Controversy Brews Over Helicopters in Wilderness

Arizona Daily Star

by Doug Kreutz

Helicopters are strictly prohibited in federally designated wilderness areas, but state wildlife officials are seeking an exception from the U.S. Forest Service that would allow them to fly and land helicopters in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness north of Tucson. Wildlife officials said helicopters are necessary for managing and monitoring — including capturing, when necessary — bighorn sheep that were released on the rugged ridge last November in an effort to rebuild a herd there.

Several groups — including the Friends of Wild Animals, the Sierra Club, the Arizona Trail Association and Western Watersheds — and a state senator, among others, have told the Forest Service they strongly oppose the use of helicopters in the wilderness, saying the flights would harm wildlife and ruin the outdoor experience for recreationists in the area.

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