From the Durango Telegraph:
The Village at Wolf Creek is back on the table and going on public display next week. The Rio Grande National Forest is working on an environmental analysis of a land exchange that would open access to developer Red McCombs’ landlocked parcel atop Wolf Creek Pass. As part of the process, the agency is hosting a public field trip Sept. 20.
The swap would exchange 178 acres of McCombs’ property for 204 Forest Service acres abutting U.S. Hwy. 160. If approved, it would give the Village a total of nearly 324 acres and enable McCombs to construct a development for 8,000-10,000 people near the top of Wolf Creek Pass.
“There is significant public interest and enough potential benefit to the proposed land exchange over the previous right-of-way application to merit a full environmental analysis,” RGNF Supervisor Dan Dallas said this spring.
Opponents of the “Village” fail to see the positives of the exchange. Paul Joyce, of Rocky Mountain Wild, argued that the public would be the biggest loser if the deal goes forward.
“We have concerns about Red McCombs trading his worthless, inaccessible, undevelopable land for developable land with access,” Joyce said. “The property Red currently has is wrought with challenges.”
Rocky Mountain Wild has an additional concern that the Rio Grande National Forest feels bound by federal law to provide access to McCombs’ inholding. The group is asking the agency to fairly consider all of the options, including denying any and all access. “We are asking for a fair, transparent process with a real ‘no action’ alternative,” Joyce said. “We believe that such a process will identify the inappropriateness of the proposed city of 8,000-10,000 people atop Wolf Creek Pass. We hope to bring this property back into the public domain and end the conversation of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek once and for all.”
The public can now decide for itself if the exchange adds up. District Ranger Tom Malecek is leading a public field trip to the parcels from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tues., Sept. 20. Forest Service specialists, the third-party contractor writing the analysis and representatives for McCombs will all be on hand to answer questions.
A draft environmental impact statement on the exchange is expected to be released in early 2012. The Forest Service noted that while the scoping period has passed, public input is always welcome and will help ensure a more thorough analysis.
Additional information about the proposed land exchange can be found at: www.fs.usda.gov/riogrande.
From Friends of Wolf Creek:
The Rio Grande National Forest has scheduled a site tour of the proposed land exchange for September 20, 2011 at Wolf Creek Pass. Meet at 10 a.m. in the Parking lot at Wolf Creek Ski Area. They will visit both proposed exchange parcels and answer questions about the proposal.
Come out and show your support to keep Wolf Creek Pass the way it is for wildlife, water resources, forest health, local economies, and our view-shed.
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 8,000-10,000 people at the top of the Pass. This intense development plan in an otherwise undeveloped area entirely surrounded by National Forest would dramatically impact the entire region. Impacts of the proposed development threaten local businesses in nearby Archuleta and Rio Grande Counties, unspoiled backcountry recreation opportunities along the Continental Divide, water supply and water quality for downstream communities, rare and ecologically valuable fen wetlands, and one of the most critical wildlife corridors in the Southern Rocky Mountains. For more history on Friends of Wolf Creek’s successes in stopping previous illegal Village development plans, visit our Archives page.
Developer Red McCombs has spent more than 20 years attempting to circumvent legitimate public review of his proposed “Village.” McCombs has thusfar been unwilling to trust his project to any traditional process of public analysis, disclosure, and decision-making, and recently attempted to circumvent this review process yet again through a legislative land exchange to gain not only access, but also additional developable property. Finally, McCombs appears willing (or is being forced) to submit his project to an open and transparent review by the Forest Service and the public.
While the idea that the Forest Service would trade McCombs undevelopable wetlands for developable land with highway access is concerning, Friends of Wolf Creek continues to believe that the fair, open, and transparent review process is critical to promoting an informed conversation about the future of the Wolf Creek area.