Wolf Creek Land Swap Resurfaces

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This is one of those projects (people in the Forest Service probably know of these) that goes on and on.. when I used to be involved I called it “reasonable access for unreasonable people.” My perspective, though, is that while the proponent may have gotten more reasonable, the other side does not necessarily feel the same way. But I like how honest the people who don’t want it are.. see the italicized last line of the quote. This is one of those that has been done and redone, by many people with much legal advice.

Here’s the link (I think visiting the Denver Post website crashed my browser, so apologies in advance if that happens to you. I would criticize them, but I’m just glad we still have their press presence.)

Dallas said the intent of the Forest Service when it approved the controversial 1986 land swap that gave McCombs the island of private land along the Continental Divide “was to create a village.”

When asked if the agency would approve the land swap today, Dallas said: “I don’t know how to answer that. I’ve been asked that many times. It was what it was. We can’t change that.”

The agency’s reviews of land exchanges that create islands of private land surrounded by public lands “has gotten much more … intense,” he said.

“Any sort of land exchange is generally controversial unless they are pretty small and simple ones, unless they have a really good identified reason like we have now,” Dallas said. “Land exchanges have gotten much more comprehensive; how we look at them, how we consider them. The public interest determination is looked at extremely closely.”

After the agency issued its draft environmental impact statement in 2012 supporting the land exchange, the agency harvested 893 letters commenting on the land exchange and more than 120 attended public meetings in August 2012.

“The proposal for the Village at Wolf Creek has been rife with controversy and strong feelings for a very long time and I’m certainly not so naïve that my decision will settle the controversy and strong feelings,” said Dallas, expressing confidence that his team’s process was thorough and transparent.

The Forest Service will field public comments on the decision for 45 days. If land advocacy groups file objections — which is likely — the agency can extend the comment period for another 75 days.

“We are going to hit it from every side,” Sandler said. “Really we will be looking at this with a microscope to find the inadequacies in this decision.”

Here’s some more info for those who are interested..

One Comment

  1. What I never understood was how the language of ANILCA “the Secretary shall provide such access … as the Secretary deems adequate to secure to the owner the reasonable use and enjoyment thereof” became “reasonable access.” It’s not ‘highest and best use’ or ‘whatever the user wants.’ A town is far beyond what the Secretary could find reasonable for the Continental Divide.

    But I don’t understand why access would be an issue here. It should have come with the original exchange, since the purpose then was a town. And I don’t see how blocking the exchange would block a town, since it could still be built on the original site. I think the battle was lost in 1986.

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