• 2022 Helicopter Supported Wilderness Projects

    May 05, 2022
    2022 Helicopter Supported Wilderness Projects 
     
    Sedro Woolley, WA—Several projects with helicopter support will begin this season in the Stephen Mather Wilderness as snow levels recede. Time and distance of flights over and around wilderness will be minimized whenever possible. Flight dates are subject to change depending on weather and other safety factors. 
     
    Early May and late September: Long-term Glacier Monitoring  
    Since 1993, the National Park Service has been monitoring the mass balance of four glaciers in North Cascades National Park:  Noisy, North Klawatti, Silver, and Sandalee. Field measurements of winter snow accumulation and summer melt occur twice annually in early spring and fall. From these measurements, annual changes in volume can be calculated providing insight into the glaciers' health and their contribution to regional streamflow. Helicopters support transportation of scientists and monitoring equipment to these remote sites. Spring flights will occur over a two-day period in early May and a one-day fall flight will be required in late September.  
      
    Early June: Bear Creek Fire Rehabilitation (tentative dates June 8, 9, or 10) 
    Located in the northern section of North Cascades National Park on the Chilliwack River, the Bear Creek Camp area has been closed due to fire since July 30, 2021. This rehabilitation project will clear downed trees, repair trail treads, reestablish the collapsed trail, restore and improve drainage features, and build small, slope retaining features from onsite materials as needed. Two helicopter flights will be used to transport crew and materials to Indian Creek camp as early as possible, sometime during May or early June, weather dependent. Use of the helicopter will facilitate early access to the area allowing trail crew time to clear trail, repair tread, and accomplish annual maintenance. The work is expected to take 14-18 weeks. The area will reopen after completed repairs.  
      
    July:  Mountain Goat Surveys  
    Regional mountain goat surveys will be conducted by National Park Service (NPS), US Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and several tribes across the North Cascades in late July through early August, when goats are most visible on summer range. These surveys will use a helicopter to visually count the number of adult and young goats and collect spatial information about their habitat use. Within North Cascades National Park Service Complex (NOCA), NPS is expecting to conduct surveys using approximately six helicopter flights of about 2 ½ hours each over the course of 3-5 days in mid to late July. Flights will be conducted on weekdays as weather allows, occurring primarily during morning hours when animals are most active. Survey altitude is expected to be between 1000 and 3000 feet above ground level, during which the helicopter will make slow passes along mountain slopes, and potentially hover to count animals at a range that will not disrupt their natural behavior. Count areas include high elevations across the park, generally in remote areas. No helicopter landings in the park are planned.  



    July: Radio Repeater Maintenance (tentative date week of July 12) 
    Helicopter flights to support routine maintenance and equipment replacement will occur to keep the park radio communications system operational. One to two flights for each of the four sites are expected. If possible, the helicopter will remain on site during work to reduce flight numbers. 



    Mid-summer:  Silver Lake White Bark Pine Survey  
    Whitebark pine is a keystone species in subalpine ecosystems and is currently in decline mainly due to white pine blister. Three "core areas" of whitebark pine within the park have been identified for monitoring and restoration. The whitebark pine stand at Silver Lake lies within a core area and is 1 mile south of Canada and 8 miles west of Hozomeen. It is separated from other stands by 8 miles, is the northernmost stand, and is amongst the highest altitude. As such, it may serve as important habitat for whitebark pine restoration under a warming climate. Helicopter support is needed for safety, due to the remote location and difficult access. The helicopter will deliver 2 crew members and their gear on the morning of one day and pick them up the afternoon of the second consecutive day. This would require four flights total (2 round trips).
     
    August: Mountain Lake Water Quality Monitoring (tentative dates August 29, 30, and 31)  
    Six mountain lakes at NOCA have been monitored annually through the North Coast and Cascades Network long-term ecological monitoring program since 2012. This program provides a robust and unique data set from mountain lake environments. Flights to transport researchers and haul equipment to two of these lakes, Easy Ridge Lake and Lower Silent Lake, are required due to the technical nature of approaching them by foot. Three flights are required for this project: ingress into the primary lake, transfer of crew and gear to the second lake, and egress after project completion. Flights will occur over three days and will be limited to what is needed for transportation only. 
     
    September and October: Mountain Lake Fish Management (tentative dates September 13 and October 3)  
    In late September, NPS resource management staff will conduct a fish removal project at Rainbow Lake to remove a non-native population of trout to preserve and restore natural ecosystems and native species in the park. The mountain lakes of North Cascades National Park Service Complex were historically free of fish due to the steep and rugged nature of the glacially carved valleys and abundant waterfalls. In the absence of fish, these lakes developed unique ecosystems where frogs and salamanders have become keystone predators bridging terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Fish removal at Rainbow Lake aids the recovery of native species and eliminates a source population of rainbow trout which hybridize and compete with the native westslope cutthroat trout downstream in the Lake Chelan basin. This project will require six flights in September to deliver equipment to the lake and another six flights to remove the equipment in October.   
     
    Helicopter flights by Seattle City Light may occur throughout the summer and fall in Ross Lake National Recreation Area as scientific studies continue for the Skagit River Hydropower Project Relicense. Although flights will not likely occur in wilderness, helicopter noise may be heard on and around Ross Lake.