Status Reports and Legal Update
June 13, 2014: Status of ROAR's federal lawsuit against BLM & OTR Corporation
On February 1, 2012, ROAR filed a lawsuit against BLM in federal court alleging that BLM violated federal laws and its own policies when it approved the Over the River project in November, 2011. There have been a series of various legal proceedings over the last two years, culminating in our case being heard in federal court.
Until June 1, 2014, ROAR has been represented in this lawsuit by Michael Harris, formerly Director of Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law. Eight different student attorneys assisted in elements of our federal lawsuit under the direction of Mike Harris.
Mike recently accepted a new position as Legal Director for the Law Program of Friends of Animals, a national non-profit organization.
Fortunately, Mike has agreed to continue to represent ROAR in our case against BLM and OTR. We are deeply grateful to Mike, the student attorneys, and the University of Denver for their willingness to have taken our case and move it so far forward. We thank Mike for his willingness to continue to represent ROAR in the final phases of our lawsuit.
On June 6, BLM and the OTR Corporation filed their reply to our opening brief. ROAR will file our final reply on June 23. After that, we await the judge's call to have our case heard. While it is hard to predict when the hearing might occur, it may happen in late summer or early fall. We will keep you posted.
Status of ROAR's Appeal against CO Parks Board & OTR Corp.
ROAR's suit against the Colorado Parks Board is also progressing in Colorado's Court of Appeals. ROAR filed its opening brief in March, the Parks Board and OTR filed answer briefs in May, and ROAR's reply brief is due in mid-June. Oral arguments will be made to the appeals court this summer, with a decision likely sometime in the fall.
We are deeply grateful to our Denver-based lead attorney and her associates for their great legal work on ROAR's behalf. They prepared and presented ROAR's lawsuit against Colorado Parks in July, 2011, and are now continuing in the Colorado Court of Appeals. Again, we will keep you posted on the appeal status.
Note: The OTR project continues to be indefinitely delayed with no estimated start date for construction and no display date.
- Federal Court:
- Colorado State Court:
- Check the archives on our original website to review the issues as well as background information, photos and previous actions concerning the "Over the River" project.
Federal Suit: ROAR vs BLM
ROAR challenged the federal government’s decision to issue a land use authorization (the “2920 Permit”) to the Over the River Corp. (“OTR Corp.”) to construct a massive commercial art project that would cover 5.9 miles of the Arkansas River. The proposed Art Project will be constructed almost entirely within a critically sensitive area designated by the federal government as the Arkansas Canyonlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern (“ACEC”). This designation was granted in acknowledgement of, and to protect and prevent irreparable damage to, the important historic, cultural, scenic, wildlife, and other natural values of this portion of the Arkansas River. In particular, this designation was made, in part, to protect key habitat for Bighorn sheep, the mammalian symbol of the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (“CDPW”) and Colorado’s official animal. Read the amended motion as filed July 12, 2013.
State Suit: ROAR vs Colorado Parks
October 23, 2013: ROAR filed a Notice to Appeal with the Colorado Court of Appeals. This notice initiates the process to appeal the decision of the Colorado District Court which recently upheld the decision of the Colorado Board of Parks and Outdoor Recreation ("Board") to approve construction and exhibition of Christo's Over the River (OTR) project within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA), a Colorado State Park unit. The Board approved the OTR project through a little used "Memorandum of Agreement" (MOA) instead of the normal state special activity permitting process required under the Board's own regulations.
ROAR maintains that established law requires state agencies to follow their own regulations.
Until just prior to the Board's approval of the OTR project, even Christo believed a special activity permit was required, as he applied for one in 1997 and never withdrew his application. The last minute decision to switch to a "Memorandum of Agreement" was made one week prior to the Board's merger with the Colorado Wildlife Commission. The Wildlife Commission had already unanimously voted to oppose the OTR project just one month earlier.
ROAR also contends that the Board, in addition to disregarding the opposition vote of the Wildlife Commissioners, made the last minute switch because the project would not be able to meet the conditions required for a special activity permit. Consequently, the Board, had it followed its own regulations, would have been compelled to deny approval for the project.
In a brief decision that contained little reasoning or consideration of ROAR's factual allegations, the Colorado District Court denied ROAR's lawsuit of July, 2011, which requested that the Court overturn the Board's decision approving the OTR project due to their incorrect use of the Memorandum of Agreement.