Wolf Creek Pass needs your help to remain the beautiful area that you and thousands of others know and love. Out-of-state developers continue to pursue plans for a “Village” at Wolf Creek, a city of up to 8,000 people on top of the Pass.
This intense development plan in a fairly pristine area entirely surrounded by National forest would dramatically impact the entire region. The “Village” would threaten:
- One of the most critical wildlife corridors in the southern Rocky Mountains, especially important for high-elevation species like wolverine and lynx;
- Unspoiled backcountry opportunities along the Continental Divide;
- Water supply and water quality for downstream communities;
- Local businesses in nearby Archuleta and Rio Grande Counties;
- Rare and ecologically valuable fen wetlands.
On May 19, 2017, Judge Matsch found 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.”
The Court rejected the Forest Service conclusion that it lacked any control over the use of the private parcel. The Court explained that “there is no legal or logical basis for Defendants‟ position that the Forest Service had no power or jurisdiction to limit or regulate development on the federal lands being conveyed to LMJV in the present exchange.” The Court was troubled by the fact that the Forest Service previously conditioned use of the original parcel created in 1986 “with a scenic easement that limited development.”
Judge Matsch was also concerned with the fact that “development resulting from the Forest Service’s approval of the land exchange will adversely impact an endangered species, yet fails to comply with the statutory requirements for the protection of that species.” The species the Court was referring to is the Federally listed Canada lynx which would have been harmed had the Village construction and operation commenced.
On June 16, 2017, the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture filed a Motion to Reconsider asking Judge Matsch to reconsider his decision, alleging that Judge Matsch suffered from “a misapprehension of controlling law and facts.”
On September 14, 2017, Judge Matsch denied this Motion describing the Forest Service’s Wolf Creek Decision as “a patent effort to circumvent [the agencies] obligations to protect the natural environment of the Forest.” Judge Matsch again reiterated that the Forest Service’s decision was unlawful and an “attempt at an artful dodge of its responsibility.”
On October 16, 2017, the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture filed an appeal to Judge Matsch’s decision that the Village at Wolf Creek development was approved “contrary to law.”
On May 9, 2018, the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture filed the appellate opening brief, but the US Forest Service declined to appeal the Order issued by Judge Matsch. Since the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture was an intervenor in the lawsuit, there’s a chance that it can’t proceed with the appeals process.
We will continue to monitor and report back everything we hear, and we vow to continue defending Wolf Creek Pass against continued and future threats.
For an in-depth, chronological history of this case, visit the Friends of Wolf Creek Background page.
The Administrative Record is the paper trail that documents an agency’s decision-making process and the basis for the agency’s decision. Here is a link to the administrative record provided by the Forest Service on their decision to approve the land exchange with Red McCombs.
Donate to the Cause
Court battles like these aren’t cheap. If you’d like to support our battle to keep Wolf Creek Pass wild, please donate on our GivingFuel page. Select “Friends of Wolf Creek” under “Direct My Donation.”