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Environmental finding may bring some certainty about development

In a proposed land swap near the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area, B.J. “Red” McCombs would trade a portion of his land that includes road access. In return, he would gain access and land along a stretch of U.S. Highway 160 in the center of the picture.

DENVER – The nearly three-decade battle over Wolf Creek Pass could see some resolution Thursday when forest officials will announce the completion of a final Environmental Impact Statement analyzing the effects of a proposed land exchange for a resort.

Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs has been trying since 1986 to build the Village at Wolf Creek at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area. His proposal is to swap private land in a large meadow below the ski area for Forest Service land abutting U.S. Highway 160.

Southwest Colorado has been waiting for a final decision from Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas for months. Dallas is expected to announce completion of the Village of Wolf Creek Access Project Final Environmental Impact Statement in a conference call with reporters at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Developers have seen a long list of delays, including an outbreak of spruce beetles that killed many mature trees and altered the environmental landscape.

Still, developers have remained committed to completing the village resort project, despite potential fire hazards as a result of the beetle kill.

McCombs has also faced lengthy legal battles, including a fight in the 2000s with the Pitcher family, which owns Wolf Creek Ski Area. In 2006, just when developers thought they would be able to move forward, additional legal battles with environmental groups again delayed plans.

Environmentalists have been working in teams to review a draft Environmental Impact Statement, and they are sure to respond when the final statement is released Thursday.

The environmental studies have covered a long list of issues, including lynx habitat around Wolf Creek Pass.

It is still unclear just exactly what the resort would look like, such as whether developers would lean toward cabins over a large hotel, as developers have proposed.

Development would likely take place in phases if the land exchange goes through.

Developers say the land exchange is critical to their plans since it would put the village right off the highway, sidestepping the access road controversy.

The EIS to be released Thursday likely will offer greater certainty over the development.

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

Aug 13, 2022
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