U.S. Forest Service, developers of Village at Wolf Creek file court appeal
THE Forest Service and the Leavall McCombs Joint Partnership (LMJP), the “Village at Wolf Creek” developers, have appealed the October Court Ruling by Senior Federal Judge Christine M. Arguello.
The court order invalidated the Rio Grande National Forest’s 2019 approval granting an access road across national forest land in order to facilitate a massive proposed real estate development atop Wolf Creek Pass.
The Rio Grande National Forest was unable to provide Alamosa Citizen with comment on the ongoing litigation.
“The Forest Service is not standing with public interest when they decided to appeal the judge’s decision,” said Christine Canaly, director of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council. “What compels them to keep challenging the wisdom of the courts? Their action appears to defy common sense.”
The 300-acre piece of land was purchased in 1986 by Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs.
The legal battle first started in 2000, when Mineral County approved development of a 10,000-bed village with 500,000 square feet of allowed commercial space.
Community and environmental groups have opposed this development for more than 20 years. After Mineral County made the approval, these groups sued to halt any development. In 2007, the Colorado Court of Appeals overturned Mineral County’s development approval.
In 2019, the Forest Service approved a 100-foot-wide, 1610-foot-long access road. They cited the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The federal law allows landowners “reasonable access” to private property that is surrounded by National Forest land.
As a result, they relied on the exact same Environmental Impact Statement that was rejected by Senior Federal Judge Richard Matsch in a 2017 ruling. In that ruling, a land exchange was invalidated by a previous proposal from 2015 between the Forest Service and Leavall McCombs Joint Partnership.
Experts consider Wolf Creek Pass to be some of the most ecologically vital, biodiverse expanses left in the Southern Rockies. The pass sits between the South San Juan and Weminuche wilderness areas. Its summit is 20 miles from the nearest town.
The proposed site of development sits in a connective corridor between these two wilderness areas that sees little 24-hour activity.
Opponents point out construction of the Village at Wolf Creek would dramatically impact the entire landscape, most notably would be disrupting key movement corridors and habitat for the threatened lynx. The lynx were reintroduced to the region by the Colorado Division of Wildlife in 2001.