The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is open to the public, while a Federal District Court judge weighs the merits of a lawsuit that is trying to close it. If the judge rules in favor of the …
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The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is open to the public, while a Federal District Court judge weighs the merits of a lawsuit that is trying to close it.
If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the refuge could close to public recreation — some local citizen groups have long since been against the opening of Rocky Flats as a wildlife refuge, deeming it unsafe because of the risks of plutonium exposure.
On Aug. 9, U.S. District Court Judge Philip A. Brimmer did not grant a preliminary injunction that would have blocked trail construction on the refuge. It opened to the public on Sept. 15, although refuge staff began offering monthly guided wildlife tours in June 2015.
Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is a 5,000-acre area of open land bordered by Broomfield, Boulder and Jefferson counties. Its attractions include picturesque views and vast opportunities for viewing wildlife and diverse plants.
The site operated as a nuclear weapons plant from 1952 until 1989, when the FBI raided Rocky Flats to investigate allegations of environmental violations. Decommissioning of the plant happened in 1992 and a few years later, a $7 billion cleanup effort began.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ended its cleanup in June 2007 and that same year, Rocky Flats was taken off the national superfund list and the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge was established. A fenced-off core area of the old factory grounds remains off limits due to contamination.
The plaintiffs, five citizen groups, filed a lawsuit in May against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Represented by the Boulder-based environmental attorney Randall Weiner, they are “challenging major violations of environmental statutes in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to open Rocky Flats to the public,” Weiner said in an earlier interview. Their argument is that U.S. Fish and Wildlife failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy ACT (NEPA) in planning to build public trails and a visitor center at Rocky Flats.
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