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State board denies Peak Materials gravel mine permit

The Hillyard property, pictured April 21 north of Silverthorne, was the site of a proposed gravel mine. The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board denied a permit application Thursday, April 29, to mine the site.
Photo by Ashley Low

After a three-day hearing on whether Peak Materials would be awarded a state permit for a gravel mining operation north of Silverthorne, a decision has finally been made: The permit application was rejected.

Nearly nine hours after the final day of the hearing began Thursday, April 29, the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board voted unanimously to deny Peak Materials’ permit application. Board members cited concerns with hydrologic balance, wildlife and reclamation.

“I really do feel like there’s a real chance that the people that are sitting up there in that fracking area have their water supply further damaged,” board member John Singletary said. “I still have a real question about what’s going to happen on the Blue River. I think those questions haven’t been answered.”

Singletary added that he was disappointed in the company for a lack of outreach to neighboring residents. Board member Tim Mauck said he was concerned that the reclamation plan did not provide aesthetic value to the area, and board member Karin Utterback-Norman commented on the reclamation plan’s vegetation, which she said should be different than what was proposed to better fit the landscape.

Board member Nell Wareham-Morris said she was concerned about the post-mining use of rangeland, stating that she doesn’t see how the site could be well used after reclamation. She was also bothered by the minimal dialogue between Peak Materials and neighbors of the site.

“The applicant did reach out to those within the feet that they were supposed to do with the property line, but the awareness of who are your stakeholders in the valley and giving them the opportunity to have a true dialogue … it’s all possible, we’re all sharing these same valleys, we’re all sharing these same resources, and this needs to be a two-way dialogue,” Wareham-Morris said.

Board Chair Lauren Duncan said her concerns with the application were in regard to hydrologic issues and wildlife.

“The opportunity for the animals to move through the land as they currently do, I don’t see any opportunity for that,” Duncan said. “And finally, the hydrologic balance here, I think there’s been an effort through this application to monitor the impacts to the hydrologic balance, but I’m not sure it’s been to minimize them.”

Duncan also stated that she would hate to be part of a permit that could negatively impact a fragile segment of the Blue River.

Hearing rebuttals

In the third day of the hearing, the applicant for the project, Peak Materials, and the objectors, neighboring residents of the site, rebutted previous testimony from the opposing side and shared final comments on the application with the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board.

Peak Materials had several points to its rebuttal, including no groundwater would be exposed during the first phase of the project, that there is no risk to neighboring wells, there would be no processing of materials on-site and the company is addressing wildlife interests as directed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Peak Materials mining engineer Ben Langenfeld explained the company does not expect to interfere with any groundwater. He said the groundwater level at its highest point would define the bottom of where Peak Materials would dig and there would be a 2-foot buffer between the high-water level and the point where digging would stop. In the event that operators hit wet ground, which would indicate they were digging too deep, he noted the spot would be backfilled immediately.

“This 2 feet of buffer above the groundwater table is a common requirement that the division staff imposes, and it’s an effective requirement,” Langenfeld said. “There are a lot of sand and gravel mines in Colorado that stop above groundwater that use this exact set of limits and controls and operate successfully. What we’re proposing here isn’t outlandish, new or difficult to do.”

Mined Land Reclamation Board member Wareham-Morris asked Langenfeld how Peak Materials would ensure sediment and dust wouldn’t go into a water ditch that runs through the site and makes its way to the Blue River. Langenfeld said the plan includes draining disturbance away from the ditch and wetting the ground to make sure there isn’t much dust, so the company isn’t concerned with sediment falling into the ditch. He added that Peak Materials would not be processing mined materials on the site.

During the objectors’ rebuttal, Steven Mulliken, who represents the group Lower Blue Residents United, introduced experts who countered claims that groundwater would not be disturbed. West Sage Water Consultants Water Resources Engineer Laurel Stadjuhar stated that there is more variation in groundwater levels than is shown in the application, which she said fails to minimize impacts to hydrology. She also discussed water quality, stating degradation to water quality from groundwater moving through the mining pits would impact neighboring water wells and the Blue River.

The applicant’s reclamation plan was also called into question, as Aridlands Senior Ecologist Richard Alward stated topsoil protections were inadequate and that vegetation included nonnative species of plants.

“There should be no free pass for ecosystem degradation attributable to a land owner’s poor management,” Alward said. “The revegetation plan does not conform to the rule requirements.”

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety recommended the board grant conditional approval of the permit application in March based on the division’s determination that the application satisfied requirements of the Colorado Land Reclamation Act and because Peak Materials addressed adequacy issues identified during the division’s adequacy review. The division said during the hearing that it feels rangeland is an acceptable post-mining plan for the site — which was called into question — and pointed out that the site of the proposed mine is private property owned by the applicant and is not public open space.

Closing statements

During the closing statements segment of the hearing, Mulliken presented a summary of concerns, which included that the gravel pits would become “anaerobic and putrid” over time and water in the pits will migrate to groundwater and the Blue River.

“The design of these pits completely missed the mark,” Mulliken said. “They’re not well done, and they’re going to pose a threat … to wildlife and aquatic life.”

Mulliken stated that he is not arguing every pit adjacent to a sand mine or gravel mine should not be permitted but that it should not be permitted at the proposed site because the site is in a unique, protected area. Friends of the Lower Blue River Executive Director Jonathan Knopf called the permit request a “clear and present danger” to the Blue River Valley.

Chris Neumann, principal shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, began closing arguments from the applicant and highlighted the company’s commitment to present a plan that mitigated the impacts of mining operations as much as possible. He questioned the science behind information presented by objectors.

“The objectors … rely upon individual data points, reconnaissance level information,” Neumann said. “They don’t apply any methodology. They don’t suggest — and they can’t — that they’ve done a delineation. That’s not their point. Their point is to raise concerns and these concerns have been addressed all through this process.”

Neumann also said objectors glossed over recommendations Peak Materials has implemented into its plan.

“All aspects of the mining and reclamation plan take into account safety and protection of wildlife on the mine site, including trout populations in the Blue River. … The division explained several of the measures Peak has taken to mitigate impacts,” Neumann said, citing surveys, plans for removing internal fencing, limitations to truck traffic hours and plans for wildlife-safe dumpsters.

Next steps

Since Peak Materials owns the 75-acre property in question for the permit, it’s unclear what the company’s next steps are. Joanna Hopkins, a representative for Peak Materials said after the hearing the company is reviewing all options at this time.

Following the board’s decision, Knopf said in a text message that Friends of the Lower Blue River would be happy to facilitate a meeting with Peak Materials and a group of Blue River Valley stakeholders interested in purchasing the property from the company.

Primary hunting draw applications, park visitation up statewide

Primary draw applications in Colorado are up by 74,593 applications from last year, according to data from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“What I can tell you is hunting applications were up, hunting license sales last year were up,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.

“Everything in the COVID era, from a wildlife standpoint, is up.”

Hampton said the state is also seeing a 30% increase in park visitations over the last year.

“We continue to set a record for the number of people applying for licenses,” Hampton said, noting that what those applications translate to for the actual number of hunters in the field won’t be known until for several months.

Hampton surmised that some of the increases in primary draw applications could be due to Colorado hunters applying in-state versus going to hunt in other states with family due to COVID-19.

“Some of these increases could be due to other states restricting access for hunters,” Hampton said. “Hard to say if one thing is pushing the numbers or if all factors are driving it.”

In a more localized update, Hampton explained the impacts the Grizzly Creek Fire could potentially have on Glenwood Canyon’s wildlife.

“Fires have an impact, but the impact of fire in terms of big game hunting tends to be access not animal mortality,” Hampton said.

Hampton explained how wildlife in the western United States has evolved a resiliency to wildfires.

Hampton said the state was able to track collared elk during the Cameron Peak Fire.

“We were able to work with the firefighting groups and forest service and (Bureau of Land Management) to bring in their mapping and overlay the fire progression maps with the elk movement data from these collars,” Hampton said. “It was fascinating to watch. But these animals move out of the way of the fire and move right back behind it.”

During the Grizzly Creek Fire, Hampton said Glenwood Canyon’s bighorn sheep hung out along closed sections of Interstate 70 during the fire, in addition to seeking refuge in the Colorado River.

The burned areas left behind by the Grizzly Creek Fire may seem scorched, but Hampton said fire left behind an ideal setting for vegetation growth in those areas.

“If people go up in that burn area there’s a lot of green up,” Hampton said. “The canopy is gone, the sun is hitting those areas and what grows there is extremely nutritious for those big game animals that work their way back in there. There’s some long term benefits for big game.”

However, there are negative implications for the canyon’s aquatic life.

“There are some very big concerns for fisheries in areas where that ash drains into rivers and streams,” Hampton said.

Depending on how quickly the snow melts, ash can either absorb into the ground or run into the drainages, creeks and streams.

“Ash can contain both toxic chemicals, especially in areas where homes and outbuildings may have burned,” Hampton said.

“Anything with chemical composition, or even some bushes when they burn will have toxic elements in terms of being a fish.”

Hampton explained how fine ash particles in heavy quantities can cement in water beds, killing off the invertebrates and insects in the rocks that fish rely on for food.

“If it’s thick enough, if the water becomes muddy, the fish can suffocate from it,” Hampton said.

The ash’s impacts on the rivers and streams in Glenwood Canyon are something the CPW is watching very closely.

Hampton said the CPW is working closely with a team that includes area water managers, utility providers and federal agencies that’s monitoring the aftermath of the fire and making sure water sources are being protected as much as possible.

“That muck can clog diversion structures and irrigation structures,” Hampton said.

“It can be a real problem for municipal water supplies. We’re king of working to take care of all those things too.”

Primary Draw Applications
2020 2021 Percent Increase
Pronghorn 86,913 91,540 5.32%
Elk 215,207 246,602 14.5%
Deer 211,968 228,087 7.6%
Goat 23,388 27,338 16.88%
Sheep 31,192 35,919 15.15%
Moose 45,412 52,823 16.3%
Desert Bighorn 4,398 4,917 11.8%
Fall Bear 30,873 36,718 18.93%
Overall 649,351 723,944 11.48%

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or smarvel@postindependent.com.

Neguse postpones town halls following Boulder shooting

Rep. Joe Neguse has postponed his annual State of the District town halls this week in light of the shooting that killed 10 people in Boulder on Monday afternoon.

Neguse was scheduled to host two virtual town hall meetings via Zoom on Thursday, meant to provide an update on COVID-19 relief efforts, disaster recovery from last year’s wildfire season and priorities for the 117th Congress. The events have been postponed to April 1.

Instead, Neguse has invited his constituents to join a community conversation with leaders in Boulder at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Community members can register to attend the virtual event at NeguseEvents.com. It also will be livestreamed at Facebook.com/SteveFenberg.

 

Ikon passes for 2021-22 season go on sale this week

Snowboarders enjoy fresh snow at Copper Mountain over Presidents Day weekend.
Photo from Copper Mountain

Alterra Mountain Co. has released pricing for the 2021-22 Ikon Pass, which goes on sale Thursday, March 11. Among pass products that increased in price, most saw around a 4% jump, while passes for children ages 4 and younger saw decreases in price.

According to a press release, Alterra is offering existing passholders renewal prices for all 2021-22 adult and young adult Ikon passes purchased before May 5. Renewal prices discount passes up to $100.

The full Ikon Pass will continue to offer skiers and riders unlimited access to Copper Mountain Resort and seven days at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Summit County. There are no blackout dates on the Ikon Pass, and passholders also have access to 41 destinations outside of Summit County.

While early Ikon Pass prices increased more than 5% for adults in the 2020-21 season, prices remained the same this time around at $999 for an adult Ikon Pass and $739 for users ages 13 to 22. The price of a pass for children ages 5 to 12 has increased from $309 to $319, but passes for children ages 4 and under has decreased from $209 to $149.

The Ikon Base Pass provides skiers and snowboarders with unlimited access to Copper, five days at A-Basin, and access to 39 other ski areas. Blackout dates for the pass will take place from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2 and on holiday weekends before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day.

Ikon Base Pass prices will see increases in 2021-22 in all age groups except the youngest shredders. Base pass prices are $99, down 41%, for children ages 4 and under. Adult and young adult base passes increased in cost by about 4%, compared with an 8% bump in the 2020-21 season. Adult base passes are priced at $729 and young adult passes are $559. Children’s passes for ages 5 to 12 are also up about 4%, costing $279.

Ikon Base passholders will again have to pay an extra $150 for up to five days of access each at Aspen-Snowmass and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

The Ikon Session Pass, which was introduced last year and includes a total of four days of access to 30 resorts, including A-Basin, will go on sale for $399 for adults. Session pass prices have not been raised, and blackout dates are the same as the base pass.

Discounts for military personnel and college students are available. Payment plan options are also available, and free Adventure Assurance will continue.

The Adventure Assurance program allows 2021-22 Ikon Pass holders who do not use their pass prior to Dec. 9 to receive a credit of the purchase price to be used toward a 2022-23 pass. If passes are used but there is a COVID-19-related closure at any North American Ikon Pass destination from Dec. 18 to March 6, passholders will receive a credit toward a 2022-23 pass based on the number of days resorts were closed.

Alterra will also offer a child pass promotion for the 2021-22 season, allowing individuals to purchase up to two discounted passes for children ages 5 to 12 with the purchase of an adult Ikon or Ikon Base Pass. Child pass discounts are up to $100 per pass.

At a glance

2021-22 Ikon Pass

Unlimited access to Copper Mountain Resort and seven days at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. No blackout dates.

• Adult (23 and older): $999

• Young adult (ages 13 to 22): $739

• Child (ages 5 to 12): $319

• Child (ages 4 and younger): $149

2021-22 Ikon Base Pass

Unlimited access to Copper Mountain Resort and five days at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Blackout dates: Dec. 26-Jan. 2, Jan. 15-16 and Feb. 19-20.

• Adult (23 and older): $729

• Young adult (ages 13 to 22): $559

• Child (ages 5 to 12): $279

• Child (ages 4 and younger): $99

• Jackson Hole and Aspen Snowmass add-on: $150

2021-22 Ikon Session Pass

Four total days, including access to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Blackout dates: Dec. 26-Jan. 2, Jan. 15-16 and Feb. 19-20.

• Adult (23 and older): $399

• Young adult (ages 13 to 22): $339

• Child (ages 5 to 12): $249

• Child (ages 4 and younger): $249

Discounts

• Up to a $100 discount for Ikon Pass and up to $80 discount for Ikon Base Pass renewal if purchased before May 5.

• Up to two discounted children’s passes per adult pass (savings of $100 per pass).

• Military and college student discounts available.

Benefits

• 10 friends and family tickets for Ikon Pass and eight for Ikon Base Pass at 25% off the window rate.

Dumont man arrested for 1982 killings of 2 women near Breckenridge

Alan Lee Phillips, 70, was arrested last month for allegedly killing Barbara Jo Oberholtzer and Annette Kay Schnee in 1982.
Photo from Colorado Bureau of Investigation

Investigators believe they’ve found the man responsible for killing a pair of young women near Breckenridge in 1982.

On Jan. 6, 1982, Barbara Jo Oberholtzer, 29, and Annette Kay Schnee, 21, went missing near Breckenridge. They were found dead in the area about six months apart, but their killer has remained a mystery for nearly 40 years.

During a press conference at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Lakewood on Wednesday, officials announced their belief that they have finally caught the perpetrator. Alan Lee Phillips, 70, of Dumont, was arrested Feb. 24 on two charges each of first-degree homicide, kidnapping and assault. Phillips is in custody at the Park County Jail.

“I want to focus on the most important part of this case, and that is Bobbie Jo and Annette and their families,” Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said. “I cannot begin to understand the pain and suffering their families have had to face for nearly four decades. With each year that has passed, they have remained vigilant in their unwavering commitment to seek justice for Bobbie Jo and Annette. I’m here to tell them that their journey — their journey to justice — has a much clearer path.”

Officials believe the two women were hitchhiking home separately out of Breckenridge on the night they were kidnapped. Oberholtzer’s body was found the next day near the summit of Hoosier Pass. Schnee’s body was discovered about six months later in a rural area in Park County. Both women had been shot.

Investigators pursued the case at length, doing their best to track down leads that could direct them to the killer. But the investigation went cold.

Investigators never gave up on the case, and with improvements in forensic genetic genealogy, officials think they’ve finally found their man.

Annette Kay Schnee
Photo from Colorado Bureau of Investigation

Investigating a 39-year-old murder

A new investigation into the killings began last year as a cooperative effort among law enforcement, Metro Denver Crime Stoppers and United Data Connect, a Denver-based forensic genealogy service.

United Data Connect was able to sequence DNA recovered in the case and search for possible matches using genealogy databases. Park County recently used a similar process in identifying a John Doe discovered in 1974 with the help of the DNA Doe Project, which is currently looking into an unidentified man found in Summit County in 2016. Metro Denver Crime Stoppers, which helped fund the genealogical research in this case, has used the technique to help solve eight cases in the past 15 months, according to board member Mike Mills.

United Data Connect was able to provide law enforcement with an investigative lead about six weeks ago. McGraw said the Park County Sheriff’s Office went to work in partnership with agents from the FBI, CBI and Clear Creek Sheriff’s Office in addition to consultation with 11th Judicial District Attorney Linda Stanley.

McGraw said law enforcement surveilled Phillips for four to five weeks before arresting him Feb. 24. McGraw said the arrest took place during a traffic stop without any problems.

Officials emphasized the importance two longtime investigators played in breaking the case: Wendy Kipple, a detective sergeant at the Park County Sheriff’s Office who said she’s been heavily involved in the case since 2013, and retired Denver homicide detective Charlie McCormick, a Breckenridge resident who serves as a special investigator for the Park County Sheriff’s Office and has been working on the case since 1989.

“I’ve been trying to define my emotions, and it’s been hard to do,” McCormick said. “… I never thought I’d see the day, frankly. … It’s a case that just kept going and kept going, and there was always something to do that — as a good investigator or a professional investigator — you couldn’t ignore, and you had to work on. Day after day after 32 years — bingo! It’s solved.”

Barbara Jo Oberholtzer
Photo from Colorado Bureau of Investigation

On to the courts

McGraw said Phillips is a semiretired mechanic who was living in Clear Creek County and that he’d lived in numerous areas of the state. He noted that investigators still are looking into Phillips for any potential ties to other crimes.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has set up a tip line for community members with information about these cases, or any others related to Phillips: 720-248-8378.

While the arrest represents a gigantic step toward some resolution in the case for investigators, it’s just getting started for prosecutors. Phillips is scheduled to appear in court in Park County on March 5.

Still, family members of the victims voiced their gratitude for the hard work of everyone who assisted in the investigation and their relief that the alleged killer had been caught.

McGraw read letters from several family members, including one from Oberholtzer’s husband, Jeff.

“I pray that the arrest of Alan Phillips for the murder of my wife, Bobbie Jo, and Annette Schnee will finally, after all these decades, bring closure and peace to this hideous nightmare for myself along with all the lives he’s horribly affected by his actions,” Jeff Oberholtzer wrote. “I cannot thank enough all who never gave up the search for the truth. They are without doubt extremely dedicated and extraordinary individuals. Phillips is finally in the hands of the judicial system. May justice be served.”

Alan Lee Phillips, now 70, was arrested last month for allegedly killing Barbara Jo Oberholtzer and Annette Kay Schnee in 1982.
Photo from Colorado Bureau of Investigation

 

Judge: No rights violations against snowboarders who caused avalanche

The Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels are pictured on May 20. A pair of snowboarders are fighting reckless endangerment charges after triggering an avalanche above the Loop Road near the tunnels on March 25.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

Prosecutors will be allowed to use evidence provided to law enforcement by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center in the upcoming trial of Evan Hannibal and Tyler DeWitt, two snowboarders charged with reckless endangerment after triggering an avalanche that buried a roadway in snow nearly a year ago.

Jason Flores-Williams, the defense attorney for Hannibal and DeWitt, joined members of the prosecution and numerous onlookers during a virtual motions hearing on the case Tuesday afternoon, arguing that evidence provided to law enforcement by the Avalanche Information Center represented a violation of his clients’ Fourth Amendment rights. Summit County Judge Edward Casias ruled that there was no constitutional violation as a result of the information sharing and dismissed the motion to suppress the evidence at trial.

On March 25, DeWitt of Silverthorne and Hannibal of Vail were snowboarding above the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels when they triggered an avalanche that ran onto the Loop Road above the tunnels. Nobody was injured in the slide, though it did damage a remote avalanche-control unit and cover more than 400 feet of the roadway in debris up to 20 feet deep.

DeWitt and Hannibal cooperated with law enforcement on scene after the avalanche and were allowed to leave. In April, they each were issued citations for misdemeanor reckless endangerment. In addition to the charges, prosecutors also are seeking more than $165,000 in restitution for the resulting damage and cleanup.

During the hearing Tuesday, Flores-Williams argued that law enforcement circumvented the snowboarders’ Fourth Amendment rights — protection from “unreasonable searches and seizures” — by obtaining information and evidence on the incident from the Avalanche Information Center, which his clients provided to the center without knowing it could be turned over to law enforcement to be used in a criminal investigation.

“What we are really arguing against here is law enforcement’s ability, whether intentional or not, to run an end around fundamental constitutional provisions,” Flores-Williams said.

Witnesses with the Avalanche Information Center tuned into the hearing to testify on how they collected evidence in the case and to provide information on the organization’s operations at large.

Jason Konigsberg, an avalanche forecaster with the center, said he spoke with DeWitt and Hannibal in the days following the avalanche to collect information on snowpack, slope angle, elevation, how the slide occurred and other information that might be relevant to the center’s eventual report on the incident. He noted that DeWitt voluntarily supplied him with photographs and that Hannibal voluntarily supplied him with a video of the incident. Konigsberg said he wasn’t aware of any potential criminal investigation at the time and never informed either man that the information could be turned over to law enforcement.

The information Konigsberg collected, including the photos and videos, was later shared with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office by the avalanche center’s Executive Director Ethan Greene.

During his testimony, Greene said the center was focused on improving information and education about avalanches to improve the safety of backcountry users, and the organization frequently provides information on avalanches to other state agencies for that purpose. He said the center also frequently works with sheriff’s offices on search and rescue operations.

Much of the information the center collects on any avalanche typically ends up in publicly accessible reports on the organization’s website, and the center is subject to the Colorado Open Records Act, meaning most information gathered is available to the public upon request.

“Our role is to facilitate people understanding avalanches, so we do that by sharing information,” Greene said. “In general, if the public requests information, we provide it.”

Summit County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brian Metzger, a special operations technician who serves as a liaison between the office and Summit County Rescue Group, testified that he received the Avalanche Information Center’s written report, photos and video upon request. He stated that he didn’t direct the center to complete the report or obtain the photos and video, nor did he know of the video’s existence before receiving the report.

Following the testimony, Flores-Williams continued to push a narrative of impropriety.

“In essence, what we have are citizens being deprived of their ability to object to disclosing their information to a constitutional actor, i.e., CAIC,” Flores-Williams said. “There was a duty to inform Mr. Hannibal that what he was providing Mr. Konigsberg, and ultimately CAIC, could go to law enforcement, and that he may want to consider his rights. … When citizens in good faith cooperate with that state agency, they need to know that the information they’re providing to that state agency could (be) — and in this case was — turned over to law enforcement and could be used against them in a court of law.”

Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Cava countered that the Avalanche Information Center was not acting to aid law enforcement when they were collecting information on the case. She also noted that because the center frequently published public reports, and was subject to open records requests, handing over information to law enforcement was largely inconsequential.

“I would say certainly an expert (backcountry snowboarder) would know CAIC often publishes all the information they gather when they are doing these investigations,” Cava said. “Information you’re providing to CAIC goes on their website, goes to YouTube. That information is so that other people can learn, and it’s subject to open records requests. If Deputy Metzger hadn’t reached out and requested it, he probably could have filed a (Colorado Open Records Act) request.

“I understand there is a concern about the public policy side of this, but we have to focus on the law and the case law that’s actually been developed in this area. … None of the law supports Mr. Flores-Williams’ argument that this video or photos that were obtained should be suppressed.”

Ultimately, Casias ruled that because there was no formal search of DeWitt or Hannibal’s person or property and because there was no seizure — both gave information and media voluntarily — there was no violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. Casias also said neither Konigsberg nor Greene were acting as law enforcement agents during their investigation and that the defendants didn’t have to be informed of their rights because they were never placed in custody or interrogated as part of a criminal investigation prior to being charged.

“The information that was provided was provided,” Casias said. “There may be some backcountry folks that think that’s unfair, and I’m not going to say it is or it isn’t. … I would hope that the sharing of information to make it safer for everyone, including the parties involved if they go out again, wouldn’t be something that is jeopardized because of this court’s ruling.

“The backcountry is a place that is great for the escape from the masses. It does come with risks, and the more information people have on managing the risks the better off everyone is with it. But if it’s going to cause people to not provide videos or photographs because there might be a criminal prosecution, I can’t stop that. That’s not what this court’s function is. I would hope that’s not the case. But if the events trigger something that causes a person to feel concerned they might get a ticket or be arrested, they certainly have the right not to provide that information to CAIC or anybody else.”

A trial for the case is scheduled March 25, though Casias noted the date is subject to change given ongoing scheduling difficulties as a result of COVID-19.