Judge: Forest Service must provide more Wolf Creek documents

From The Durango Herald:  The saga of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek took another turn Friday as a federal judge ordered the Forest Service to expand the scope of documents it must provide in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by environmental groups.

“The court sees no reason to excuse the Forest Service from its duty to perform a proper search,” U.S. District Court of Colorado Judge William Martinez wrote in his ruling.

The information requested is in regard to Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas’ controversial decision to approve a land exchange in May 2015 between the Forest Service and Texas billionaire B.J. “Red” McCombs. The exchange is critical to the development because it provides access to U.S. Highway 160 for the village site. McCombs has been trying since 1986 to build the village for 8,000 tourists complete with condos, restaurants and shops adjoining Wolf Creek Ski Area.

The judge found the Forest Service’s search was unlawfully narrow, it neglected to search high-level employees’ records, including the chief of the Forest Service and undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., and did not provide adequate justification for withholding documents from public disclosure. The Forest Service has until March 31 to comply with the ruling.

“It’s supposed to be when we open a case and make a FOIA request, they give us the evidence we ask for,” said Matt Sandler, co-counsel for Rocky Mountain Wild, a member of the Friends of Wolf Creek Coalition. “We’re relying on their transparency and honesty. This case has undercut that trust somewhat.”

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