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CINQ: Environmental Groups Sue

CINQ Comments: Broomfield Mayor Pat Quinn, says it best…the more the merrier.” Environmental groups sue feds over proposed Jefferson Parkway land … Daily Camera … The Jefferson Parkway would nearly complete the beltway around the Denver… of the proposed 10-mile tollway that would connect Broomfield with Golden. A pair of environmental groups filed suit this week in federal court against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service over a land deal involving the Jefferson Parkway, adding to the opposition that has formed against the proposed 10-mile tollway that would connect Broomfield with Golden.

The lawsuit, filed by Santa Fe, N.M.-based WildEarth Guardians and Denver-based Rocky Mountain Wild, comes on the heels of legal challenges against the agency from both Superior and Golden. The latest lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, echoes claims made by the municipalities that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service didn’t sufficiently analyze the impacts of the proposed road when it decided in December to sell a 300-foot strip of land along the eastern edge of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge to the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority.

The two groups claim that the four-lane highway, which would nearly complete a beltway around metro Denver, would endanger the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and contribute to poor regional air quality, as well as encourage suburban sprawl.

“We need smart planning and smart growth and this is the exact opposite of that,” said Jeremy Nichols, spokesman for WildEarth Guardians, which has an office in Denver. “The Fish & Wildlife Service rushed this, they cut corners.”

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that in issuing a finding that the tollway would have no significant impact on the natural or human environment, the agency failed to comply with the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

The future of the Jefferson Parkway is tied to a complicated land exchange proposal involving acreage on both sides of the refuge.

Under one scenario, the Fish & Wildlife Service would transfer the right of way along Indiana Avenue to the highway authority and get in return 617 acres of a parcel, known as Section 16, on the west side of the refuge. Agency officials say Section 16 provides a critical wildlife transportation corridor to the west.

But Superior, which filed its lawsuit in December, fears increased traffic on McCaslin Boulevard if the highway is built. It is also concerned about possible disturbance of plutonium in the soil — the legacy of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant that existed on the refuge site for more than three decades.

The town wants federal authorities to conduct a more rigorous environmental impact study on the parkway. Golden, which lies at the southwestern terminus of the proposed parkway, followed Superior with its own suit in January.

The two lawsuits have since been consolidated.

Last month, the Fish & Wildlife Service decided to delay any transfer of land along Indiana Street until Sept. 1 or until a settlement with opposing parties is reached.

Broomfield Mayor Pat Quinn, who serves on the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority’s board, said that he fully expected an environmental advocacy group to get involved in litigation against the project.

“The more the merrier,” he said sarcastically Wednesday.

Quinn said he’s confident that a judge will find that adequate analysis was done by the federal agency regarding impacts from the highway.

“Fish & Wildlife did what they were required to do to hand the right of way over, and the court will agree with us,” he said.

Debra Williams, a trustee in Superior, said she was pleased that WildEarth Guardians and Rocky Mountain Wild joined the town in legally challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision on the land swap.

“It definitely feels like moral support,” she said. “It shows that there isn’t just one person out there who thinks this is an issue — there are many out there who think this is an issue.”

On Wednesday, the two environmental groups filed a request in federal court to consolidate their lawsuit with Golden’s and Superior’s lawsuit.

Attorney Tim Gablehouse, who represents Superior in the case, said the addition of plaintiffs to the lawsuit won’t have much bearing on the case from a legal standpoint. He said the lawsuits are being consolidated because it’s easier to have all of the questions and challenges before a single judge.

“I don’t think it makes that much difference if one party is suing the agency or a dozen parties are suing them,” he said.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman with the U.S. Department of Justice, said his agency cannot comment on pending litigation, but he said a response to Superior’s lawsuit is expected to be filed in federal court by the end of the week.

The Department of Justice represents the Fish & Wildlife Service in federal court.

Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389 or

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