Nevada BHA leads fight against guided helicopter hunts in the Ruby Mountain Wilderness

The following letter was submitted by Nevada BHA to the Elko County Planning Commission, stating BHA's opposition to an exemption that would allow guided helicopter hunts in the Ruby Mountain Wilderness Area.

June 16, 2015

Dear Mr Kingwell and the Elko County Planning Commission,

I am writing to express my concern about the pending request of Ruby 360 for certification of heliports by Elko County. I urge you to seriously consider what Elko County would be at risk of losing should such certification be granted. My concerns and observations are as follows:

* The traditional primitive recreational use of Nevada's iconic Ruby Mountains has brought visitors, hunters/fishers and recreationists from near and far, providing an economic benefit to Elko county. Those self-same people will be dis-inclined to return if fragile wilderness qualities of solitude and quiet are lost. Thus, an expanded heli business may bring short term profit from those interested in the novelty and ease of this sort of "access", but predictably there will be an unintended long term loss. Sight and sound of helicopters are not compatible with traditional primitive recreation.

* It is my understanding, use of Ruby 360 existing helipads on his private ground can continue without certification as heliports.

* Certification of these current pads as heliports will effectively circumvent the existing law, NRS 503.010, against use of helicopters to facilitate scouting, transport of hunters, equipment and/or takings of a hunt.

* Certification will also circumvent the intent of that same regulation: to uphold the standards set by the Boone & Crockett Club, created by President Theodore Roosevelt and other hunter conservationists.
Upholding those standards, we believe, are what will ensure our traditions will continue into the future.

* For those individuals who are unable to physically get themselves into the wilderness, there are legal, less intrusive, less expensive options than the sight and sound of a helicopter for transport.

* Outfitters & guides provide both employment and economic benefit to the county. Their business, and benefit to local economy, will be at risk should certification be granted. They provide a traditional experience of wildlands to both those who value a traditional horse-powered experience and to those who have not the physical means to do so under their own power.

* Current helicopter use in winter has impacted primarily those hardy few who ski/snowshoe into the Rubies under their own power. However, certification will allow the potential for heli use at any time or day of the year and thus impact exponentially more users. Quiet, human or horse powered traditional use of wildlands is incompatible with helicopter use.

* The Rubies are iconic mountains, beloved not only by hunters, but all sorts of recreationists, here in Nevada, throughout the US and even abroad. If an outdoors person knows anything about Nevada, they know about the Rubies! Those self-same iconic qualities would be jeopardized by helicopter use.

* Recreationists of all kinds, including the hunters/fishers of our organization, have long enjoyed, or aspire to enjoy, the solitude, quiet and primitive experience the Rubies provide -- fragile qualities, easily dis-spelled. Helicopter sounds carry long distances and would clearly penetrate the adjacent Wilderness. The use of helicopters, in any fashion, during the hunting and/or hiking season, would immediately dispel the primitive qualities mentioned that those individuals seek and work hard to experience.

* The Rubies, to date, have provided sportsmen the assurance of a traditional hunt beyond the confines or advantages of the trappings of the modern world -- a fast diminishing opportunity. That assurance would no longer exist and have to be sought elsewhere from diminishing sources.

My own personal experiences, and that of my family, includes decades of enjoying the primitive wild qualities of our beloved Rubies: from the early backpacking days of vigorous youth, that, through hard work and exercise, I was able to extend into my 60's, providing us with the quality hunts we treasured, to more current years of burro (our "ATV"s:-)-assisted trips, enabling us those same quality experiences.

Even though I no longer have the burros and am not likely to be able to get into the Rubies again, save for a day hike perhaps, I could never justify eliminating the opportunity for young families to have the same incredible experiences I did, by hiring a helicopter to take me places I can no longer get to. That is not a future legacy we should leave our children and grand children, in my opinion.

Below is a photo of my late husband and our "ATV" burros on our last deer hunt in the Rubies of several years ago, now the treasured memory of a lifetime. That experience, and our hard work in advanced age, would have been immediately diminished by the sound and sound of a helicopter, much as our Rubies backpack hunt of over a decade ago was diminished by the pre-dawn sight and sound of a trespass ATV on the ridge above where we were stalking a deer, but a helicopter is exponentially more intrusive.

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