Saturday, June 17, 2017

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.

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

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:

What was being contested:

May 21, 2015 - Final
Record of Decision
Village at Wolf Creek Access Project Final Environmental Impact Statement
USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region Rio Grande National Forest Divide Ranger District Mineral County, Colorado

United States Department of Agriculture United States Forest Service
Rio Grande National Forest
1803 West Highway 160
Monte Vista, Colorado 81144

1.0 Introduction

This Record of Decision (ROD) documents my decision and rationale for the Village at Wolf Creek Access Project. A Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) has been completed for this project. The FEIS documents the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects of two Action Alternatives as well as the No Action alternative and documents the ability of the alternatives to meet the purpose and need for the project.

2.0 Background and Location

Acquisition of, and proposed access to, private lands in the project area has been accompanied by a complicated procedural and legal history over almost 30 years.

In 1986, a Decision Notice was signed for the Proposed Wolf Creek Land Exchange. The 1986 Decision Notice approved the conveyance of approximately 300 acres of National Forest System (NFS) lands managed by the Rio Grande National Forest (Rio Grande NF) adjacent to the Wolf Creek Ski Area (WCSA) in exchange for non-Federal lands located in Saguache County, Colorado. The 1986 Decision Notice created a private inholding surrounded by the Rio Grande NF. The inholding, which is entirely within the WCSA Special Use Permit (SUP) boundary, is owned by the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture (LMJV). The National Forest System (NFS) lands surrounding the inholding are managed by the Rio Grande NF under Management Area Prescription 8.22 – Ski Based Resorts (FEIS Figure 1.9-1).

National Forest System Road (NFSR) 391, which connects with U.S. Highway 160 (Hwy 160) and passes through a WCSA parking lot, crosses the private inholding and provides vehicular access to Alberta Park Reservoir. NFSR 391 provides vehicular access to the private inholding during the summer months. During the winter months this road is under a public motorized closure order and serves as a ski trail for the WCSA.

In June 2001, the LMJV applied to the Rio Grande NF for rights-of-way (ROW) across NFS lands between Hwy 160 and the private inholding. The LMJV requested that the Forest Service provide permanent, year-round vehicular access to the property through extension of the Tranquility parking lot at WCSA. The proposal was to create the “Tranquility Road” by extending a road through, and beyond, the Tranquility parking lot by approximately 250 feet across NFS lands, thereby connecting to the private land inholding.

In compliance with its statutory obligations under Section 1323(a) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the Rio Grande NF determined that an EIS was required to analyze the request for access to the private inholding. The EIS analyzed four alternatives in detail:

• Alternative 1: No Action
• Alternative 2: The Proposed Action (request for a single additional access to the property via an extension of Tranquility Road);
• Alternative 3: Snow Shed – East Village Access Alternative (a single access alternative using a new road, referred to as the “Snow Shed Road”); and
• Alternative 4: Dual Access Road (a dual access alternative requiring construction and use of both the Snow Shed Road and the extended Tranquility Road).

In March 2006, a ROD was signed by Rio Grande NF Supervisor Peter Clark. The decision was a combination of Alternative 3 and Alternative 4 which authorized the construction of the “Snow Shed Road” and the “Tranquility Road”. Four separate appeals of the ROD were received between April and May 2006. In July 2006, Deputy Regional Forester Greg Griffith denied the appeals (thereby upholding the decision in the ROD).

In October 2006, a suit was filed against the Forest Service, alleging that, among other things, the FEIS and ROD were arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1968, as amended (NEPA). In November 2006, a temporary restraining order was granted which prohibited the Forest Service from: 1) authorizing any ground disturbing construction activity; 2) submitting applications or entering into agreements with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT); or 3) taking any other action implementing the FEIS and ROD. In October 2007, Judge John Kane granted the plaintiff’s request for continued preliminary injunctive relief.

In February 2008, the U.S. Forest Service negotiated a settlement with the plaintiff in order to bring a more prompt closure to the litigation and allow for the initiation of a new analysis. The settlement recognized that the Forest Service did not concede the decision making process violated any laws.

In July 2010, the LMJV submitted a land exchange proposal to the Rio Grande NF. In addition to a land exchange, the LMJV requested an access road across NFS lands be analyzed (citing the Forest Service’s obligations to provide adequate access to the private inholding under ANILCA). An Agreement to Initiate1 was signed between Rio Grande NF and the LMJV in January 2011, and a Notice of Intent to Prepare an EIS was published in the Federal Register on April 19, 2011. …  link

February 2004 In response to LMJV's first Environmental Impact Statement being rejected in an earlier law suit, 
Round Two begins with:

The Daily Journal of the United States Government
A Notice by the Forest Service on 02/20/2004

Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement

Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

The USDA Forest Service (FS), Rio Grande National Forest will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the submission of an Application For Transportation and Utility Systems and Facilities on Federal Lands (Application) by the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture. This Application, if authorized, would permit a perpetual easement for year-round permanent road access, obtain or modify utility easements, and modify easement terms for Alberta Lake access for the proposed Village at Wolf Creek (Village). 

The Village is a resort community proposed for construction and operation solely within 287.5-acres of privately owned land located entirely within the Rio Grande National Forest adjacent to Wolf Creek Ski Area. The road would cross national forest lands from Colorado State Highway 160 to the Village's private in-holdings. Similarly, the utilities easements would cross FS land to provide the necessary infrastructure to serve the future Village residents and businesses. 

The modification of the existing private lands easement terms for Alberta Lake access is proposed to better accommodate the Village design and to create improved public access to national forest lands. Without the permanent road easement and utilities easements the Village could not be accessed nor supplied with the necessary infrastructure to support its' construction or operation.

The FS invites written comments and suggestions on the scope of the analysis. The FS also hereby gives notice of the environmental analysis and decision-making process that will occur on the proposal so interested and affected people are aware of how they may participate and contribute to the final decision.

Comments concerning the scope of the proposed project must be received no later than April 5, 2004.

I think Fens landscapes are cool, worth saving and underrated.  
Check out these links:

Regional Policy on the Protection of Fens
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Region 6
Peatland Mitigation Policy Considerations
January 1999


Mountain Fen Distribution, Types and Restoration Priorities, 
San Juan Mountains, Colorado, USA
Rod A. Chimner; Joanna M. Lemly; David J. Cooper
Published online: 25 April 2010 - Society of Wetland Scientists 2010


Inventory of Fens in a Large Landscape of West-Central Colorado
Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests
April 6, 2012
Barry C. Johnston, Benjamin T. Stratton, Warren R. Young, Liane L. Mattson, John M. Almy, Gay T. Austin

I. Introduction A. Fens
Fens are important, unique wetlands in the Rocky Mountains. They are ancient ecosystems 8,000 to 12,000 years old. Even though they occupy less than 0.5% of the landscape, they “provide important headwater quality functions,” including carbon storage, water storage, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity (Austin 2008, Cooper and Andrus 1994, Chadde and others 1998). 

Fens are “tightly connected to complex local groundwater flow systems,” consequently disruptive changes to groundwater flows can cause severe degradation or loss of functions. Restoration of fens is possible if most of the key fen functions are still active; yet restoration can take many years of work and is expensive (Cooper and MacDonald 2000).

Many scientists accept Mitsch and Gosselink’s definition of fen simply as “a peat-accumulating wetland that receives some drainage from surrounding mineral soil” (Mitsch and Gosselink 2000), although some prefer to emphasize chemical (pH) or hydrological (surface-saturated) or physiological (anaerobic) characteristics (Bedford and Godwin 2003). …
Than there's the Lynx and their right to habitat and safe corridors:

Cat fight: 
The threatened Canada lynx is a factor in lawsuits over the Village at Wolf Creek

Regarding your backyard weather conditions at Alberta Park

Colorado Climate Report - Winter 2001-2002
Wolf Creek Pass info on page 4
Headwaters of the Rio Grande River, something worth considering:

Contacting the principles:

Contacting B.J. ‘Red’ McCombs and LMJV is a challenge.  After much internet searching I still can’t find a physical address for Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture.  
They do have a contact link:
Though I haven't received acknowledgement of anything I've sent through that portal.

For more information about the Village at Wolf Creek team members,
At nearly 90 Mr. McCombs daughter is responsible for the day to day operation of his business empire.

Marsha McCombs Shields (daughter and business partner) is dealer principal of McCombs Automotive, president of the McCombs Foundation, and CEO of Koontz-McCombs Construction, Ltd.

Billy Joe ‘Red’ McCombs and Marsha Shields
Does not accept emails, must be US mail.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

McCombs Foundation, INC.
755 E. Mulberry, Ste. 600
San Antonio, Texas  78212-6013

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Koontz McCombs Construction, LTD
755 E Mulberry, Ste. 100
San Antonio, Texas  78212

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