Oregon Wild warns legal action on Crater Lake helicopters – August 6, 2009

Oregon Wild warns legal action on Crater Lake helicopters

Oregon Wild

Press Release

Contact: Erik Fernandez

August 6, 2009

Conservationists insist helicopter tours at the Park not consistent with law, wilderness experience

crater-lake (1)Crater Lake National Park, photo by Robert Mutch

Oregon Wild, the state’s leading conservation group, along with Umpqua Watersheds and the Crater Lake Institute, today sent a letter to the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration advising them that allowing noisy helicopter tours of Crater Lake National Park could be illegal under several federal laws. The letter comes after the recent public revelation that a Bend-based aviation company has filed for permits to fly at low elevations over Oregon’s only National Park.

“Oregon needs to do a better job of protecting our natural treasures,” said Erik Fernandez, Wilderness Coordinator with Oregon Wild. “Oregon Wild will not stand by and allow the quiet beauty of Crater Lake to be shattered by noise pollution from helicopter tours.”

The proposal by Leading Edge Aviation came to light last month, and has been met with public outrage. Since that time, Oregon Wild has been contacted by legal experts, a former park superintendent, professional photographers, and ordinary Oregonians all eager to protect Crater Lake from the threat of noisy helicopter flights. On July 28, Senator Ron Wyden took the issue to the halls of Congress, grilling the nominee to head the National Park Service, Jonathan Jarvis, on the Crater Lake helicopter proposal during a Senate confirmation hearing.

Leading Edge Aviation has requested a permit to fly 300 tours per year to within 1,000 feet of the crater rim at a price of $149 per person. A law enacted by Congress in 2000 requires the Federal Aviation Administration to review the helicopter tour application. Oregon Wild’ letter to the FAA points out that relevant law requires the agency to consider noise impacts when evaluating the proposal.

Of the many citizens who have stepped forward to advocate for protecting Crater Lake, Jim Rouse knows the park better than most. Rouse served as Park Superintendent from 1978-1984.

“As a past guardian of Crater Lake, it is my belief that helicopter tours over the lake are incompatible with the wilderness experience of the park”, commented Jim Rouse, former Crater Lake National Park Superintendent.

To protect the quiet beauty of Crater Lake, Oregon Wild is urging Senator Wyden to consider Wilderness designation for the park and surrounding wildlands. In addition to noisy helicopter tours, a Forest Service proposal threatens massive logging along the northern boundary of the park. Wilderness designation is the highest and most effective level of protection that can be given to America’s public lands, and conservationists and the National Park Service have long argued that Crater Lake and its surrounding wildlands deserve Wilderness status.

“The National Park Service first requested Wilderness for Crater Lake back in 1974,” added Fernandez. “Now, 35 years later, it’s time for Congress to finally act to protect the park and its surrounding wildlands as a legacy for future generations.”

Wilderness legislation could successfully resolve the threat of helicopter flights over the Park, as well as logging in the surrounding wildlands. Flights over designated Wilderness areas are generally flown no lower than 2,000 feet in elevation. However, Congress could require flights to stay even higher in new Wilderness legislation, or ban them outright. Such a ban would allow exceptions for administrative and emergency flights.

”Crater Lake, Mount Thielsen, Mount Bailey, and the headwaters to Rogue and Umpqua Rivers surround the park are the crown jewels of the southern Cascades,” concluded Fernandez. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to protect the wildlands around these areas forever as a haven for Oregonians who seek natural beauty, freedom, and opportunities for quiet recreation.”

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