FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 7, 2021

CARBONDALE, CO – Citing threats to lynx and cutthroat trout, Wilderness Workshop and partner conservation groups today filed a Notice of Intent to sue the US Forest Service (USFS) over its failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act when it approved drilling test wells in the Homestake Valley earlier this year.

Today’s notice was filed by WildEarth Guardians on behalf of Wilderness Workshop, Colorado Headwaters, the Holy Cross Wilderness Defense Fund, Save the Colorado, and the Colorado Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“After reviewing the record it’s clear that the USFS and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act. The real impacts to listed species, including lynx and cutthroat trout, haven’t been adequately considered or disclosed,” said Peter Hart, Staff Attorney at Wilderness Workshop. “Today’s letter puts the agencies on notice of the violations we’ve identified; they now have 60 days to respond. If the issues we’ve raised remain unresolved, we could pursue a legal challenge in federal court.”

When the White River National Forest was considering whether to approve drilling test wells in the Homestake Valley, Wilderness Workshop requested a comprehensive environmental review, noting in comments that drilling test wells is the first step in construction of a new dam and will have significant impacts on wetlands, wilderness, wildlife, and roadless forests. Unfortunately, in March 2021, the U.S. Forest Service granted the permit, violating the Endangered Species Act.

In analyzing the decision, Wilderness Workshop and its partners determined that the USFS and the USFWS failed to consider the full scope of impacts associated with the test drilling, which will lead to a full dam building project. Specifically, the agencies failed to undertake adequate analysis of potential impacts to cutthroat trout and lynx. To address these violations, the USFS must prepare a new biological assessment fully considering and disclosing whether the proposed project—including direct and indirect effects, as well as effects from interrelated actions—is likely to adversely affect cutthroat trout and lynx. Then, the USFWS must prepare a new response to that biological assessment. In the interim, both agencies must prevent any irreversible or irretrievable commitment of resources from occurring until a new analysis is completed.

Wilderness Workshop is committed to fighting new dam construction in the Homestake Valley and will continue engaging at every step along the way to stop this destructive project. The public is overwhelmingly opposed to the project and Wilderness Workshop encourages concerned community members to sign the petition opposing any new dam in the Homestake Valley. Wilderness Workshop has three upcoming events where individuals can learn more about this misguided proposal; register for all events at https://wildernessworkshop.org/savehomestakevalley/

Homestake Valley Education Day – Thursday, July 22; 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.; Whitney Lake Trailhead, Homestake Valley

During this short hike, you’ll hear from Wilderness Workshop, the Eagle River Watershed Council, and others about this area’s unique ecology, river hydrology, water rights, the importance of wilderness, and more. Hikes will be staggered and limited to 10 people; they will depart starting at 9:15, 9:45, and 10:15 a.m.

Homestake Peak Hike – Saturday, July 24; 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Homestake Peak, near Leadville

Spend the day learning about the area that could be inundated! This hike – best suited for adults with outdoor experience – will go above the treeline and hopefully summit the 13,000-foot Homestake Peak, all while being immersed in incredible high-country views of the Homestake Valley.

Save the Homestake Valley Rally – Saturday, August 7

Sign-Making & Info Session: 10:00 a.m.; Mango’s Mountain Grill, 166 Eagle Street, Red Cliff

Rally: 12:00 p.m. – Homestake Reservoir Road

Come to Red Cliff prepared to learn more about the proposed dam and reservoir, make creative signs showcasing your love of the Homestake Valley and opposition to this project, and then carpool to the proposed drilling location for a rally that makes our position clear: No New Dams in the Homestake Valley!

Wilderness Workshop is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Carbondale, CO, that engages in research, education, legal advocacy, and grassroots organizing to protect the ecological integrity of nearly 4 million acres of public land in Western Colorado. Learn more at WildernessWorkshop.org