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Wolf Creek

We’ve been fighting for over ten years to protect Wolf Creek Pass, a critical wildlife corridor, from a massive 8,000-person resort development. Photo: Alex Pullen

THE VILLAGE AT WOLF CREEK HAS REARED IT'S UGLY HEAD ONCE AGAIN

A Recent Court Ruling Overturned Prior Development Rejections, and has Reignited Controversy over the Pillage at Wolf Creek

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Environment

Wolf Creek Pass is an invaluable Colorado ecosystem.

Wolf Creek Pass is identified by many conservation organizations as an extremely valuable southern Rockies ecosystem that the “Village at Wolf Creek” seriously endangers.

  • WCP is a key migration corridor for elk, deer, and threatened Canada lynx. (see maps below)
  • WCP is home to rare, fragile Colorado fen wetlands.
  • Development would likely negatively impact water quality and quantity in the Rio Grande Watershed.
  • WCP receives the most snowfall in Colorado, which provides ideal habitat for endangered Lynx, and possibly reintroduced wolverines.
  • Increased winter traffic on dangerously winding roads will result in more traffic accidents, including more wildlife-traffic accidents.
  • Concentrated snowpack on top of the pass contributes to late-season flow to the Rio Grande River.

Forest Service

The Forest Service isn’t doing its job.

The USFS, influenced by the developers, has gone to great lengths to avoid a full, thorough, legal environmental analysis of the proposed “Village at Wolf Creek” subject to proper public review.

  • The USFS has a history of colluding with the developers.
  • The USFS has avoided thorough analysis of the environmental impacts of development.
  • The USFS has failed to meet independent review requirements.
  • The USFS disregarded two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Community

The main beneficiaries of the “Village at Wolf Creek” would be the developers, not the local communities which could, in fact, be negatively impacted by economic competition, overuse of public resources, and changes in culture.

  • Tax revenue would benefit towns far away, but public costs would fall on closer municipalities.
  • The “village” would increase pressure on local public services (e.g. emergency) in Pagosa Springs over 25 hazardous miles away.
  • The new commercial center would compete with existing local businesses.
  • WCP is at 10,400’: out-of-state tourists will face altitude-related emergencies.
  • The “village” would change the unique and remote Wolf Creek Ski Area.
  • A large development would devalue backcountry activities: e.g. backcountry skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, hunting, and fishing.
  • Impacts on downstream Rio Grande water quality and quantity have not been adequately analyzed.

The Story

For decades, out-of-state developer B.J. “Red” McCombs has pursued his vision for a “Village at Wolf Creek” – a city of 8,000 people – at the top of Wolf Creek Pass. This massive development would be roughly the population of Aspen.

Wolf Creek Pass, 20 miles from the nearest town, is a remote landscape that is entirely surrounded by National Forest. Construction of the Village at Wolf Creek would dramatically impact the entire region. The proposal indefensibly disregards ecosystem health, wildlife needs, and public interests.

The “Village at Wolf Creek” development threatens:

  • A critical Southern Rockies wildlife corridor
  • Backcountry recreation opportunities
  • Nearby local businesses
  • Rare, valuable fen wetlands
  • Water quality and quantity for downstream land users and anglers
  • Views from the highway and the Continental Divide Trail

What is the "Village at Wolf Creek"?

The Village at Wolf Creek is planned to be an 8,000-person village containing 1,711 units comprised of hotels, condominiums, townhomes, single-family lots, and a commercial center.

What Wolf Creek Pass looks like now.

A model of the complete proposed “Village.”

The History

In 1986 Leavell Properties, Inc. (later joined by Texas billionaire B. J. “Red” McCombs to form the Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture, or LMJV) swapped land with the United States Forest Service to obtain a property on top of Wolf Creek Pass surrounded by Forest Service land. McCombs, who now spearheads the project, expanded the plan to his “Village at Wolf Creek.” In order to construct the Village at Wolf creek, however, LMJV needs Forest Service approval to gain year-round highway access to the isolated property.

Since the beginning, the “Friends of Wolf Creek” – a coalition of conservation groups from around the state – have fought to ensure the development is never realized. So far we’ve been able to keep construction at bay, forcing the Forest Service to hand over documents and rewrite woefully inadequate Environmental Impact Statements (EISs). In 2006, we sued the Forest Service for inappropriately colluding with the developer during environmental assessments, and won. Our partner Rocky Mountain Wild sued the Forest Service three times for disregarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Rocky Mountain Wild won the first two cases and the third is in process.

In May of 2017, we won another lawsuit, putting the development on hold yet again. A federal judge nullified the land exchange on grounds the Forest Service avoided a thorough analysis of the environmental impacts of development in their latest EIS and that they failed to meet independent review requirements. The judge agreed that the Forest Service shirked their responsibility by ignoring the immense impacts of building a city at 10,400’.

But McCombs and the Forest Service refused to accept the public’s verdict opposing the destructive project, and in February 2019 the Forest Service approved yet another scheme to give McCombs carte blanche for development. The 2019 decision simply handed over a paved access road to McCombs using precisely the same flawed environmental analysis used to justify the land exchange decision that was invalidated by the court in 2017. So back to court we went yet again, and not surprisingly a federal court yet again rejected the Forest Service’s scheme to hand over road access to McCombs. The 2022 court decision found that the Forest Service acted unlawfully in making this access decision, and also found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act in its analysis of impacts to Canada lynx, a listed threatened species.

Unfortunately, the Forest Service continues to advocate for the project and appealed the latest court decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. At the beginning of 2024, we offered oral arguments at the federal courthouse in Denver to uphold the prior court decision.

It’s been a long 35+-year journey, but we remain committed to ensuring the Village at Wolf Creek never defaces the heart of the San Juans.

For more detailed information please read the “Concise History of Wolf Creek.”

Views of Wolf Creek

A Tri-Fold Problem

We want the United States Forest Service (USFS) to stop making decisions to please out-of-state billionaires, but rather make decisions that are in the public interest – as they were created to do. We are certain that if they do their job correctly, the Village at Wolf Creek Pass will never be allowed. Read below for some of the key issues with the Village:

Legal

The Forest Service isn’t doing their jobs.

FOIA Documents

COLLUSION

The USFS has a history of colluding with the developers.

Wolf Creek Ski Area

NO ANALYSIS

The USFS has avoided thorough analysis of the environmental impacts of development.

NO INDEPENDENT REVIEW

The USFS has failed to meet independent review requirements.

Wolf Creek Files

NO FOIAS

The USFS has disregarded two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. More about FOIAs.

Max density rendering of Village at Wolf Creek

Environment

Wolf Creek Pass is a vital ecosystem.

FOIA Documents

KEY MIGRATION CORRIDOR

The area around Wolf Creek Pass (see maps below) is one of the most important wildlife movement corridors in the nation, and the most important wildlife linkage for lynx, bear, elk and other species in the San Juan Mountains.  The Pass connects the South San Juan Wilderness with the Weminuche Wilderness and is also a core reintroduction area for lynx.

WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY

Extensive development could negatively impact the quality and quantity of water in the Rio Grande watershed, hurting downstream land users and anglers.

RARE WETLANDS

Wolf Creek Pass is home to valuable fen wetlands, which are a specific type of wetland that are groundwater-fed and peat-forming. Fen wetlands support more diverse plant and animal life than other wetlands, enriching the biodiversity at Wolf Creek. They also help reduce the risk of floods and improve water quality.

MOST ANNUAL SNOWFALL

Wolf Creek Pass receives the most snowfall annually in Colorado, which provides ideal habitat for endangered Lynx and other species. The concentrated snowpack on top of the pass also contributes to late-season flow to the Rio Grand River.

TRAIL VIEWS

Wild, undeveloped places are special. The proposed Village would transform the unspoiled views of Wolf Creek into just another mega-development.

BACKCOUNTRY RECREATION

The pristine Wolf Creek Pass area offers unsurpassed backcountry recreation opportunities for skiers, anglers, hunters, and hikers. A large development would devalue these activities.

The area around Wolf Creek Pass is the most important wildlife corridor in the San Juan Mountains.

Proposed site of the Village at Wolf Creek
Area of state for the Village at Wolf Creek

Community

Local communities will suffer the cost.

TAX REVENUES AND COSTS

Tax revenue would benefit towns far away, but public costs would fall on closer municipalities, placing the burden on communities that won’t financially benefit from the development.

STRAIN ON PUBLIC SERVICES

The “village” would increase pressure on local public services (e.g. emergency) in Pagosa Springs over 25 hazardous miles away. Thousands of tourists will also clog up traffic on the pass, which can be treacherous in winter.

CHANGE WOLF CREEK SKI AREA FOREVER

The proposed development would forever change the unique, small remote Wolf Creek Ski Area.

HURT LOCAL ECONOMY

The “village” and its new commercial center would compete with existing local businesses.

#NoPillage Interviews

Listen to why the public doesn’t support the Village at Wolf Creek.

Christine Canaly

A friend of Wolf Creek says #NoPillage.

Travis Stills

Our attorney says #NoPillage.

Michael Armenta

A San Luis Valley water user says #NoPillage.

Greg Goltz

A hunter says #NoPillage.

Loyette Stewart

An environmentalist says #NoPillage.

Recent News (More)

Recent Court Ruling Overturns Prior Development Rejections, and Reignites Controversy over the Pillage Wolf Creek

| Lands Protection, Wolf Creek | No Comments
The Pillage at Wolf Creek is an ill-conceived fantasy of an out-of-state billionaire, who railroaded his vision through the federal bureaucracy without regard for the environment and communities it impacts.

ECOFLIGHT: Migration Corridors on Wolf Creek Pass

| Lands Protection, Wildlife, Wolf Creek | No Comments
This summer the San Juan Citizens Alliance teamed up with Ecoflight for a flyover of the Southern San Juans. EcoFlight is a nonprofit organization that educates and advocates for the protection of remaining wild lands and wildlife habitat using small aircraft.…

PRESS RELEASE: Court Again Rejects Village at Wolf Creek Development Proposal

| Press Release, Wolf Creek | One Comment
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 21, 2022  A Federal District Court Thursday once again rejected plans by the would-be developers of the Village at Wolf Creek to gain access across national forest lands for the ill-conceived project. Senior  Federal Judge Christine…
Stop the Village at Wolf Creek

Challenging the Forest Service (again) over Village at Wolf Creek

| Lands Protection, Species, Wolf Creek | 2 Comments
Clean off those 'No Pillage' bumperstickers*, because here we go again. If you've lived in the area for long, you know the Village has a decades-long history. The short story is that a billionaire from Texas has long wanted to…

Stay informed about the Village at Wolf Creek!