A proposed development for the Village at Wolf Creek has advanced after federal officials approved a land exchange related to the project. But a coalition of conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday after the U.S. Forest Service gave the land swap the go-ahead in May. 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.

Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs has been trying since 1986 to build the Village at Wolf Creek at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area. His proposal is to swap private land in a large meadow below the ski area for Forest Service land abutting U.S. Highway 160. The project would create hotels, townhouses, condominiums and restaurants within the remote area.

The nearly 30-year effort has been slowed by several previous lawsuits, all of which sought to stop the ambitious development. The lawsuit filed this month is similar to previous cases, in which it argues that the federal environmental impact analysis was narrow in scope. Forest officials, however, say the swap is their only recourse given legal parameters.

The Forest Service considered a 1980 law called the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which contains a provision that requires owners of in-holdings to be given reasonable access to their property. That means year-round access for developers, officials say.

Opponents recently organized a coalition to travel to Washington, D.C., to speak with lawmakers and federal officials about the matter. Concerns have revolved around wildlife – such as migration routes for lynx – and maintaining the integrity of the scenic treasure that surrounds Wolf Creek.

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