U.S. group sues to halt artist Christo's project

Thu Feb 2, 2012 9:59am EST
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By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A coalition of environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife advocates have filed a federal lawsuit to block a project by the artist Christo that would drape fabric canopies along a long stretch of the Arkansas River in Colorado.

Opponents of the Bulgarian-born Christo's proposed "Over the River" project sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Denver, saying the agency violated federal law and its own policies when it gave final approval to the project last fall.

The flamboyant Christo, known for his massive outdoor artworks, including erecting 7,500 fabric gates in New York City's Central Park, plans to hang 5.9 miles of "silvery, translucent" panels intermittently along the river between Canon City and Salida, Colorado, according to his web site.

But opponents seeking to halt the project argued in their lawsuit that allowing the drilling of some 9,000 bores to anchor 925 fabric panels would adversely impact wildlife, cause traffic tie-ups and disrupt recreational activities.

"Installing the anchor bolts and other hardware requires large drilling equipment normally used for mining and heavy construction activities. The art project is, in fact, more similar to mineral resource extraction and development than recreation," the suit said.

Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Tina Brown said the agency was aware of the lawsuit, filed by Denver University law students on behalf of nonprofit Rags Over the Arkansas River Inc. (ROAR). Brown said the bureau does not comment on pending litigation.

Christo is not a defendant in the lawsuit. But his lawyer, Steve Coffin, said the project went through a comprehensive and thorough review by federal land managers.

"We're confidant that it will withstand legal scrutiny," Coffin said.   Continued...

<p>Artist Christo receives his "Goldene Henne" (Golden Hen) media award in the category "Life Achievement" during the prize ceremony at the Friedrichstadtpalast in Berlin, September 15, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Kappeler</p>