For Immediate Release
June 27, 2017
Colorado Wild Public Lands Files Suit in Federal Court
Against the Bureau of Land Management
Nonprofit Organization that Advocates for Public Lands Finds Fault with
Appraisal Methodology and Lack of Transparency in Process to Trade Away Public Land
Denver, CO—On Monday, June 26, 2017, the Colorado Wild Public Lands (COWPL) filed a complaint in Federal District Court against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its approval of the Sutey-Two Shoes Land Exchange near Carbondale. The COWPL complaint contends that the Bureau and its appraiser significantly undervalued the Federal land parcels being offered to private parties in the exchange, thereby violating the equal value requirements of the Federal Land Management and Policy Act (FLPMA). The filing further cites that the withholding of these appraisals during the public comment period violates procedures established under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) concerning public participation.
The tale embedded in these legal acronyms is simple: Coloradoans have a right to know the players, motives and processes behind government transfers of public land into private ownership. This nonprofit organization, whose mission is “to protect the integrity, size and quality of public lands in Colorado”, is committed to the preservation of and accessibility to public lands, and to public participation in the management and decision-making processes that concern these lands. COWPL closely monitors land exchanges throughout the state to increase public awareness and involvement.
At the center of this process is NEPA, which enables citizens to participate in decisions concerning federal actions affecting the environment. If a federal agency does not properly follow the processes of analysis, documentation, and disclosure in its decision-making, it may become vulnerable to legal action.
In this case, BLM is trading away public land to private owners. But the land values for the public properties—which were made public only through legal pressure—are grossly under-appraised, making the exchange uneven and, COWPL asserts, illegal. The lack of transparency around the appraisal process further concerns COWPL. This court action is the next logical step for COWPL in persisting on behalf of the owners of our public lands–the citizens of the United States.