LETTER: Heli-ski tenure would disturb mountain goats

Maine reader Pamela Thomas says deny heli-ski proposal to protect mountain goats.

Re: “Proposed heli-ski tenure application borders Kokanee Glacier Park

I shared these comments with the Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operation regarding a proposed commercial heli-ski operation before the May 2 deadline:

As a wilderness tourist, I value the sounds of nature and places where wildlife and its fleeting habitats are protected. The proposed area directly borders Canada’s premier national treasure, Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. It is my hope that they will deny the commercial heli-ski proposal to protect this area from noise and fossil fuel pollution, excessive air traffic and human encroachment.

I imagine someone sitting at a desk in the ministry will guffaw at this, but I wonder, who speaks for the mountain goats? It is a fact that high decibel noise from intrusive, whirling choppers, will directly impact sensitive mountain goats and be disruptive to people. These valleys are narrow and sounds echo even from the ridge tops.

It’s difficult to spot white mountain goats in white snow, even from helicopters. Sure, pilots are required to alter their routes if they spot a mountain goat, but let’s assume it is extra difficult to spot mountain goats with a cab full of paying clients. When faced with re-routing or eliminating a ‘”target demographic” client’s once-in-a-lifetime heli-ski experience versus disrupting the path of a mountain goat, who wins? And who reports the path was crossed?

Day skiers in this demographic have a vested interest; they have a one-day window for multiple ski runs, and most have an untrained eye for spotting mountain goats from helicopters. Let’s assume the clients won’t provide the pilot much help spotting mountain goats. Re: operational recommendation: “Clients should be advised to inform pilots/guides if they observe mountain goats and then that area is deemed ‘occupied.’” (BC Ministry of Environment 2006)

I wondered what operational strategies the company’s biologist consultant would employ to “minimize impacts on mountain goats near the company’s operating area,” since, the report notes, “Mountain goats react to human disturbance to a higher degree than most ungulates.” I laughed when I read the company “has amended the proposed zones in the tenured area eliminating all goat habitats.” Do they really want us to believe goats don’t stray from their routes?

I urge the ministry to keep this place special and deny Kootnay-Heli-Ski’s proposal. The company can reach this target audience in other ways — ways that will not have lasting, ruinous impact. By denying this proposal and protecting wilderness, wildlife and the quiet serenity of the mountains, the region’s economy will continue to flourish for years to come. Audiences that respect the wilderness and leave no trace in the woods (think slogan: Pack it in and pack it out) continue to seek special places. Please, don’t ruin it. Please make the right choice for future generations of humans and wildlife.

Pamela Thomas

South Portland, Maine

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