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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Colorado City Fights Mountain Tollway

DENVER (CN) - Golden, Colo., sued the Fish and Wildlife Service to stop it from granting a 300-foot-wide right of way for a four-lane highway along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

Golden, a western suburb of Denver, says rare xeric tallgrass, a wide range of animal species, including the threatened Preble's Meadow jumping mouse, and ground-nesting birds will be affected, and the highway will bring increased traffic, noise and pollution to the city.

Golden, the state's onetime territorial capital, claims that the Jefferson Parkway, a toll road to metro Denver, should be shelved in favor of Golden's proposal to use the right of way for a "much-needed bikeway."

The Fish and Wildlife Service in December agreed to a swap about 600 acres of open space for a 300-foot-wide right-of-way for the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority.

Golden says the swap violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Rocky Flats Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Administrative Procedure act, and affects "public health, city-owned buildings, and property values."

The 6,200-acre federal wildlife refuge, once home to the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site - a nuclear defense facility - is about 16 miles northwest of Denver, in Jefferson County.

Plutonium triggers, or nuclear pits, were made at the site for 40 years. Congress ordered the refuge protected by the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge Act in 2001, and though it remains closed to the public, it includes "critical habitat for the federally threatened Preble's Mouse, hundreds of acres of rare xeric tallgrass prairie," and is home to deer, elk, black-tailed jackrabbit, turtle, rattlesnake, and red-tailed hawk, Golden says.

The Fish and Wildlife Service denied Golden's bid to acquire the right-of-way for a bicycle and pedestrian route, and approved the highway along the refuge's eastern boundary.

But Golden says: "FWS made its decision without analyzing the environmental impacts of the Jefferson Parkway, without obtaining documentation as to how JPPHA would minimize the impacts of the Jefferson Parkway on the refuge, and without comparing the environmental impacts of the Jefferson Parkway to the bikeway."

Negotiations between the city and the Parkway Authority broke down on Dec. 23, which led to the lawsuit.

Superior, Colo., has filed a similar federal complaint.

Golden seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to permanently enjoin the Fish and Wildlife Service from transferring, and Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority from accepting, a transportation right-of-way to build the Jefferson Parkway.

It is represented by John Putnam with Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell.

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