The Forest Service recently approved a land swap of 204.4 federal acres on southern Colorado’s Wolf Creek Pass for 177.6 acres of private land, the Denver Post reports. This swap will advance a Texas billionaire’s highly debated plan for a massive village near the Wolf Creek Ski Area.
Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs has pushed to develop the Village at Wolf Creek since the 1980s, with environmental groups and residents pushing back. The village would house 10,000 people in 1,711 units. Jason Cox, co-founder of Riff Raff Brewing Company in nearby Pagosa Springs, says that residents are most concerned with the excessive scale of the project. “We employ a lot of people who have grown up here, and there is a strong local mentality against the development of the Village at Wolf Creek,” he told Outside. “Mostly I think it’s about maintaining the character of the mountain itself. Hopefully they can find a balance.”
Environmental groups say that the village would negatively impact wildlife and surrounding wetlands. “This really is a city they are approving,” Matt Sandler, staff attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild, told the Denver Post. Environmentalists are particularly concerned that the development would alter an important migration route for the threatened Canada lynx.
The Forest Service’s approval was explained in a Record of Decision that was released on November 20, along with an 800-page environmental impact statement that took four years to complete. The impact statement details why the Forest Service chose the swap over alternatives, as well as plans to mitigate “anticipated indirect effects” on the lynx population.
Opponents of the project published a statement of disapproval the day the Record of Decision was released. “This project is a net loss for the people who know and love this region,” Christine Canaly, director of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, said in the statement.
The Forest Service will field public comments for 45 to 120 days, depending on whether advocacy groups file objections. If the project receives final approval, Wolf Creek will begin an anticipated 10 years of construction in 2016.