Federal judge halts Village at Wolf Creek land swap
By Jonathan Romeo, Durango Herald
A federal judge on Friday invalidated the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to approve a land exchange that would have essentially served as a green light for Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs’ plan to build a new resort atop Wolf Creek Pass.
“The order rules in the favor of community groups who have been fighting this ill-conceived project for decades,” said Travis Stills, an attorney with Energy & Conservation Law. “This is an important decision that respects the law, the environment, and importantly, agency staffers who tried to protect the National Forest, despite the constant barrage of political pressure.”
In 2015, the U.S. Forest Service approved a land exchange with Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture that gave the developers the access it has lacked since the 1980s.
For nearly four decades, McCombs has tried to build the Village at Wolf Creek, a massive resort on the pass at nearly 10,000-feet, and more than 20 miles from the nearest town.
A coalition of environmental groups for two years have challenged the Forest Service’s decision, arguing that the agency unlawfully limited the scope of an environmental analysis, and was unduly influenced by McCombs throughout the process.
Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch agreed with those concerns, taking issue with “predictive bias” in the Forest Service’s decision to approve the land swap and the public comment process.
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