Friday, October 2, 2015

Details of the VWC Land Exchange EIS FOIA Federal Court decision

For the interested here is a selection of key quotes from the recent US District Court decision in the Rocky Mountain Wild vs. USFS (and the Village at Wolf Creek Land Exchange Environmental Impact Statement process.).  

Of course, this is a my cherry picked presentation since there was a lot of legalese, background, and Judge Wiley Daniel detailing why he decided as he did - all worth getting acquainted with, but too much to be posting over here.  I thank Rocky Mountain Wild for making the full decision available.

Case 1:14-cv-02496-WYD-KMT Document 31 Filed 09/30/15 USDC Colorado 
Civil Action No. 14-cv-2496-WYD-KMT
ROCKY MOUNTAIN WILD, INC., a Colorado non-profit corporation,
Plaintiff, v.
This case arises out of a request by the Plaintiff on February 27, 2014, to
Defendant United States Forest Service (“Forest Service”) for certain agency records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), 5 U.S.C. § 552, pertaining to the development and construction of the Village at Wolf Creek Access Project (“Wolf Creek Project”) in the Rio Grande National Forest (“RGNF”) of Colorado, a project undertaken by RGNF under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”).

Friends of Wolf Creek News Release 10/1/2015

Media Contacts: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10/1/15
Matt Sandler, Attorney, Rocky Mountain Wild
Travis Stills, Attorney, Energy and Conservation Law

Court Orders Forest Service to Disclose Documents on Wolf Creek Pass Decision 
Denver, CO — The United States District Court of Colorado has ordered the U.S. Forest Service to fully disclose documents pertaining to its decision to approve a controversial land exchange on Wolf Creek Pass in southwestern Colorado. The Court ruled that the Forest Service did not search for public records, including emails and other communications between the agency’s Regional and Washington Offices and the developers. The 20-page ruling also confirmed the Forest Service failed to justify its decision to withhold thousands of pages from public scrutiny. 
The court order came in response to a lawsuit filed by Denver-based conservation group Rocky Mountain Wild. That suit claimed that the Forest Service had unlawfully withheld public records and communications requested through a February 27, 2014 Freedom of Information Act request. The Court’s order gives the U.S. Forest Service until October 30, 2015 to conduct a search and to fully disclose documents pertaining to its decision. 
“The Court has verified what we have been saying throughout this decision making process,” said Matt Sandler, Staff Attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild. “The Forest Service has failed to be transparent, has withheld documents, and has committed resources to approving this irresponsible development while failing to keep the public informed.” 
The land exchange at the center of this controversy was approved by Rio Grande Forest Supervisor, Dan Dallas, in May of this year, and would trade 205 federal acres for 177 acres of private land within the boundaries of the Rio Grande National Forest. The exchange gives highway access to the private land, making it possible for the owner/developer to construct a proposed “village” for 8,000 tourists. Conservation organizations and local communities oppose this development, siting the environmental and economic ramifications for downstream communities, and the direct impacts to wildlife in the area. 
Opposition to the development has steadily grown, attracting local businesses, skiers, ranchers, local landowners, downstream water users, hunters, anglers, and conservationists. An online petition started this summer has garnered over 79,000 signatures urging the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Tom Tidwell, to protect the pass.
To sign the petition link to:

Friends of Wolf Creek is a coalition of conservation organizations fighting to keep Wolf Creek Pass wild. The coalition includes: Rocky Mountain Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and San Luis Valley EcosystemCouncil. More information can be found at

(I added the highlights and I tip of my hat to Jimbo Buickerood at the San Juan Citizens Alliance for sharing this timely news with me.) 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Judge rules agency inexplicably withheld information from public

Here's breaking news regarding one of the lawsuits that objects to the way the RGNF/USDA conducted their Environmental Impact Study for the Village at Wolf Creek Access Land Exchange which they seem to feel obligated to accommodate, which in turn would accommodate a fanciful 1980s speculative real estate adventure and the destruction of that productive wetlands.  

Perhaps somewhere in all this drawn out haggling it will occur to the powers-that-be, it's now 2015 and it's time to put to rest Red's pipe dream and start thinking about protecting that biological productive wetlands tapestry which is doing just fine as is, thank you very much.  

Considering our undeniable water challenges, Rio Grande River stakeholders would also appreciate it.

For more pictures of Alberta Park at Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado see:

Judge rules agency inexplicably withheld information from public
By Peter Marcus Herald staff writer

Published: - Last modified: October 01. 2015 
A Colorado U.S. District Court on Wednesday found that the Forest Service violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to conduct an adequate search of documents and did not properly explain its decision to withhold thousands of pages of documents from the public. 
Senior Judge Wiley Y. Daniel stopped short of ordering immediate disclosure of the documents but gave the Forest Service until Oct. 30 to conduct a new, more complete search. ... 
“The court has verified what we have been saying throughout this decision-making process,” said Matt Sandler, staff attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild.
“The Forest Service has failed to be transparent, has withheld documents and has committed resources to approving this irresponsible development while failing to keep the public informed.”

Republicans want to kill the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)

I'm sharing the following (which appeared at as a public service. 


Utah Congressman Bishop Vows To Kill America’s Top Parks Program

 SEP 29, 2015 11:06AM
Barely 24 hours after Pope Francis appealed to U.S. lawmakers to help protect “our common home,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) announced that he intends this week to kill the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is known as America’s best parks program. The move — which is expected to succeed — places dozens of U.S. national parks at heightened risk of commercial development, including Grand Teton National Park and Gettysburg National Military Park. 
The LWCF is a budget-neutral program that uses fees from offshore oil and gas development to fund national, state, and local conservation projects. Although the program enjoys widespread bipartisan support, it is scheduled to expire on Wednesday, September 30. 
In a press release Friday, Bishop, who serves as chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, promised to block all attempts to save the program unless significant changes are made to its structure to prevent the federal government from protecting additional land. “Under my chairmanship, the status quo will be challenged,” said Bishop in the release.