Agency to release McCombs papers

The light is about to shine on the Village at Wolf Creek. A favorable ruling in federal district court last week is the latest step in an ongoing legal saga to acquire publicly available documents – including all communications between the developer and the U.S. Forest Service.

Texas billionaire and Clear Channel Communications co-founder, Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, and his development partner, Bob Honts, have proposed the “village” for the base of the existing Wolf Creek Ski Area. Their plans include 2,172 new housing units and 222,100 square feet of commercial space on 287.5 acres at the base of the family-owned ski area. This “Vail-sized city” has drawn strong opposition from citizens and advocacy groups, among them the Durango-based Colorado Wild.

Colorado Wild sued in June of 2005 to acquire documents that are public record but have been suppressed by the Forest Service. The group alleged that the missing documents would reveal collusion between the developer and the federal agency. A partial document release took place in September of last year, and Colorado Wild said that the documents showed that McCombs’ attorneys and lobbyists were actually ghost writing federal policy. The Forest Service agreed to release all the documents and provide a list of withheld documents by Oct. 7 of last year. Colorado Wild found itself back in court on Jan. 17 because of the agency’s failure to do so.

At that time, Federal Judge David L. West gave the Forest Service two weeks to fully comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that Colorado Wild has made over the last year. The Forest Service had provided no certification that the previous FOIA search was complete or how it had been conducted.

“Without a description of how the search was conducted, there is no way for the public to know whether the Forest Service actually handed over all documents that show potential dictation of public policies by Village at Wolf Creek developers,” explained Ryan Demmy Bidwell, Colorado Wild executive director.

In addition, the court ordered the Forest Service to provide Colorado Wild with a full index of communications between the Forest Service and any party associated with developer McCombs. The court went on to order the Forest Service to include any “ghost written” Forest Service policies that were authored by the developer or his associates.

“We got what we have been looking for all along. The court’s decision may reveal extensive collusion between the developer and federal officials to facilitate this development behind closed doors,” stated Jeff Berman, campaign coordinator for the Friends of Wolf Creek, a consortium of individuals and groups fighting the Village at Wolf Creek.

Berman added that it should not have taken more than a year and numerous court hearings for the Forest Service to reply to Colorado Wild’s request. “The Forest Service has given us every reason to suspect they are hiding something,” he said. “The court’s ruling will allow the public to stay informed about our government’s behavior.”

The ruling comes at an interesting time in the Village at Wolf Creek timeline. The Forest Service is scheduled to release its long-awaited Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed development in coming weeks.


Thieves hit unlocked cars in town

Thefts from unlocked vehicles hit downtown Durango last week. Once again, the culprits appear to be juveniles.  

Early on the morning of Jan. 20, the Durango Police Department responded to a call on Forest Avenue. Four males, driving a red Ford Focus, appeared to be taking items out of a vehicle. A second caller then reported a female also stealing from an unlocked car.

Officers began checking the neighborhoods in the area for the suspects and the vehicle described by the initial reporting party. A vehicle matching the description was eventually found by officers in the 300 block of East Third Avenue.

Three juvenile suspects were found in a camper in the back yard of the home. The owners of the camper were contacted and permission to search was obtained. Items reported stolen earlier in the evening were found in the camper.

Officers arrested a 17-year-old female, 14-year-old male and 17-year-old male. The three juveniles were released to their parents pending formal charging from the District Attorney’s Office.

Courtesy of the arrests, the Durango Police Department recovered several thousand dollars of property believed taken from vehicles. Anyone missing items should contact 375-4730.


Copper mining returns to region

Another surge in mining is set to hit the Four Corners area. The nation’s first new copper mine in more than a decade is ready to start operations along the Colorado-Utah border.

The Lisbon Valley Mining Co. is on the forefront of a renaissance in American copper mining, according toUSA Today.

Along with the new mine located between Dove Creek and Moab, two new mines and expansion of several existing mines are planned in Arizona. A Nevada mine is being reopened, and Montana may also get two new mines.

Driving the boom is the same factor that caused the resurgence of uranium mining and speculation in the Four Corners area. Prices are currently at a record high for copper, driven partly by booming Asian economies.

“You can’t light a light bulb without copper,” says Gregory Hahn, president of Constellation Copper, Lisbon’s parent company. “Tubing, plumbing, wiring in cars, houses, offices.”

Lisbon Valley operators expect an annual yield of 27,000 tons, according to the paper. The mine is expected to have a life span of 10 years.


DHS to host state Supreme Court

Durango High School’s auditorium will become the Colorado Supreme Court on May 1, when the seven justices convene to hear oral arguments on two appeals cases. The court’s appearance at Durango High School is part of the state Supreme Court’s “Courts in the Community” educational outreach program.

Twice a year, the Colorado Supreme Court or Court of Appeals travels to a Colorado high school to hear two actual oral arguments from which the courts determine their rulings. Rulings follow from one to nine months after the arguments.

High schools are selected based on the faculty’s willingness to incorporate the court’s visit in classroom lessons, said Karen Salaz, communications, public education and information coordinator for the Colorado Judicial Department.

The workshops will be open to teachers from throughout Southwest Colorado, although student attendance during the arguments most likely will be limited to Durango students. The Courts in the Community program gives high school students hands-on experience with the judicial system by observing how disputes are resolved in a democratic society.

– compiled by Will Sands


In this week's issue...

July 18, 2024
Rebuilding Craig

Agreement helps carve a path forward for town long dependent on coal

July 11, 2024
Reining it in

Amid rise in complaints, City embarks on renewed campaign to educate dog owners

July 11, 2024
Rolling retro

Vintage bikes get their day to shine with upcoming swap and sale