Saturday, June 17, 2017

Open Letter to Mr. McCombs and Marsha Shields, please reconsider your intentions. (updated 6/20/17)


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 McCombs and his daughter Marsha M. Shields, asking them to completely reconsider their out of date plans for a mountain village at Alberta Park.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.


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

Friday, May 26, 2017

FRIENDS OF WOLF CREEK - CALL TO ACTION !!!

Friends of Wolf Creek call to action.

Hello to all you Friends of Wolf Creek and Alberta Park, can I share some important thoughts?

After years and decades of mostly being relegated to the sidelines, while promoters made slick presentations and the powers-that-be danced their dance, our time has arrived.  On May 19th, Senior District Judge Richard P. Matsch handed down his decision in the Civil Action of 15-cv-01342 - It nullified the land swap agreement between the Rio Grande National Forest / USDA and Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture (Village at Wolf Creek speculators).  

The Rio Grande Forest Service and USDA received a stinging rebuke for its one-sided approach and is currently digesting the judge’s decision.  The Village at Wolf Creek speculators once again find themselves back at first base with nothing to show for more than three decades of lobbying, beyond lost court battles and endless expenses.  

Now is the time when a significant ground-swell of the Friends of Wolf Creek proactively lobbying Red McCombs, perhaps even his McCombs Foundation and certainly the VWC website and the Rio Grande National Forest Administration could well have a resounding impact on their thinking, or at least their decisions moving forward.  You never know until you make the effort.

I don’t mean anything belligerent, that would be totally counter-productive!  I’m talking about striving to win hearts and minds.  Help in a friendly effort to educate and convince the source of the Alberta Park Problem of the error of their ways.
(edited 5/29/2017)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What’s RGNF/USDA learned from Judge Matsch’s rebuke?

The VWC Saga continues.  I have been in contact with the Forest Service and want to share our correspondence in keeping with my goal of being an information kiosk for those interested in helping save Alberta Park from destructive development. 
For this post I’m going to start with my second email to the Rio Grande National Forest and backtrack from there:
Dear Communication Officers Blakeman, Lujan and Superintendent Dallas,

Communication Officer Lawrence Lujan responded to my questions with a one-liner:  "We are evaluating the court’s ruling and have no further comment at this time."  Nothing more.  

No hint of when the public can hope to hear RGNF/USDA’s response to the reprimand it received from Senior Federal Judge Matsch regarding its handling of the Village At Wolf Creek land swap negotiations and subsequent Environmental Impact Study and Draft.

This matters because from the public’s perspective the RGNF/USDA has maintained a decidedly pro-development stance during the past decades of negotiating with the wheeler dealer from the Texan lowlands.  In the process it has relegated environmental issues such as wetlands, fens concerns, wildlife corridor issues, health issues, fundamental feasibility issues with the project - to irrelevant externalities to be addressed by someone else, somewhere down the road after the irreparable damage is underway.

Judge Matsch made clear how inappropriate that outlook and actions were.  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Village At Wolf Creek developments - collection of news stories, May 2017



In a significant win for opponents of the Village at Wolf Creek, a federal judge on Friday invalidated the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to approve a land exchange that would have essentially served as a green light for a new resort atop the remote mountain pass.

“The order rules in the favor of community groups who have been fighting this ill-conceived project for decades,” said Travis Stills, an attorney with Energy & Conservation Law. “This is an important decision that respects the law, the environment and, importantly, agency staffers who tried to protect the national forest, despite the constant barrage of political pressure.” …

For nearly three decades, Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture has sought to build a resort with a capacity for an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people on the mountain pass at nearly 10,000 feet and more than 20 miles from the nearest town.

… Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch in no uncertain terms agreed with those concerns. …  


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VICTORY FOR THE CANADA LYNX AT WOLF CREEK!
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council


We did it!! Denver Judge Matsch ruled that federal agencies did not complete the work that must be done to review developmental impacts a large scale ski resort would have on the National Forest at Wolf Creek Pass, and that any future village proposal must include that review. Thank you to Rocky Mountain Wild, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and Wilderness Workshop for making this possible! See the press release and court document at the links below.



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BIG WIN: Judge Nullifies Land Exchange Critical to 
Village at Wolf Creek (development)

Judge Matsch’s decision validates nearly every complaint we had regarding the Forest Service’s botched attempt at an Environmental Impact Statement. They shirked their responsibility to assess the impacts of development and disregarded significant public input. Your input.
In a world where billionaires too often get their way, regardless of how they play the game, this is a reassuring testament to the power of democracy and everyday people to speak out and make a difference,.

See full Press Release below:

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PRESS RELEASE: Federal Judge Sets Aside Forest Service Wolf Creek Land Exchange

Denver, CO — The Honorable Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch issued an Order today affirming that the Forest Service “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.” This Order concludes another chapter in this decades long saga to protect Wolf Creek pass from a large scale residential and commercial development that could accommodate 8,000 to 10,000 visitors.


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MONDAY, JUNE 29, 2015
Pictures of Alberta Park the proposed site for the luxury Village at Wolf Creek

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TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2016
Concise History of the Village at Wolf Creek - San Juan Citizens Alliance

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2010
The Back Story ~ Village at Wolf Creek ~ presented by Ryan Bidwell 
(at the time Executive Director of Colorado Wild)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
MONDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2011
Alberta Park's Rio Grande Nat'l Forest Service....... 'open house hike' September 20, 2011
(revised 2/26/12 to reflect final draft)

… Considering the great controversy surrounding this project the Rio Grande National Forest decided to sponsor a four hour field trip/hike September 20th through Alberta Park, site of the proposed development. Led by District Ranger Tom Malecek the tour was intended to inform the interested public about the project as well as offering a friendly setting for folks to speak with various participants. …

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
THURSDAY, JUNE 4, 2015
June 4, 2015 - Wolf Creek Land Exchange - Inside Durango TV

Updated 6/6/2015 - Supervisor Dallas responds to my questions 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2016
Index of Posts - NO-Village at Wolf Creek - Rio Grande National Forest ( January 2016)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2016
RGNF asks for patience, wait for the judge to judge.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
SUNDAY, JANUARY 17, 2016
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 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2015
Judge rules agency inexplicably withheld information from public

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WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2015
Celebrating Alberta Park and Honoring Wolf Creek

Art for the Endangered Landscape:  Honoring Wolf Creek 
Friends of Wolf Creek is planning an informative and inspiring art opportunity this summer, honoring Wolf Creek Pass. Artists of all disciplines will converge at the Wolf Creek Ski Area on Saturday June 20, 2015 to spend the day in the creative process. 






Judge Has Ruled - Red McCombs and LMJV land swap nullified. Text of Ruling.


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.
___________________________________________________________

I recall back in January 2016 having Mike Blakeman (Public Affairs Specialist RGNF) advise against speculation and to let the judge judge based on the merits of the case.  He reminded us that Judge Matsch had a distinguished record and could be trusted to take the time to wade through the documents and sort out the facts, then to make a reasoned and fair decision.  It's now May 20th, 2017 and the judge's considered and legally binding decision was released yesterday.  In essence Red McCombs' Village at Wolf Creek land swap deal has been rejected by the Federal Court.

Without comment, though I did add emphasis, I'm sharing the text of Judge Matsch's full decision, I thank FriendsofWolfCreek.org for posted it at:

___________________________________________________________________

Case 1:15-cv-01342-RPM Document 67 Filed 05/19/17 USDC Colorado

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO 
Senior District Judge Richard P. Matsch
Civil Action No. 15-cv-01342-RPM

Plaintiffs, 
ROCKY MOUNTAIN WILD;
SAN LUIS VALLEY ECOSYSTEM COUNCIL; 
SAN JUAN CITIZENS ALLIANCE; 
WILDERNESS WORKSHOP, 

Defendants
DAN DALLAS, in his official capacity as Forest Supervisor;
MARIBETH GUSTAFSON, in her official capacity as Deputy Regional Forester; 
UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, 
a Federal Agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture; 
UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, 
a federal agency within the Department of the Interior,

Intervenor,
LEAVELL-McCOMBS JOINT VENTURE. 
___________________________________________________________
ORDER SETTING ASIDE AGENCY ACTION 
 ___________________________________________________________

Saturday, May 20, 2017

UPDATE - VWC-RGNF deal tossed out! Judge Rejects Flawed Process - RockyMtnWild Press Release


ROCKY MTN WILD, PRESS RELEASE: Federal Judge Sets Aside Forest Service Wolf Creek Land Exchange


For Immediate Release, May 19, 2017

Federal Judge Sets Aside Forest Service Wolf Creek Land Exchange

Any future Village Proposal Must Address Development Impacts on the National Forest and Lynx

Denver, CO — The Honorable Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch issued an Order today affirming that the Forest Service “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.” This Order concludes another chapter in this decades long saga to protect Wolf Creek pass from a large scale residential and commercial development that could accommodate 8,000 to 10,000 visitors.
“This ruling is an incredible victory for the flora and fauna that rely on Wolf Creek pass for their survival,” stated Tehri Parker, Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Wild. “This order specifically recognizes the ‘unique’ environmental qualities of this region, and the role that it plays as a wildlife movement corridor between the Weminuche and South San Juan Wilderness areas. We couldn’t be happier with this outcome and getting this great news on Endangered Species Day!”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Village at Wolf Creek Lawsuit UPDATE, Rocky Mountain Wild

From: Chris Talbot-Heindl
Communications and Membership Manager


The Wolf Creek Case briefs are in!


At the start of this month, Rocky Mountain Wild submitted the Reply brief for the Wolf Creek case! Now we wait on Judge Matsch to make a decision. If we are successful, the lawsuit would reverse the 2015 decision by the Forest Service to approve a land exchange providing critical road access needed for the 8,000 person "village" on Wolf Creek Pass.

This case details how the Forest Service unlawfully limited the scope of the environmental analysis and used the process to benefit a private business over the good of the public. Despite the site of the proposed development being located in crucial habitat for the endangered Canada lynx, a wildlife corridor linking two major Wilderness areas, and containing rare fen wetlands, the Forest Service did not properly analyze protections or demand mitigation as part of the land transfer.

In a related Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case, Judge Martinez ruled that the Forest Service did not have to collect and disclose records in the possession of the contractors who prepared the environmental analysis underlying the Forest Service's land transfer decision. Although we already succeeded in obtaining thousands of government records in this case, the Court's decision on this issue insulated the private contractor records leaving unanswered questions as to whether or not the developer exerted undue influence over the private contractors and what information was before the contractors that didn't make it into analysis provided to the public. While the denial is troubling, we believe the merits case is still strong.

Additional information:
Press Release: "Final Arguments, Filings Against Massive Development at Wolf Creek in Judge's Hands"
Article in The Durango Herald"Future of Village at Wolf Creek awaits judge's decision"
Blog post about ski area character: "Glitz and Glamour at Wolf Creek?"
Blog post about Canada lynx: "The “Village” at Wolf Creek Pass – a disaster for the Endangered Species Act listed Canada lynx"
Thank you for supporting the fight to keep Wolf Creek Pass wild!
#NoPillage

P.S. If you want to follow us on social media, we do have a Facebook page, which has up-to-date information from all Friends of Wolf Creek partners.
P.S.S. Consider making a donation to the Friends of Wolf Creek. Select "Friends of Wolf Creek" in the "Direct My Donation" drop-down.