Dear Editor:

Regarding the helicopters that may soon be delivering “upscale” tourists by helicopter to SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Lands) lands within a Wilderness Study Area near Horseshoe Canyon:

Encroaching on the “Great Gallery,” a world-class (dare we say sacred) archaeological site, with the sound of chopper blades, does not seem like an appropriate fate for a canyon that is otherwise visited by people from all over the world for its mystery, beauty, solitude and silence.

If any place is worthy of being exempt from commercialization, I would say Horseshoe Canyon qualifies.

SITLA claims its mandate is simply to raise money, so there is not much we can expect from it in terms of broader perspectives. As Deputy SITLA Director Kim Christy said, “This application allows the agency to potentially generate revenue from very remote property that is otherwise economically challenged.” Fascinating word spin! I’ve known what it feels like to be economically challenged; I didn’t think it mattered to the land.

That thinking comes from the mindset of “highest and best use,” that every square inch of Earth’s surface should generate as much money as possible, regardless of how inappropriate that use is to other human and community values. (Has anyone noticed that our town’s only optometrist has been dispossessed so the landowner can build yet another redundant motel? Highest and best use for whom?)

Christy goes on to say that although SITLA will attempt to mitigate any conflicts expressed, the permit process will not be “impeded” because of them.

So, where does that leave us? Some governmental units (BLM, NPS, county) have little or no voice in the matter. Another, SITLA, will be unswayed.

But we might ask the applicants for the permit, Pinnacle Helicopters, if they really want to be responsible for turning the Great Gallery into a roaring echo chamber. Is it “worth” it? For whom?

They seem to be the only party that can make a difference in how the situation will play out. Since our institutions and bureaucracies don’t seem to have the means to do the right thing, perhaps Pinnacle Helicopters could simply withdraw its request.