Arvada, CO…..The United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals voted unanimously today to deny an appeal by the Town of Superior and two environmental groups regarding a land exchange involving the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority.
The land exchange, completed in December of 2012 between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Colorado, and local municipalities allowed approximately 1,200 acres of important wildlife habitat known as Section 16 to be added to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge while transferring a 300-foot wide strip of land on the eastern boundary of the Refuge to the Jefferson Public Parkway Highway Authority for transportation improvements. The transfer of the transportation corridor was required by the Refuge’s authorizing legislation.
The City of Golden, Town of Superior, Wildearth Guardians, and Rocky Mountain Wild filed a motion in 2012 with the Federal District Court in Colorado to oppose the exchange; when the Federal District Court ruled in favor of the exchange, the plaintiffs (Golden elected not to appeal) appealed the case to the Tenth Circuit. The plaintiffs’ core argument was that only the Department of Energy could transfer the land, not the Department of the Interior/U.S. Fish and Wildlife. The lawsuit was intended to block the deal, and therefore the Jefferson Parkway.
Unfortunately, one of the three Tenth Circuit judges that heard the original testimony on the case, the Honorable William J. Holloway, Jr., passed away, adding significant delays to today’s final decision. The Honorable Robert E. Bacharach was substituted on the panel, listened to all recordings, and fully participated in the ultimate resolution of the case.
The land exchange was part of a larger set of transactions involving private landowners and other public entities that resulted in the conservation of habitat and recreation lands. Together, these transactions seek to eliminate development threats to the western edge of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, connect the Refuge’s protected plant and animal habitats to conserved land owned by local government open space programs, and buffer the Refuge near its southern boundary. The land swap also secured a crucial right-of-way for the Jefferson Parkway refuge that runs parallel to Indiana Avenue.
“We are pleased by this ruling which leaves no question but that all parties involved in this land exchange acted appropriately,” stated Bill Ray, JPPHA Interim Executive Director. “This three and one-half year process, however, demonstrates what a long process it has been and will continue to be to make the Jefferson Parkway a reality.”