Salazar still weighing suspect Wolf Creek land exchange

Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, hasn’t yet made a decision about a proposed land swap in Wolf Creek, reports the Durango Herald today.

Rep. John T. Salazar

Rep. John T. Salazar

Developer B.J. “Red” McCombs had proposed swapping the marshy meadow below the Wolf Creek Ski Area, which he owns, for land closer to U.S. Highway 60. According to lead developer Clint Jones, the land swap would shrink his embattledVillage at Wolf Creek” to 75 percent of its original proposal. It would also keep development away from the wetland.

But in exchange, McCombs wants assurance that he can’t be sued:

McCombs, a Texas billionaire who co-founded media giant Clear Channel Communications, and Jones want to obtain a land exchange through the Forest Service and also get congressional approval. That way, lawsuits won’t be able to derail the exchange if the Forest Service approves it through an Environmental Impact Statement, Jones said.

It’s a move that has Friends of Wolf Creek, which opposes both the original 10,000 person development and the new proposal, very suspicious:

McCombs remains unwilling to trust his project to any traditional process of public analysis, disclosure, and decision-making, and has therefore hired a new team of lobbyists to attempt to circumvent this review process through a legislative land exchange to gain not only access, but also additional developable property.

With a number of well known and well-respected lobbyists and development firms on board, McCombs is now courting Congressman John Salazar to sponsor the legislative exchange. Fortunately, Congressman Salazar wants to hear from local communities and local elected officials about whether he should get involved in a land exchange.

The Mineral and Rio Grande County Commissioners have written letters in support of the swap, and Archuleta County—site of some of the most strident opposition—debated a letter of support Tuesday, reported the Durango Herald.

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Katie Redding

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