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News Moab Area - Loss of Wilderness - Helicopter Tours

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by ratagonia, Oct 6, 2017.

  1. ratagonia

    ratagonia

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    Helicopters again...

    http://www.moabtimes.com/view/full_...permit-request?instance=lead_story_leftcolumn

    Concerns raised over Canyonlands backcountry helicopter permit request
    byMolly Marcello
    The Times-Independent (Moab)


    A local helicopter company’s plans to charter flights to state lands within a federal Wilderness Study Area (WSA) near Canyonlands National Park has met some pushback from conservation groups and others who cite potential impacts regarding noise and solitude.

    Moab-based Pinnacle Helicopters is currently seeking a right-of-entry permit with Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) for transportation and charter flights on four state-owned land parcels.

    These state parcels — arranged in a “checkerboard” pattern across the map — are within or adjacent to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) WSA. One parcel sits directly adjacent to Horseshoe Canyon, home to the “Great Gallery” rock art site in Canyonlands National Park.

    Kya Marienfeld, wildlands attorney at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), said this right-of-entry application reveals how differently state and federal lands are managed.

    “This [WSA] designation was put in place to ensure that a pristine wilderness-quality area remains unimpaired until Congress decides to officially designate the area as wilderness,” Marienfeld said. “Aircraft lands are not permitted in these Wilderness Study Areas, but because SITLA parcels are managed differently, they essentially allow an island within wilderness-quality lands where any activity the state chooses can be allowed, no matter how incompatible with the surrounding uses on public lands.”

    According to Marienfeld, SUWA has expressed concerns that these helicopter flights would have a “terrible effect” on the wilderness characteristics of the area, which include solitude and remoteness.

    “It’s noise and the effects on solitude. Helicopters are loud, and this area being so remote ... it’s pretty untrammeled because it’s a little ways out,” she said.

    According to Kim Christy, deputy director of Utah’s Trust Lands Administration, the National Park Service has also raised concerns regarding the permit. Although he says “no laws or regulations” will be violated by Pinnacle flying to the state-owned sites, Christy said SITLA is discussing certain mitigation options for their federal neighbors.

    “The applicant and SITLA are considering other mitigating factors that would largely address NPS’ concerns, namely potentially offering reasonable assurances of maintaining flight distances away from the [national park] boundary,” he said.

    Christy said that SITLA is also debating the location of the landing sites, but he notes options in this regard are limited “due to the rugged terrain.”

    Kate Cannon, superintendent of the Southeast Utah Group of the National Park Service, declined to comment on the concerns.

    However, David Nimkin, the senior regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association, said that Cannon is hopeful that SITLA will take the park’s proximity into consideration.

    “It’s certainly within the purview of a private business and SITLA to work out an arrangement — there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s part of the reason [Cannon] wanted to express some of her concerns to understand what the company was thinking and what SITLA was thinking,” Nimkin said. “She expressed her hope that the conditions and circumstances will be reviewed.”

    Nimkin says that the most “distinctive” qualities of Canyonlands National Park include “its remoteness, its wilderness, its incredible quiet.”

    “To compromise that is something that is concerning,” he said.

    Although Pinnacle’s right-of-entry application is still “in process,” Christy said that permits for such commercial, short-term uses are authorized under SITLA’s administrative rules.

    “Approval of this permit would be subject to all relevant federal and state laws and regulations,” Christy said. “This application allows the agency to potentially generate revenue from very remote property that is otherwise economically challenged.”

    Dacia Black, representing Pinnacle Helicopters, told The Times-Independent the permit and landing sites in question — including one near Robbers' Roost, a technical canyoneering area — would allow for transportation and charter flights only.

    “These are not scenic air tours,” she said.

    Black noted that Pinnacle Helicopters often receives requests for backcountry drop-offs for recreation purposes not only from their own customers but from other commercial outfitters as well.

    At one time, Moab Canyon Tours considered partnering with Pinnacle Helicopters to run “heli-canyoneering adventures” to serve canyoneering sites like the BLM-managed Robbers' Roost. Moab Canyon Tours owner Mike Stimola said that such excursions could take pressure from other canyoneering areas closer to town, for certain clients that could afford them.

    “We’d like to not overrun the close canyons near Moab to keep the environmental integrity of this beautiful landscape,” Stimola said. “Most other guiding companies and local tourists focus on the close routes…We believe it would help to balance some of the business by taking a few VIP clients off the beaten track to less-populated canyoneering routes, lessening the impact of so many tourists in more local canyons.”

    According to the BLM, commercial outfitters and guides who physically lead hikers from SITLA lands onto BLM-administered lands would need a special recreation permit authorized by the BLM, in addition to a permit from SITLA.

    Although Stimola said Moab Canyon Tours considered such a prospect last winter, they have not moved forward on the necessary permits.

    Layne Miller, one of the founding members of Utah Rock Art Research Association, hopes that officials can find a reasonable solution to mitigate the impacts of the proposed helicopter flights. He describes the collection of petroglyphs and pictographs at Horseshoe Canyon — near one of the proposed landing sites — on a global scale of importance.

    “I’m coming at this from both sides,” Miller said. “I understand how popular rock art is, but I also understand that some sites are just really, really special. Horseshoe Canyon is one of the most special sites in the United States, not just Utah or the West.”

    Approximately 250 feet long with roughly 18 life-size human figures depicted, Miller said Horseshoe Canyon’s “Great Gallery” was intentionally encapsulated into Canyonlands National Park in order to “protect it.”

    “It’s one of those panels where when you go it should be quiet,” Miller said. “There shouldn’t be a lot of noise so you can really enjoy not only the panel but the area itself.”

    Christy said that although SITLA will attempt to mitigate any conflicts expressed, the permit process will not be “impeded” because of them.

    “SITLA’s mandate to manage its lands on behalf of its beneficiaries cannot be impeded by other public expectations and perceived conflicts, especially if conflicts emerge from outside the boundaries of its jurisdiction,” Christy said. “Nonetheless, SITLA tries to mitigate tensions with opposing viewpoints within reason.”

    If the right-of-entry permit is approved, Christy said, it would be authorized on an annualized basis with no anticipated infrastructure installation.

    Read more:Moab Times-Independent - Concerns raised over Canyonlands backcountry helicopter permit request
    Ram likes this.
  2. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    There doesn't seem to be much hope for wilderness anymore. This is very sad to read.

    On a related note, we were in Steep Creek WSA within GSENM a few days ago and a small bulldozer had run up the canyon to make access for cattle- right up the watercourse and on the side banks of the creek. They justify it saying that "historical access" can be preserved. I didn't know bulldozers were historical.

    The news from all over the west is very discouraging.

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  3. Kuenn

    Kuenn

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    Sounds nice in print, but it's more likely to become anti-preservationist act. I don't believe their clientele/tourist math is very sound.

    The Great Gallery would be the loser.
    Deagol likes this.
  4. Bill

    Bill ... Staff Member

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    Bummer.

    We hiked out to Happy last November and these guys buzzed over the lower slot a handful of times. It wasn't very pleasant.
  5. Dan Ransom

    Dan Ransom Staff Member

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    Interesting to see the rise of helicopter tourism in the southwest. In this particular plan, it looks like they are targeting a few parcels of SITLA land in Bluejohn Canyon with the intent of guiding clients through the cathedral narrows, and past the final rappel in the Ralston narrows, then organizing a helicopter to pick them up below the final drop.

    http://www.sltrib.com/news/environm...copters-near-utahs-canyonlands-national-park/
    Rapterman and Kevin like this.
  6. Kevin

    Kevin

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    Ugh, so lame. Why can't people put in some effort to see these places?
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  7. Amy K

    Amy K

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    Agreed
    Rapterman likes this.
  8. townsend

    townsend

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    These is nothing other than "commoditization." Everything is a potential commodity, and as such, a market needs to be developed so somebody can make money off that commodity. Nothing in nature is appreciated for itself and preserved for future generations to enjoy -- it has value, if and only if it can be viewed as a commodity, a market developed to sell that commodity, and therefore it can be converted into an income stream. If it gets trashed out in the process, no worries, because many other such opportunities exist, to exploit until exhaustion sets in. And then they move on.

    The helicopter companies started over saturating the Grand Canyon, ruining the wilderness experience. Now they are moving on to Canyonlands National Park, and then . . .
    Rapterman, Bootboy and Deagol like this.
  9. Deagol

    Deagol too many hobbies

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    This sucks. They do heli tour in Glacier National Park and you can here them for miles and miles away.
    Rapterman likes this.
  10. AW~

    AW~

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    Fresh off the evil capitalism book eh?
    I think you'll make a good comrade in the war against the imperialist pig dogs.
    Course at some point, the masterminds of this enemy trying to destroy the earth needs to be 'identified'.....this certain race/culture of people, but no point in jumping ahead.
  11. Dan Ransom

    Dan Ransom Staff Member

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    For a solid look at what has happened in Western Grand Canyon, check this reporting out from Ron Dungan and David Wallace at the Arizona Republic. @David Wallace is an avid canyoneer himself and helluva of a journalist.

    http://www.azcentral.com/story/news...opters-tribe-sees-economic-returns/588119001/
    Rapterman likes this.
  12. Scott Patterson

    Scott Patterson

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    It appears that they want to land in Happy Canyon as well. :thumbsdown:
    Rapterman likes this.
  13. Dan Ransom

    Dan Ransom Staff Member

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    They already are. They must be landing on the SITLA parcels a mile or two upstream of the narrows.
    Rapterman likes this.
  14. Moab Mark

    Moab Mark

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    Desert Highlights fly clients into that area landing big wheel planes on old landing strips? We were out in the Green River area Sunday and saw two of these planes fly right over our heads with great big wheels on them.[​IMG]

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
  15. Moab Mark

    Moab Mark

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  16. Bootboy

    Bootboy Atwood Gear

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    Just remember though, it would be better if the state had control over all of it :hungover:

    Mo heli's, = mo money.:greedy:

    Maybe when the economy crashes in the next couple years this sort of stuff will dry up.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017 at 7:13 AM
    Deagol likes this.
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