On October 20, 2022, Federal District Court Judge Christine Arguello once again ruled that the Forest Service acted unlawfully when issuing the access decision for the Village at Wolf Creek. The Court also found that the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act when analyzing the impacts of this decision on the Federally listed Canada lynx.
Judge Arguello partially based her decision on Judge Richard Matsch’s 2017 Orders finding a similar decision to be unlawful. Instead of responding to Judge Matsch’s Orders through completing a lawful environmental analysis of the impacts of this access decision, the agencies relied on the same faulty analysis in issuing a new decision in 2018.
Both the Forest Service and the Developer, the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, appealed Judge Arguello’s decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
On July 21, 2023, Rocky Mountain Wild and our partner organizations filed a Response Brief defending both Judge Matsch and Judge Arguello’s Orders and reiterating all the reasons why the Agencies actions were unlawful. The Agencies continue to elevate the desires of a developer over protection of our National Forests and the species that require that habitat to survive.
The issues with this proposed development started back in 1986. The developer acquired this piece of land with what it conveyed as a worst-case development scenario of 208 units. To ensure the development was compatible with the ski area and the surrounding Forests, a scenic easement was placed on the parcel to limit the development and the ski area was involved in the project.
However, after acquiring the parcel, the Developer proposed closer to a 2000-unit development. The Developer and the Ski Area’s relationship also deteriorated to the point where they ended up in Court on opposite sides of a case. Based on the increase in the development size and the issues with the Ski Area, the Developer needs a new and larger access road to the parcel. Decades of litigation, improper political pressure, unlawful agency actions, and uncertainty for Wolf Creek Pass ensued.
Now the fate of this important habitat connectivity corridor in a uniquely undeveloped area of Southern Colorado will be up to a panel of three appellate judges. We will keep you posted as our efforts to protect Wolf Creek Pass continue to unfold.
Matt Sandler (he/him)
Legal Director, Leadership Team
Rocky Mountain Wild
P.S. Interested in supporting this work? Donate to Rocky Mountain Wild through our Colorado Gives page.