by WenOut Staff

Map of the proposed mountain training area, taken from this scoping document (PDF) courtesy of the Department of the Army.

Army helicopters could be a new addition to North Central Washington’s mountain environment, if the Aviation Division of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) follows through with a new proposed training area.

There are four new proposed helicopter training areas in Washington – three of them in southwest Washington, and a fourth high-altitude mountain training area covering the eastern slopes of the range, from a branch surrounding the Ingalls and Chiwaukum drainages, west to the North Cascades, north to the Canadian Border, and east to the Okanogan Valley.

Obviously this has stirred up some buzz among recreationalists pressing for details. While JBLM has released very few specifics, they do say there are seven proposed landing sites, open for training and potential landings 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, with up to 75 landings a month. Black Hawk, Apache, and Chinook helicopters would perform precarious high-altitude training in these areas, with around 10-20 landings per session. Many landings would be at night, to simulate a combat environment. According to this article released by the Seattle Times, two potential landing sites are generating more controversy than others – one within a mile of the Pacific Crest Trail near Azurite Pass, and another within the eastern boundary of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, in the Chiwaukum vicinity.

The proposed landing areas, while still undergoing environmental analysis, will be rocky peaks, old quarries, or similar other already cleared sites, so no extra modification to the terrain will occur. Still, to many outdoor enthusiasts, the cost comes with potential visual and noise pollution, and the fact that at least one of these areas – referred to simply as MTA 1-4 – lies within a designated wilderness boundary, long off-limits to any kind of motorized travel.

Update July 26th, 2015: The proposal by JBLM remains open for public comment until July 30th. What do you think? What other issues should the Army think about before following through? Submit your comments to JBLM Public Affairs via gary.dangerfield.civ@mail.mil or (252) 967-0148.

Note: This article was originally posted on 07/22/2015.

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