Saturday, May 24, 2008

Helicopters in Giant Gap

A year or so ago I found that it was impossible to convince the Placer County Sherif's department that it should avoid Giant Gap with its helicopters, inasmuch as both Peregrine Falcons and Golden Eagles were actively nesting. The Sheriff's department seemed to think I was from Outer Space; what I asked was absurd.

Several times this spring the Sheriff helicopter has flown through Giant Gap.

Yesterday I received an email from Jan Cutts, District Ranger of the American River Ranger District, Tahoe National Forest (TNF), at Foresthill. Jan wrote:

"I want to let you know that in the next day or so there will be a helicopter operating in the North Fork American River drainage east of Giant Gap to remove trash from the Green Valley area. We have worked with our biologist regarding concerns with impacts to the Peregrine falcon in the Giant Gap area, and will be working with the helicopter to keep it as far away from the area as possible."

This was good news. I called Jan immediately and asked, which mess of garbage would they clean up? Were they going after all the garbage sites, or one, or what?

For years I have urged TNF to bring a helicopter in to the Euchre Bar and Green Valley areas, where huge and horrible accumulations of garbage exist, beyond, really, the capacity of hikers to simply carry up and out. I sent maps showing all these locations. My friends and I would volunteer to help pack it up for the helicopter cargo nets. However, there was never enough money in the TNF budget.

Well. Jan replied she did not know just what garbage site was being cleaned up, but that surely, any garbage taken out, whatsoever, was a good thing. I agreed, but wondered whether we could not expand the cleanup to include that especially horrid site, above Euchre Bar, on the North Fork of the North Fork of the American.

She advised me to contact Tom Madrigal of TNF, at the Foresthill office, and I immediately called, and left a message, but did not hear back.

Today, as advertised, a helicopter arrived in Green Valley. They appeared to be working on what I call Mexican Marijuana Growers' Camp #1, along the High Ditch, towards the east end of Green Valley. I could hear the thunder of the helicopter in the distance, grabbed my binoculars, and ran out to a cliff-top from which I can see much of Green Valley.

To my amazement, after spending quite a time in the east end of Green Valley, out of my view, the helicopter rose slowly westward, without any cargo net, and flew right through Giant Gap, perhaps 500 feet above the river, which is about as bad as it can get, so far as the nests of the falcons and eagles.

Needless to say, I was not pleased. I believe it was a National Guard helicopter. I would not be at all surprised if this garbage cleanup occurred under the auspices of the Drug Enforcement Agency, replete with special grants from the Bureau of Homeland Security, or whatever the blasted thing is called. For nothing happens nowadays without grants. Employees of one agency Coordinate Their Efforts with employees of some other agency, and this wonderful "coordination" could only happen thanks to a grant. It is the debacle of Hurricane Katrina, dragged out to an impossible degree, under an infinite recursion.

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