Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Heat applied to ski resort deal

Sen. Ken Salazar wants federal investigators to determine whether politics were behind approval of two roads needed for expansion at Wolf Creek Ski Area, the AP reports today.

Salazar said he asked the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate claims that high-ranking officials pressured U.S. Forest Service employees on behalf of the developer, Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs.

Inspector General Phyllis Fong’s office confirmed receiving Salazar’s letter, but had no immediate comment.

Salazar also asked Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who oversees the Forest Service, to suspend any action on the project until an investigation is completed.

McCombs, co-founder of media giant Clear Channel Communications, wants to build 222,100 square feet of commercial space and enough housing for up to 10,500 people at the base of Wolf Creek.

Opponents, including the ski area’s operators, complain the Forest Service didn’t consider the entire project’s potential environmental impacts because of the developer’s political clout.

The Pitcher family, which has operated Wolf Creek for about three decades, is also suing to block the development.

Watch for developments here on the blog and in The Gazette. Leave questions or comments below or e-mail Deb Acord at

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