Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Concise History of the Village at Wolf Creek - San Juan Citizens Alliance

San Juan Citizens Alliance
Does a great many things.  I'll admit I'm most familiar with their 30 years worth of efforts to protect Alberta Park from thoughtless destruction and now they have revamped their webpage and it's become an even better resource.  I encourage you to check it out:

They have put together this one page summary that's a must for finishing up this series of posts:

1986: Land Exchange #1
Leavell Properties requested 420 acres of U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land on the east flank of Wolf Creek Pass in exchange for 1,631 acres of degraded rangeland they owned in Saguache County. Their aim was to develop 200 residential units adjacent to the Wolf Creek Ski Area. Colorado’s then Congressman Hank Brown interfered with this process. The USFS denied the exchange due to concerns surrounding “a decrease in public values;” but two weeks later, the USFS withdrew the denial decision and, without providing a valid reason, approved the transfer of 300 acres to Leavell.

RGNF asks for patience, wait for the judge to judge.

Mike Blakeman (Public Affairs Specialist RGNF) whom I have great respect for, responded to my email.  He didn't have much to share considering this is an active court case.  He did make a request:
 "I would ask that you look at my quotes in the Durango Herald article and really think about it."
Here is what he and Dan Dallas, had to say in the Durango Herald article, followed by a few thoughts in response.
"When asked about Malecek’s “swimming with sharks” email that claims Dallas was concerned about potentially damaging information and the need to hide correspondences from FOIA, he said: 
“It’s an unfortunate use of words, certainly, but there is no, again, I was asking folks to be disciplined about working out internal questions between each other.
“I’m not interested in throwing employees under the bus, but Malecek said what he said, and that wasn’t my intent. There is no cover-up.”
Mike Blakeman, public affairs specialist for the Rio Grande National Forest, said the local Forest Service is frustrated because it is easy to pull out emails and develop stories around them.
“You have groups that want to present a particular view that supports them, so they will obviously provide emails that prove that,” Blakeman said. “And I feel like that’s what’s occurring here.”
Both men contend any claims of a cover-up or collusions with McCombs will be proved false once hearings start for the Friends of Wolf Creek’s legal complaint against the Forest Service about the most recent EIS.  

Index of Posts - NO-Village at Wolf Creek - Rio Grande National Forest

I like to think of this blog as a sort of an information kiosk for concerned citizens, feel free to copy and share.  Please remember to include the original sources where appropriate.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Same as it ever was, Red's saga continues.


{edited 1/19/16, 2:45 PM - I wrote this after an already long day and made a mess of some of dates.  My apologies, think I've finally gotten the tangled mess properly straightened out. }

This was originally posted March 21, 2012.  Considering today's news I thought it would be appropriate to dust it off a bit, update it a bunch and share.


The Village at Wolf Creek, It’s A Scandal  (March 21, 2012)

Let me tell you a story about a man called Red, a gambling man with a plan.  He was going to buy into Colorado's high mountain Real Estate game during those booming 1980s.  The plan, buy up a few scattered private parcels that were besmirching the lower Saguache Ranger District of the Rio Grande National Forest. It was nice land; land the Rio Grande Forest Service had been eyeing in order to consolidate ownership of that range land and clean up their map.  Red had it all figured out.

With those chips in hand Red saddled up to the public lands real estate table, proposing to trade his coveted Saguache District chips for an incredible jackpot smack in the middle of the high country, near US Highway 160 just shy of Wolf Creek Pass and the ski area smack in a beautiful productive watershed, headwaters to the Rio Grande River don't you know.  

In 1986 after due process Red’s proposal was rejected by RGNF officials because the Albert Park parcel was too precious to lose, consolidated Saguache District map be damned.

McCombs' political arm-twisting, the ugly details start coming out

I so want to believe in the integrity of the Rio Grande National Forest administrators and their Environmental Impact Study staff, but the more information comes forward the harder it gets.  
Wish I could ask Rio Grande National Forest's District Ranger Dan Dallas, when will the public's best interest receive an objective hearing?
Development of what is rightfully a part of the Rio Grande National Forest, namely Alberta Park (the virtually pristine biologically productive wetlands/watershed for the interstate, international Rio Grande River) is not some god given right for a pushy, self-interest blinded billionaire!
For further information see the Durango Herald article
Group says collusion apparent in Village at Wolf Creek development project 
Documents suggest Forest Service concealed and deleted information, allowed undue influence 
By Jonathan Romeo  
Highlights, from a release by the Friends of Wolf Creek coalition.
I added the shaded highlighting.
Forest Service “Village at Wolf Creek” Records Confirm Active Document Concealment/Destruction and Improper Influence
Documents obtained by Friends of Wolf Creek organizations (Rocky Mountain Wild, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, San Juan Citizens Alliance and outside legal counsel Energy and Conservation Law) confirm that Forest Service personnel in the Rio Grande National Forest, Denver Regional Office, and Washington D.C. have:
  1. Actively concealed and destroyed information involving the Village at Wolf Creek proposal 
  2. Allowed Red McCombs to threaten Forest Service staff and influence the analysis 
  3. Refused to conduct a search for relevant documents that should be available for public scrutiny unless and until compelled by a Court order 

When is enough, enough - Rio Grande Nat'l Forest and Red McCombs?


Forest Service Actively Concealed And Destroyed Information Concerning Planned Development On Wolf Creek Pass

Advocacy groups push for release of records from senior officials

DURANGO, CO – After waiting a year and a half for documents relating to a 2015 Forest Service decision that will enable development of the controversial “Village at Wolf Creek,” the Friends of Wolf Creek coalition has discovered evidence that the Forest Service has been concealing and destroying records and being improperly influenced by the would-be developer, Texas billionaire Red McCombs.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is designed to give the public access to documentation such as emails, reports, and phone records associated with the decisions officials make on the public’s behalf. When the Forest Service failed to comply with two FOIA requests in 2014, coalition member Rocky Mountain Wild took the issue to court to gain access to the documents.

Examination of the 69,701 pages released to date is beginning to finally shed light on the unlawful practices that resulted in the Forest Service approving a critical land exchange with the developer.
The Forest Service actively concealed and destroyed public information. Forest Service communications confirm that employees intentionally destroyed and concealed documents from FOIA requests. Practices included deleting emails, sending a document “hardcopy so it would not be subject to FOIA,” and cc’ing attorneys so that documents would “remain attorney-client privilege and not subject to FOIA.” ...