Thursday, August 13, 2020

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Moab, UT

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Moab
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    BLM withdraws permit for Mineral Bottom copter shuttles

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    Move is prompted by SUWA appeal

    Desert bighorn sheep habitat could be disrupted by helicopters.
    Photo courtesy NPS Wikimedia Commons

    The Bureau of Land Management’s Moab field office has withdrawn a multi-year special recreation permit authorizing a private helicopter company to shuttle customers in and out of Mineral Bottom, south of Labyrinth Canyon and north of Canyonlands National Park in the Green River corridor.

    The permit withdrawal comes as the result of an appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals filed by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, challenging BLM’s previous decision to authorize these landings, according to a statement from SUWA. In response to the permit withdrawal, SUWA wildlands attorney Kya Marienfeld issued the following statement:

    “The BLM’s withdrawal of this helicopter landing permit is a big victory for wildlife and solitude in the Green River corridor. The best available science shows that bighorn sheep are particularly sensitive to helicopter traffic compared to other aircraft, and even the occasional close over-flight could have driven the native population of bighorn from its habitat in the side canyons of the Green River.

    “The BLM’s original decision to grant this commercial permit would have increased helicopter traffic that could have severely disrupted the sheep’s breeding and lambing cycle, perhaps causing them to abandon the area altogether.

    “While the BLM should never have granted the permit in the first place, we are glad to see the BLM correct their error and withdraw the permit.”

    The permit, originally issued in August, 2018, would have allowed Pinnacle Helicopters, LLC to shuttle passengers during the boating season to a backcountry airstrip in Mineral Bottom that currently has no commercial helicopter traffic. The repeated helicopter shuttles would have brought increased noise and disruption to the adjacent Hell Roaring, Spring, and Tenmile Canyons –all of which are critical lambing and rutting habitat for a rare native population of desert bighorn sheep, the SUWA statement said.

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