Local environmentalists took their fight against the Wolf Creek land swap deal to Washington D.C. last month. The deal reached by the U.S. Forest Service in May would allow Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs to move forward with development at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area.
Jimbo Buickerood, public lands coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, and Monique DiGiorgio, executive director of the Chama Peak Land Alliance, asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set aside the Forest Service’s decision until there is a broader environmental review of the project that includes input from agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. Concern for the natural migration paths of wildlife such as the Canadian lynx are a primary concern for the groups.
The coalition opposing the proposed Village at Wolf Creek is also asking for an independent review of the project, saying documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act show Forest Service reviewer Maribeth Gustafson was in talks with the project proponents. If true, this appears to be a conflict of interest as described by the Forest Service’s own policies.
McCombs has been trying since 1986 to build a village at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area, but he has needed access to his property from the Forest Service. Federal officials approved a land exchange in May in which developers would offer 177 acres of private land to the Forest Service in the Rio Grande National Forest in exchange for about 205 acres of federal land.
A coalition of conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit in June arguing that the federal environmental impact analysis was too narrow in scope. But proponents say construction will begin this year.
Philip Clelland, a spokesman for Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said his office is aware of the long-standing issue and will be looking into the concerns the groups have raised.