Submit Your Comments on North Cascades Helicopter Landing Proposal
The U.S. Army has proposed several helicopter exercise sites in the North Cascades, some of which are in close proximity to popular hiking areas.
UPDATE: The U.S. Army has extended the comment period on this project to September 4. See below for contact info to offer your comments.
The U.S. Army has proposed several helicopter landing sites in the North Cascades for pilots to practice flyovers and high altitude landings. Some of the proposed landing zones have raised concerns because of their proximity to popular recreation areas and trails.
Currently, pilots from Joint Base Lewis-McChord travel to Yakima and Colorado to get experience with flying and landing in rugged mountains.
As Americans we understand and appreciate the need for our military to provide the quality training necessary to defend our country when the time for deployment arrives.
At the same time, we strongly feel that we can and should be able to ensure that we can achieve military readiness through appropriate training exercises while also honoring the decades of significant investment that the American public, the U.S. Congress, federal agencies and local residents have made over the past several decades for conservation and recreation in the North Cascades.
Proposed sites include Icicle Ridge and Ida Lake
Washington Trails Association and other recreation groups have some concerns with the locations of the landing sites. Many are in popular recreation areas, including "Big Lou" mountain above Ida Lake on Icicle Ridge Trail, a spot popular with scramblers within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary. Another location is in the middle of the Golden Lakes Loop in the Lake Chelan-Sawtooths mountain range between Cooney and Martin lakes.
The proposal would allow exercises to occur 24-hours a day on all days of the year except federal holidays. Most of the exercises would likely occur at night. The exercises could last for up to four hours and include air traffic from as many as seven Apache, Chinook or Blackhawk helicopters.
In the scoping notice, Joint Base Lewis-McChord officials have said they will consider visual and noise impacts of the exercises.
WTA and other recreation groups are encouraging army officials to directly address how the proposal would impact hikers' trail experiences, such as noise at night that could disturb campers and backpackers, and visibility of helicopters from nearby designated wilderness areas.
The sites likely to impact hikers include:
- MTA 1-1 (Stormy Mountain, Section 29) – The proposed landing site is located directly on top of a portion the Devil’s Backbone Trail and less than a mile from Windy Camp Campground, FS Road 8410 and a scenic roadside viewpoint SE of Stormy Mountain in section 33. This area is used by hikers, mountain bikers, campers, and skiers.
- MTA 1-2 (Devil’s Backbone, Section 24) – The proposed landing site is located between Stormy Mountain and Angle Peak directly on top of the Devil’s Backbone Trail and less than 2 miles from the junction with the Pot Peak Trail. Pot Peak is a popular day hike destination for hikers camping at Ramona Park Campground and Twenty-Five Mile State Park Campground on Lake Chelan.
- MTA 1-3 (Two-Little Lakes, Section 7) – This landing site is located directly on top of the Blue Creek Trail, less than a mile from Mad River Trail and less than two miles from Blue Creek Meadow Campground, the Lost Lake Trail, the East Blue Creek Meadow Trail.
- MTA 1-4 (Lake Ida, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Section 27) – The proposed landing site is located on the Alpine Lakes Wilderness boundary, on Icicle Ridge atop Big Lou Mountain, less than one mile from Ida Lake, approximately 1.5 miles from Carter Lake and Lake Augusta in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
- MTA 1-5 (Rock Mountain, Section 23) – This landing site Is located on Rock Mountain less than two miles from the Tiffany Lake Trail, the Freezout Ridge Trail, and the Tiffany Springs Campground. Rock Mountain itself is unique in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest for its accessible high elevation meadows.
- MTA 1-6 (Azurite Peak, Pacific Crest Trail, Section 4) – This landing site is less than 2 miles from the iconic Pacific Crest Trail, the East Creek Trail and the West Fork Methow Trail. In addition the site is visible from Harts Pass, a popular hiking and camping destination outside of Mazama.
- MTA 1-7 (Sawtooth Ridge, Section 16) – This landing site is located directly on top of the Martin Creek Trail, less than a mile from the Cooney Lake Trail and Martin Lakes Trail, and less than 2 miles from the Merchants Basin Trail. This is a popular hiking destination known as the “Golden Lakes Loop.”
How you can help: submit your feedback by July 30
WTA is currently formulating comments with other recreation and conservation organizations. We also encourage you to submit your thoughts.
If you would like to give feedback on the plan and aren't sure where to start, consider the following prompts:
- How would hearing or seeing helicopters impact your hiking experience?
- If this proposal were to be approved as-is, would that discourage you from recreating in this area?
Comments are now due September 4 (previously, the due date was July 30) and can be emailed to: email@example.com.