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Forest Service Releases Draft EIS
Shirks Responsibility for Village at Wolf Creek Impacts

Your Comments Needed by November 22, 2004

Billionaire developer Red McCombs – owner of the Minnesota Vikings, co-founder of Clear-Channel Communications, Texas car dealer, and major political campaign contributor – is increasing the political pressure to gain approval of his 8,000-person, gated-city at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area’s Alberta lift. The Forest Service is under the gun to grant year-round access before the inauguration of new Mineral County commissioners (January 11), members of Congress, and the Presidency (January 20). Now they have hurriedly published a Draft EIS that seeks to do just that.

Forest Service Twists and Turns
to do McCombs' Bidding

In order to construct the development, sell expensive second homes, provide utilities to the site, and gain final approval from Mineral County, the developer must get approval for access over National Forest lands. With little regard for public concerns, the Forest Service published a Draft EIS on October 8 that recommends not only one, b­ut two access roads despite overwhelming opposition locally and nationally.

Federal law requires that the Forest Service grant access to inholdings – private property surrounded by public lands owned by all Americans – for "reasonable use and enjoyment". Local governments, Wolf Creek Ski Area, and hundreds of concerned citizens have insisted that the Forest Service gauge what constitutes reasonable use and enjoyment of, and what is viable, on this private land at 10,300-feet in a crucial wildlife and recreation setting.

The original 1986 land exchange – first deemed not in the public interest, then overruled by Washington DC bureaucrats – envisioned just 210 units, a far cry from the 2,172 now under consideration for final approval. Yet the Draft EIS ignores this fact, simply defining the developer’s current proposal as reasonable use and enjoyment. All 2,172 units on 162 lots, 5,176 bedrooms, 4,267 parking spaces, 222,100 square feet of commercial space (over two Wal-Marts worth!) including 12 restaurants, multiple hotels, a convention center, and acres of shopping.

Amazingly, the Draft EIS claims the development would happen even were the Forest Service to deny access. In other words, the developer would use helicopters to fly in construction materials, prospective buyers, buses, trains, electrical generating stations, wastewater treatment plants, food, and everything else to construct and operate an entire town just below the Continental Divide. Simply put, ridiculous. Federal law also requires the Forest Service to assume responsibility for the social and environmental impacts that its approval makes possible. The intense political pressure and resulting accelerated EIS schedule has the Forest Service shirking its legal and ethical obligations to the public. The Forest Service cannot approve this development and comply with laws that protect clean water, wildlife, clean air, and countless other important public values. Should the Forest Service legitimately take responsibility for the impacts of the full development, they would have to deny access as the development will violate numerous laws, regulations, and public concerns:

Harming Local Businesses. This massive development would undermine existing local businesses in Pagosa Springs and South Fork that rely on Wolf Creek Ski Area tourists for wintertime income. Archuleta and Rio Grande Counties will receive major social impacts – such as affordable housing shortages and costs to taxpayers for health care, police, and courts. Yet the promised tax revenue would go solely to Mineral County.

Destroys Existing Ski Area. Skiers, employees, and locals love Wolf Creek Ski Area precisely because it is not Aspen or Vail. The proposed “Village” would destroy the unspoiled backcountry and downhill skiing at the ski area. Indeed, the developer and the ski area – the single largest employer and taxpayer in Mineral County – are now suing each other, raising yet more questions about the suitability of this massive development.

Destroys Critical Wildlife Habitat. Wolf Creek Pass serves as a critical wildlife migration corridor. Biologists have identified Wolf Creek Pass as a critical corridor for the threatened lynx. Extensive traffic growth and the development itself will increase roadkill, reducing the ability of lynx to cross the highway to find mates and reproduce. Alberta Park Reservoir and its tributaries, all within or adjacent to the property, also provide some of the best habitat for the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, a species that has been petitioned for listing as Federally endangered.

Pollutes Watersheds and Fills Wetlands. Sixty acres of high-quality wetlands would be filled or dried up by this development. Utility and power lines will have to be brought from the San Luis Valley. Sewage would pollute Alberta Lake. The developers must compete with agriculture in the San Luis Valley for scarce water in one of the most over-appropriated watersheds in the West.

Act Today!

1. Write YOUR letter to the Forest Service by Nov. 22, 2004:

VWC DEIS Comments, Tetra Tech, Inc.
5205 Leesburg Pike, Suite 1400
Falls Church, VA 22041
Email to: [email protected], or fax to 703-931-9222.

Some key points to make:

The Forest Service failed to distribute copies of the EIS for weeks into the comment period, while online versions were garbled and simply unavailable to many. Demand the Forest Service extend the comment period to a full 90 days after complete distribution of the Draft EIS – notably January 20.
Demand that the Forest Service hold genuine public hearings, not farcical “open house” meetings, after the public has a chance to review the Draft EIS (late November / early December).
Insist that the Forest Service acknowledge the development cannot be built without full access, and that they take responsibility for the full impacts of the development. These impacts are “direct”, not "cumulative", impacts of the Forest Service's decision as they claim.
Insist that the Forest Service assess the full spill over impacts of the development, including to air quality, water quality, water supply, wildlife, local businesses, skiing (including its own permittee – Wolf Creek ski area), traffic on Highway 160, snow storage on public lands as a “connected action” with their access decision.
Request the Forest Service include alternatives that do not grant utility easements. No law, regulation, or requirement exists by which they can rationalize that they must grant utility easements, yet every alternative considered does so.
Insist the Forest Service choose Alternative 1 (denying new access and utility easements), and clarify to Mineral County that the developer does NOT now have access adequate for the development.
2. Attend the Mineral County Commissioner Public Hearing, October 26, Mineral County Courthouse, Creede, 7 PM. If you cannot attend, write to Mineral County Commissioners before Oct. 30: P.O. Box 70, Creede, 81130-0070. Stand up and demand Mineral County:

Insist they ensure the developer fully meets ALL legal requirements, including access, water supply, and wetlands fill permits for instance.
Demand they require an independent fiscal impact analysis – at the developer’s expense – in partnership with neighboring counties.
Ask if they have read all the documents, and if not, tell them to slow down!
Ask if they have been advised against attending the planning commission hearings, and if not, ask how they can understand the issue.
3. Attend the Forest Service “Open House” Style Meetings:

Tues., Oct. 26, Creede 3-7PM, Creede Comm. Center, Forest Service Road 503 #9.
Wed., Oct. 27, South Fork, 3-7PM, South Fork Comm. Center, 0254 Highway 149.
Thurs. Oct. 28, Pagosa Springs 3-7PM, Pagosa Springs Comm. Center.451 Hot Springs Boulevard.
Demand they hold real hearings, not superficial “open houses”, after the public has had time to review the Draft EIS.
4. Donate to Friends of Wolf Creek! We need to raise over $10,000 for brochures, posters, postcards, litigation, and more to fight this campaign. We need your help TODAY! Donate online at, or mail your donation to P.O. Box 2434, Durango, CO, 81302.

Colorado Wild is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) registered organization. Tax deductible memberships that make our work possible can be sent to: PO Box 2434, Durango, Colorado 81302, or join online at To be removed from this list, update your email address, or for other inquiries, please email Jeff Berman at [email protected].
Jeffrey A. Berman
Executive Director, Colorado Wild
P.O. Box 2434
Durango, CO 81302
phone: 970-385-9833

882 Posts
If the USFS lets this go through, it will be tragic. Please take the time to write them so we have a chance at stopping this would-be blight.
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