Friday, May 22, 2015

Why Protecting Rio Grande Source Waters Trumps Destructive Development

Changing the subject for a moment.  Because this is down home and personal and since the struggle to save Wolf Creek's Alberta Park has reignited and I want to broadcast this information far and wide as possible.  Never know were help might come from. 

{Could say this was a work in progress, it's finished now.  Final edit 5/24/15 mid-day}
{For more information visit}

Up in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, below Wolf Creek Pass, an epic wetlands-preservation struggle has been going on.

The smoldering mess was reignited in May when the Rio Grande National Forest released its final decision regarding the Village at Wolf Creek Access Project. This decision allows the exchange of 205 acres of prime Rio Grande National Forest, including some 1500 feet of highway frontage, for 177 acres of difficult-to-develop and landlocked property owned by the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture. Talk about a smooth poker play.

You may wonder, what's going on here? Well, it's the good old story: Money don't talk, it screams. At the heart of this battle is a Texan billionaire with a love for the real-estate poker game and a sick obsession with creating a fairytale Village at Wolf Creek. This so-called “village” would include condos, luxury-goods stores, and upscale restaurants – 10,000 people at 10,000 feet, it’s been dubbed. Sadly, his imagination is too filled with fantasies of thousands of rich and eager buyers flocking to the Colorado hinterlands to realize what he's holding in his hand.

Just uphill we have the family-run Wolf Creek Ski Area, which is nestled in a great sweeping bowl up against USA's Great Divide.  Here you'll find some of the deepest powder skiing in Colorado.  The land also happens to collect a vast quantity of source waters for the interstate and international Rio Grande River. The owners of the ski area have been on-again, off-again players doing their best to minimize exposure, while remaining savvy to opportunities.

Opposing Mr. McCombs and his sacred mantra of “Development Trumps All” are Colorado grassroots groups such as the Friends of Wolf Creek, San Juan Citizens Alliance and San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, among others - all of whom have put up a spirited defense on behalf of the wetlands that have no voice. 

This struggle has been going on for nearly three decades now.

To understand the opposition, you must understand that the targeted "parcel" is in Alberta Park. And Alberta Park happens to be the keystone of this great Wolf Creek Pass watershed

It's where the land levels out and water seeps down deep on its short journey to the head waters of the Rio Grande. Alberta Park is an intricate wetlands of complex subsurface hydrology with thousand-year-old Fens (peat-moss landscape) laced throughout. This community  performs a myriad of biological functions while storing and filtering the water upon which the Rio Grande stakeholders depend.

Yet our developers' attitude towards this natural resource is one of disinterested contempt as they explain how drainage ditches and a small-scale water-treatment plant will compensate for the destruction of this natural water-purification complex and the wildlife habitat that comes with it.

In defense of Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas and his decision, it must be pointed out that his options were severely restricted by statutory requirements and also by being forced to abide by an odd interpretation of the "Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act" of 1980.  (Not to say there aren't serious questions and objections being raised regarding this most recent EIS process.)

Alaska wilderness 1970-80s, Colorado in the 2010s – what’s the connection? What's the reasoning here? Go fish... try finding a justification for that interpretation.

Why should ANILCA have standing in this particular Colorado situation? I believe a misuse of the law deserves being questioned. After all, the parcel was already landlocked within the long-established RGNF. The law was created to protect private lands within newly created Federal Land entities, thus I believe citizens have a right, if not a duty, to object to that interpretation.

In any event, now that the RGNF has decided to swap "parcels" and legal title goes to LMJV, the poker game moves on to the Mineral County Commissioners, located in Creede (population <500), the county's only town, and a comfortable 40 miles and across the mountains from this ground zero.

Hopefully it'll be different this time, because a decade or so ago, sorry to say, they were pushovers for the slick Texan with deep pockets.

Now it starts again and it's going to take a lot of informed and active citizens to oppose the power of those deep pockets as LMJV continues their single-minded pursuit of their atrocious Village at Wolf Creek pipe dream.

On Saturday June 20, there will be a celebration at Wolf Creek Ski Area called "Honor Wolf Creek" and it will focus on appreciating this wonderland through art, poetry and music. For details check out, hosts of the event.

I believe the event will help people from all over the state get acquainted and exchange ideas and perhaps come up with strategies on how to convince LMJV of the foolishness of their destructive development plan.

The ultimate goal is to return this priceless parcel back into the Rio Grande National Forest from whence it was torn. Can you help?

Following are a few links dedicated to raising awareness and sharing information plus further links to various players and information:

Celebrating Alberta Park and Honoring Wolf Creek

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Rejecting the Village At Wolf Creek, list of go-to info and resources

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THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2015
Final decision released for Village at Wolf Creek Access Project, May 21, 2015

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THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2015
Questioning ANILCA and Village at Wolf Creek

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What is "Reasonable Use" of Alberta Park at Wolf Creek, Colorado?

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(NO-VillageatWolfCreek.blogspot is my own website, 
I like to think of it as a kiosk of information for those wanting to 
understand why Alberta Park should remain unmolested by destructive development)



Friends of Wolf Creek
San Juan Citizens Alliance
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council 
Saturday, June 20th, 2015 Honoring Wolf Creek at Wolf Creek Ski Area
 and Celebrating Alberta Park

A closer look at some of the real world details:

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Assessment of Wetland Condition on the Rio Grande National Forest

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Inventory of Fens in a Large Landscape of West-Central Colorado

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Hydrology Of The Wolf Creek Pass Area,  November 7, 2014

The Village At Wolf Creek: Salesmanship Trumps Meteorology

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Rio Grande National Forest: Village at Wolf Creek Access Project
The Rio Grande National Forest is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the effects of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek land exchange.
Location Summary
The federal and non-federal parcels to be considered are entirely within Mineral County, Colorado
District: Divide Ranger District

Project Documents
Date Published
  1. Scoping
    1. Scoping Letter for the Village at Wolf Creek Land Exchange Proposal
    1. Figure showing the current private parcel surrounded by the Rio Grande National Forest
    1. Figure showing the proposed land exchange Federal and non-Federal parcels
    1. Figure showing potential access location from U.S. Highway 160
    1. Notice of Intent to prepare and Environmental Impact Statement for the Village at Wolf Creek Land Exchange Proposal

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