Dear Chief Tidwell, it’s time to right your agency’s wrong

For months people have been asking: “What can I do to help save Wolf Creek Pass?”

Well, here’s a very immediate and concrete request. Next week, representatives from a number of community groups will be visiting officials in Washington, D.C., to discuss the approved pillage.

To prime those conversations, we’re asking that people who care – people like you – take a few minutes to write, email, call and otherwise engage the U.S. Forest Service chief, Thomas Tidwell, before their arrival.

You see, five commoners talking to people in D.C. don’t get a whole lot of attention. Five people reinforcing the message delivered by thousands emphatically do.

Will you help?

To make it easy, San Juan Citizens Alliance has compiled all the information you need to pull off this type of audacious outreach effort: a draft letter that you can alter and send with the touch of a few buttons, contact information, the ability to share your action with friends and more. Very 21st century of us, don’t you think? Come to the Alliance’s website and check it out for yourself under the “Action Center” tab.

Here’s a preview of parts of our draft letter to Chief Tidwell that you can improve upon to your heart’s content before pressing send:

Dear Chief Tidwell,

On your watch, a grave injustice is being perpetrated against the communities and public lands of Southwest Colorado. Through a failure to meet its responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act, a self-serving internal “review” process and a scandalous record when responding to multiple Freedom of Information Act requests, your agency is paving the way for Wolf Creek Pass to be pillaged for one developer’s limited and misguided vision.

It is beyond comprehension that your agency would try to justify this land exchange as benefiting the public interest or improving the health of our public lands. It is not even remotely defensible in a court of law. From a review of FOIA documents, our community has seen, first-hand, the role of the developer inappropriately influencing the Forest Service’s decision-making process.

FOIA has revealed that during 2014, Forest Service leadership and attorneys in Denver rewrote the Environmental Impact Statement and draft Record of Decision and subjected the result to a farcical internal “review” process. Review of formal objections was conducted by the same individual who directed substantive changes to the final EIS and draft ROD throughout 2014, Deputy Regional Forester Maribeth Gustafson.

Most galling is your agency’s repeated efforts to stonewall our community by failing to timely or adequately respond to multiple FOIA requests for documents pertaining to the decision.

Though I must admit to being an outsider to the internal deliberations of federal bureaucracies, it seems ill-advised for a public agency to so blatantly serve the interests of one wealthy individual over the interests of the broader public and the ecosystem the Forest Service is entrusted with managing. Surely, you are in a position to correct your agency’s decades-long failure at Wolf Creek Pass and to direct an inquiry into whether there must be consequences for Forest Service personnel who acted in violation of federal law and against the public interest.

Our community has fought this development plan for 30 years. Over that time, we have won in the court of public opinion as well as the court of law. For some strange reason, to date we’ve been unable to win even modest support from the agency most responsible for protecting Wolf Creek Pass, the Forest Service.

I will never stop defending Wolf Creek Pass. Please take the action that is yours to take as a leader of this agency and right this tremendous wrong.

Sincerely,

The Caring Ones

This content first published in The Durango Herald’s Thinking Green Column here.

One Comment

  • gary hargrove says:

    I’ve been enjoying the natural beauty of Wolf Creek Pass since 1963. People need a place to go to unwind. To see the natural world. Unspoiled and untrammeled by man. Shame on greedy billionaires like Red McCombs. Red, you have enough money. Leave my Rio Grande National Forest alone. I paid for it before you bought this area that you want to pillage.

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