The Forest Service is stalling again.
Last month, partner organization Rocky Mountain Wild (RMW) won a lawsuit against the Forest Service for inappropriately withholding public documents that RMW requested in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) concerning the proposed development on Wolf Creek Pass. If you missed it, the press release is here. The judge gave the Forest Service until October 30th to release the documents, but on November 2nd they asked for an extension and received another 30 days to comply.
The FOIA was filed in February of 2014… we’ve been waiting over a year and a half to receive these documents, and now we have to wait another 30 days. What are they trying to hide?
Stay tuned, once we get the documents we will make them available to the public on our website and alert you on what we discover.
See the full press release below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 6, 2015
Further Delays for Court Ordered Release of Wolf Creek FOIA Documents
Advocacy groups prepare for coming disclosures
Durango, CO – On November 2, 2015 the U.S. Forest Service was granted more time to release critical documents related to the controversial development on Wolf Creek Pass.
In February of 2014 Rocky Mountain Wild (RMW), a member of the Friends of Wolf Creek coalition, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the United States Forest Service for documents related to a proposed land exchange. The exchange would pave the way for development of Red McCombs’s controversial “Village at Wolf Creek.” The Forest Service failed to lawfully comply with this request by missing statutory deadlines and ignoring an administrative appeal. RMW challenged this failure to provide access to agency records in the U.S. Federal Court.
Last month, over a year and a half after the FOIA request, the Court ruled in RMW’s favor and ordered the Forest Service to conduct a new search and disclose records by October 30, 2015. However, last week the agency requested an additional 30 days to comply with the court order, extending the wait even longer.
“Even when faced with a court order, the Forest Service still failed to allocate the necessary resources to get us the records we are legally entitled to,” said Matt Sandler, Staff Attorney for Rocky Mountain Wild. “We have been forced to operate at a disadvantage throughout this decision making process.”
This summer, despite not responding to the FOIA request for documents, the Forest Service approved the land exchange. The Friends of Wolf Creek (SJCA, RMW, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, and Wilderness Workshop) filed a lawsuit in Federal Court challenging the decision.
“The Forest Service’s lack of public disclosure is appalling,” says the San Juan Citizens Alliance (SJCA) Executive Director, Dan Olson. “After waiting more than a year for the Forest Service to comply with a perfectly reasonable FOIA request, the public is asked to wait even longer. The question is simple: what are they working so hard to hide?”
Over the next month, the Friends of Wolf Creek coalition will receive tens of thousands of documents from this FOIA case, a second FOIA case, and the lawsuit challenging the decision – starting on November 9th. The coalition is preparing to analyze and make public the details the Forest Service has so assiduously tried to shield from public eyes.
“The Friends of Wolf Creek will be setting up a wiki-leaks type information center to review the mass of information and share important details with the public,” says San Juan Citizens Alliance’s Wolf Creek Coordinator, Emily Bowie. “Stay tuned to SJCA’s online blog and social media outlets to learn with us in real-time.”
For more information, visit sanjuancitizens.org/wolf-creek, friendsofwolfcreek.org, and rockymountainwild.org/programs/wild-lands-and-water/wolf-creek-campaign.
Matt Sandler, Staff Attorney, Rocky Mountain Wild, firstname.lastname@example.org, (303)579-5162
Dan Olson, Executive Director, San Juan Citizens Alliance, email@example.com, (970)259-3583
Emily Bowie, Coordinator, San Juan Citizens Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org, (970)259-3583
Travis Stills, Attorney, Energy & Conservancy Law, email@example.com, (970)375-9231
Friends of Wolf Creek:
About San Juan Citizens Alliance
The San Juan Citizens Alliance advocates for clean air, pure water, and health lands – the foundations of resilient communities, ecosystems and economies in the San Juan Basin. For more information, visit our website, our LinkedIn, and our Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
About Rocky Mountain Wild
Rocky Mountain Wild (RMW) protects wild lands for wildlife throughout the Southern Rocky Mountain region of Colorado, southern Wyoming, eastern Utah, and northern New Mexico. To learn more, visit www.rockymountainwild.org.
About Friends of Wolf Creek
Friends of Wolf Creek is a coalition of conservation organizations fighting to keep Wolf Creek Pass wild. The coalition includes: Rocky Mountain Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council. More information can be found at friendsofwolfcreek.org.