotes from documents available on our website.  

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Correction! Does RGNF restrict comments on Village at Wolf Creek Draft Decision?

I'll leave my letter as it was and simply add Dan Dallas' clarification.

Open letter of inquiry to RGNF/USDA
Dan Dallas clarifies, "There is no limitation on who can comment, this is a mischaracterization of the process that we’ve tried our best to clearly describe 
What is limited is who has standing to file an objection of the decision because it (decision) is based on an existing EIS which has already been commented on. ..."   (7/23/18)
_______________________________________________________
Village at Wolf Creek Environmental Impact Statement and draft Record Of Decision 
are available on-line at: 
https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=35945

Comments are to be sent to before September 4th: 
Reviewing Officer, Tammy Whittington, Deputy Regional Forester, USDA Forest Service, Region 2, 1617 Cole Blvd., Building 17, Lakewood, Colorado 80401 or email r02admin_review@fs.fed.us. 
__________________________________________________________________________ 
Dear RGNF Supervisor Dallas,

Friday, July 20, 2018

Jonathan Romeo reports 7/19/2018 Village at Wolf Creek road access

Here's a look at what others are writing:
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July 19, 2018, by Jonathan Romeo county and environment reporter, Durango Herald
Forest Service gives Village at Wolf Creek road access
Development atop Wolf Creek Pass gets path forward


In a bombshell decision, the U.S. Forest Service on Thursday gave the Village at Wolf Creek its long-desired road access to U.S. Highway 160, essentially paving the way for the proposed massive resort atop Wolf Creek Pass.

“The reason is we still have a legal requirement to provide access to landlocked parcels,” Rio Grande Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas told The Durango Herald late Thursday.

The news came as a shock to a coalition of environmental groups that for three decades have opposed what would essentially amount to a new town in a remote part of Southwest Colorado, adjacent to the relatively small Wolf Creek Ski Area.

The decision was especially jarring for environmentalists because a federal judge in May 2017 ruled the Forest Service skirted its responsibilities to protect public lands when it approved a land swap that also sought to give the Village at Wolf Creek road access to U.S. Highway 160. …
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Village at Wolf Creek Access Project: New draft decision grants access to land-locked private property
By Mike Blakeman, Special to The Pagosa SUN, July 19, 2018


… “This has been a long, complex project and I encourage folks to learn more about its status and review the new draft decision for themselves,” added Dallas. “It’s also important to know that the land exchange option, as the selected alternative, remains on the table pending resolution of the legal process.”

The draft Record of Decision is now available for public review during a formal 45-day objection period. The objection period will run through Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. 

To learn more about the project, read previous comments, or to object, please visit 
A final decision is expected in the autumn of 2018.
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Forest Service Plans to Grant Access to Wolf Creek Complex
July 19, 2018, AP


… The would-be developers, a joint venture spearheaded by Texas billionaire B.J. "Red" McCombs, have sought since the 1980s to build the complex called the Village at Wolf Creek, but the property has always been cut off from U.S. Highway 160. …


… But the decision was especially jarring for the development's opponents, who thought Matsch's decision closed the book on the development.

"I've never seen anything this egregious in its disregard for the law," said Travis Stills, an attorney who represents the environmental groups opposed to the plan. "In normal times, people lose their jobs over things like this. But these are not normal times.”

The proposed road would be about 1,610 feet (491 meters) long (at the elevation of). Any proposal for the actual development would have to be approved by Mineral County officials.

The public can comment for the next 45 days on the Forest Service's proposal to grant road access. The agency is expected to announce its final decision this fall.
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The draft Record of Decision is now available for public review during a formal 45-day objection period. The objection period will run through Sept. 4. To learn more about the project, read previous comments, or to object, please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=35945.  A final decision is expected in the autumn of 2018.