I am writing to express my shock and outrage over the recent decision by Rio Grande National Forest to allow road access for the Village at Wolf Creek, the massive development near the top of Wolf Creek Pass that has the potential to become a city of 8,000 people.
I am not writing to rehash all the reasons I and so many others are opposed to it. That has and probably will again be argued in court. In fact, just last year a federal judge shot down the project because the Forest Service had not adequately studied the environmental impacts, which include loss of wildlife habitat and a risk to our watershed. Not to mention the impact of 8,000 people at a ski area that already feels crowded when there are 6,000 people on the mountain.
The Forest Service cannot abdicate its responsibility to protect the forest by making an attempt at an artful dodge, the court declared last year, in blocking the agency’s decision to grant road access.
That is not the only artful dodge being employed by our local foresters. In an obvious attempt to quell criticism, the agency is only letting members of the public submit comments as objectors if they happened to have done so during the Environmental Impact Statement process in 2011-12.
That was seven years ago and I, like many others I know, did not live here then and did not submit comments. And now the agency is telling us that though we live here now we cannot become a part of this project that has the potential to drastically alter the landscape of our cherished public lands. This despite the fact that same EIS has been ruled as flawed.
What is the Forest Service afraid of? Such a major decision impacts the future of all of us who live in the San Luis Valley and love the San Juan Mountains and the agency should be trying to cast as broad a net as possible in gauging public opinion, not using a bureaucratic loophole to limit who can make their opinions part of the record.
R. Scott Rappold