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Input sought on ‘Village’ land exchange

The San Luis Valley Public Lands Center is seeking public input for the environmental analysis of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek land exchange, including during an open house in Pagosa Springs on April 26.

The proposal involves exchanging approximately 204 acres of federal land for approximately 178 acres of private land owned by Leavell-McCombs Joint Venture (LMJV).

The lands included in the proposed land exchange are located adjacent to Wolf Creek Ski Area, approximately 20 miles southwest of South Fork.

Part of the federal land proposed for exchange would connect the private land to U.S. 160, thus precluding the need for securing access across the Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF).

As an alternative to the proposal, the Forest Service will also analyze a potential easement across National Forest System lands to accommodate access to the private land. LMJV is entitled by federal statute to have granted to them by the Forest Service a right-of-way for access commensurate with the reasonable use and enjoyment of their property.

The RGNF will prepare an environmental impact statement to analyze the potential impacts of the land exchange and alternatives on the physical, human and biological environment. Public input will help the forest identify issues and develop alternatives for the analysis.

The primary benefits of the land exchange proposal over the previous easement access proposal include scaled-down development on the private land, relocation of most of the proposed private land development to an area farther away from the ski area, and a net gain to the Forest Service via acquisition of wetlands and perennial stream habitat for wildlife.

The RGNF will hold three open houses to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the proposal and provide comment. The meetings will be held:

• Monday, April 25 from 4:30-7 p.m. at the Creede Community Center, Forest Service Road 503, Creede.

• Tuesday, April 26 from 4:30-7 p.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center, 451 Hot Springs Blvd.

•Wednesday, April 27 from 4:30-7 p.m. at the Rio Grande County Annex, 965 Sixth Street, Del Norte.

Comments will be most useful if received by June 4, 2011. Electronic comments can be submitted to: comments-rocky-mountain-rio-grande@fs.fed.us. Please include “Village at Wolf Creek Land Exchange Proposal” in the subject line of the e-mail.

Hardcopy comments should be addressed to:

Village at Wolf Creek Land Exchange Proposal, c/o Tom Malecek, Divide District Ranger, Rio Grande National Forest, 13308 West Highway 160, Del Norte, CO 81132.

For more information concerning the proposed land exchange, visit the RGNF website at www.fs.usda.gov/riogrande.

Further information is also included in this issue of The SUN in the form of a Legal Notice for the land exchange.

Even if the land exchange is approved, which LMJV spokesman Clint Jones pointed out in a previous SUN interview could be next year, the company would still have to approach Mineral County and go through a platting process for the land, meaning any possible development on Wolf Creek will not occur in the immediate future.

The most recent iteration of the Village plan unveiled to the public calls for 492 units in phase one with growth tied to the capacity of the ski area, meaning if the ski area does not expand, the Village development would remain at its initial size.

Randi Pierce contributed to this article.

randi@pagosasun.com

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