Thursday, May 21, 2015

Questioning ANILCA and Village at Wolf Creek

Since I want to help a new generation become familiar with what's happening up at Wolf Creek Pass regarding the LMJV land swap with the Rio Grande National Forest - and to question certain assumptions they based their decision on, I'm sharing a few paragraphs Joe Hanel of the Durango Herald wrote in his February 15, 2014 article "Delayed but not derailed."  It deals with how ANILCA (Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980) has been interpreted to create a legal right to access... even for a heavy traffic.

Delayed but not derailed 
Joe Hanel, Durango Herald, February 15, 2014  
(...) Roadblocks 
"… McCombs obtained his property in a 1986 land swap with the Forest Service. Its only access is a dirt road that doubles as a ski trail in the winter.The lack of road access has kept the Village at Wolf Creek stalled for the past decade.  
Forest Service officials say they are bound by law to give McCombs access to his land one way or another. A 1980 law called the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act contains a provision that requires owners of inholdings to be given reasonable access to their property. The Forest Service has interpreted that to mean year-round access to accommodate McCombs’ development plans.  
The ANILCA controversy colored the legal battles eight years ago, the last time the Forest Service approved road access for the village. Environmental groups won a settlement that overturned the decision and forced McCombs to start the Environmental Impact Statement all over again.  
Instead of starting a new EIS, he hired Jones, who proposed a land swap to put the village right off the highway, sidestepping the access road controversy.However, the Forest Service is also examining “ANILCA access” to McCombs’ current land as an alternative to the land swap.(...)

I believe there's more to this story.  While it's true that this land swap, removes the VWC road access thorn, it remains to be seen how LMJV and this VWC landswap survives the lawsuits.  That's why I believe it's important to examine and question “ANILCA access” fundamentals.  
No one has explained the justification for why ANILCA deserves to be treated as some sacred right, particularly in 2015 and in Colorado.  

Laws that are inappropriately manipulated deserve to be scrutinized and questioned.  

Consider the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 which, in Alaska resulted in:
  • 10 National Parks and Preserves
  • 2 National Monuments
  • 9 National Wildlife Refuges (Including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR)
  • 2 National Conservation Areas
  • 25 Wild and Scenic rivers
ANILCA also expanded a number of other parks that were already in existence. When all was said and done, 104 million acres were put aside for conservation and protection - an area larger than the state of California.

Here it get's interesting ANILCA created some problems for newly landlocked citizens who already owned parcels within newly designated Gov't land.  Then the lawyers got involved and started seeing potential applications everywhere.  As lawyers will do they ran with it far and wide.  

About those road access regulations:  
"The Alaska Lands Act's innovations in the law of access across Federal Lands: You an get there from here."  S.P. Quarles, T.R. Lundquist 
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An Interim User’s Guide to Accessing Inholdings in National Park System Units in Alaska July 2007 

I reject the developer's sanctimonious appeals to "Property Rights" because LMJV acquired that "parcel" in a sneaky shrewd '80s style real estate poker game, fully knowing it was landlocked, rather than having the National Forest created around his preexisting property.  

Red won his prize, Alberta Park, but when his real intentions of developing a mega resort "village" became clear Coloradans woke up and have been putting up a fuss ever since. 

ask, what about the Property Rights of Colorado and American citizens?

Alberta Park was gained through backroom dealing and trickery. It's a keystone parcel of Wolf Creek watershed and the Rio Grande National Forest.

We the people have a right to complain and demand that a long standing wrong be corrected.  That Alberta Park deserves to be legally, politically wrestled back and returned to Rio Grande National Forest. 

Now that we have entered a new chapter that will require many concerned informed citizens to save that watershed from reckless destruction, I offer the following background information for those who might want to get involved.


Celebrating Alberta Park and Honoring Wolf Creek
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Rejecting the Village At Wolf Creek, list of go-to info and resources
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(San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council)
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Uploaded on Oct 22, 2009 by D. West Davies

Ryan Bidwell, Executive Director of Colorado Wild, provides his group's position on the proposed Village at Wolf Creek. {Along with a look at the history of LMJV's Village at Wolf Creek speculative venture - acquisition of the parcel, a look at the first EIS process and LMJV's record of manipulation, and the subsequent lawsuit.}   
Filmed by D. West Davies of Jim Smith Realty ( at the Riverwalk Cafe in downtown Pagosa Springs.
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Village at Wolf Creek: Why not a Nature Preserve resolution?

March 2010
B.J. Red McCombs may hold legal title but, he does not possess ethical or moral title to that land. Therefore some of us continue to beg Mr. McCombs, and now his daughter, to please revert that land to some Nature Conservancy status, protecting that irreplaceable resource for the greater national good. ...

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Rio Grande National Forest: Village at Wolf Creek Access Project

The Rio Grande National Forest is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the effects of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek land exchange.

Location Summary
The federal and non-federal parcels to be considered are entirely within Mineral County, Colorado
District: Divide Ranger District

Project Documents
Date Published
  1. Scoping
    1. VWC Final Scoping Notice (PDF 57kb)
    2. Scoping Letter for the Village at Wolf Creek Land Exchange Proposal
    3. Fig1 (PDF 993kb)
    4. Figure showing the current private parcel surrounded by the Rio Grande National Forest
    5. Fig2 (PDF 1007kb)
    6. Figure showing the proposed land exchange Federal and non-Federal parcels
    7. Fig3 (PDF 998kb)
    8. Figure showing potential access location from U.S. Highway 160
    9. 20110419VWCNOI (PDF 53kb)
    10. Notice of Intent to prepare and Environmental Impact Statement for the Village at Wolf Creek Land Exchange Proposal


  1. This view of ANILCA is tainted by your disdain for the village of wolf creek. You're doing the same thing that you are accusing lawyers of doing: Interpreting a law that fits your specific interests with no regard for precedence.

  2. I don't think so.
    Please share your alleged "precedence" - lets look at it or them closer.

    ANILCA was about the situation in Alaska - Red McCombs' was no property owner in distress by suddenly finding himself surrounded by National Forest - Alberta Park was 'real estate poker game' and is a totally different set up - deserving totally different handling.

    Slick lawyers may attempt retooling ANILCA for this ad hoc situations - such as Red's pipe dream of building a town in the middle of this precious watershed that belongs to the Rio Grande River and that LMJV very sneakily hoodwinked the Department of Agriculture out of.

    You forget that aspect. For me this isn't about a typical real estate deal, this is about saving a precious biological jewel from destruction. A jewel that is an integral part of the Rio Grande River watershed and headwaters to this critical interstate international river.