Thank you for the Aug. 9 editorial, “No helicopters in the wilderness.”Your focus upon the back country areas proposed for helicopter landing zones in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest requests that the Army reconsider some of the proposed sites.
Pilchuck Audubon Society provided comment through a Washington Audubon comment letter to the U.S. Army. That letter noted the potentially adverse impacts upon federally and state listed threatened species in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (Northern spotted owl in particular), and in Southwest Washington where the marbled murrelet populations are in serious decline.
We have asked the U.S. Army to consider doing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) rather than the informative but far less rigorous environmental assessment. We are especially concerned that the Army’s scoping notice says the training may eventually include more than the Army’s helicopter training in future years. This suggests other federal and military exercises are in the wings by groups not now stationed in Washington state.
Our pilots and crews need the training currently available to them in Colorado and Texas to provide both high- and low-elevation terrain and the associated flying conditions.
We recommend an EIS and additional public input to find solutions beneficial to the Army’s mission, back country recreationists, and threatened wildlife.
Pilchuck Audubon Society