A federal court has once again blocked a land exchange key for the development of The Village at Wolf Creek. The Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, a three-decade project pursued by Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs, is seeking the construction of more than 1,700 units that could house about 8,000 people near the Wolf Creek Ski Area.
This week, Judge Richard P. Matsch denied a request from lawyers representing the proposed development to reconsider a decision he issued in May.
The judge found that the agency tried to circumvent its obligation by relying on a law that requires it provide access to private land. Then Rio Grande Forest Service Supervisor Dan Dallas approved the land exchange in 2015. The exchange gave developers land adjacent to U.S. Highway 160, and in the swap, the Forest Service received land that included wetlands below Wolf Creek Ski Area.
“The Forest Service cannot abdicate its responsibility to protect the forest by making an attempt at an artful dodge,” Matsch wrote in his recent decision.
A coalition of environmental groups challenged the Forest Service’s decision, arguing the agency unlawfully limited an environmental analysis and was unduly influenced by McCombs and his political pressure throughout the process.
Lawyers for Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture argued the Forest Service considered and rejected restricting the proposed development, as required by law.
The new court order affirms the coalition’s position that the Forest Service did not analyze protections for natural resources and the Canada lynx, said Matt Sandler, an attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild, who worked on the case.