No Village At Wolf Creek
By: Matt Sandler, Rocky Mountain Wild
May 27, 2017
As we checked the last things off lists, and completed the necessary steps to get us on the road, the Wolf Creek Order came in. We WON! Wolf Creek Pass will be protected from a massive construction project for the time being.
The very Honorable Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch used his power and law for good. This 87-year-old judge, who was appointed by Richard Nixon in 1976, two years before I was born – was not influenced, as the Forest Service had been, by a powerful and well-connected billionaire; Red McCombs.
As an attorney, one represents their client and hopefully you believe in what you are fighting for. Through this process, one tends to convince themselves that their side is right. Judges or juries do not always see it that way.
As a skier and an environmental lawyer, my priorities sometimes clash. Had the village a Wolf Creek been constructed 20 years ago, I would probably enjoy the amenities at one of the snowiest places in Colorado. But it was not built and now it should not be. We live in a different world, with different understandings and priorities, and a much more developed landscape. Today Colorado does not need another mountain resort. Today we need to protect the last connected landscapes, defend the habitat necessary to maintain healthy and sustainable populations of wildlife, and guard the ecosystem that keeps us healthy.
This is a truth that was made apparent to me through my quiet moments in the trees skiing and what ultimately drove me to become an environmental lawyer. This belief was validated yesterday when we drove over Wolf Creek Pass.
Prior to receiving the court’s order, I had changed our route to head south. This happenstance weather-driven course adjustment had me breathing in the high alpine air while looking down on McCombs’ Private Parcel. Imagining bulldozers, cranes, excavators, mass construction, fumes, disruption, and irreparable harm left me jubilant and fearful. Judge Matsch said “no,” but will Red Try again? Will they appeal? Will I be back here in 5 years with my sons looking at a drastically changed environment?
It seemed to like its home the way it is. I’m glad it will remain that way at least for the time being and know we will continue to fight to keep it this way. As we pulled away, my oldest child said from the back, “I want to be a lawyer someday and protect the environment.” I responded, “You can do anything you want to do. There are so many people doing so many amazing things to protect the environment.” Knowing we’ve planted a seed in a future generation gives me hope. The fight will never be easy. There will always be greed and conflicting “priorities.” We must all band together, from generation to generation, to take responsibility to protect and repair the world.
That evening I got to celebrate this victory in Durango with some of our partners in the battle to stop the “Pillage at Wolf Creek.” So much of our time is spent strategizing and commiserating. It was a pleasure to get to spent time together toasting to a victory in a long fought campaign. Thank you to all those people out there who helped in any way to make this outcome a reality.
Did you see The SabbMattical Chronicles – Volume 9, The SabbMattical Chronicles – Volume 8, The SabbMattical Chronicles – Volume 7, The SabbMattical Chronicles – Volume 6, The SabbMattical Chronicles – Volume 5, The SabbMattical Chronicles – Volume 4, The SabbMattical Chronicles – Volume 3, The SabbMattical Chronicles – Volume 2, or The SabbMattical Chronicles – Volume 1?