Cheney bill would boost heli-skiing in Palisades

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming U.S. Rep Liz Cheney has introduced a bill to increase the number of days that heli-skiing is allowed in wilderness-quality land south of Teton Pass.

The Jackson Hole News and Guide reports that Cheney’s bill would amend the Wyoming Wilderness Act and supersede a 2006 federal court opinion that limits the number of skiers commercial helicopters can ferry into the Palisades Wilderness Study Area.

A panel of Teton County residents has been considering what to do with Palisades and other federal lands.

The News and Guide reports that Cheney was with family over the holiday weekend and wasn’t available for an interview.

Cheney’s bill , introduced Wednesday, also calls for snowmobiling, dirt bike riding, mountain biking and helicopter skiing in the Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Area south of the Gros Ventre Range and Park County’s High Lakes Wilderness Study Area.

A 1984 law that created the Palisades Wilderness and Shoal creek study areas requires the U.S. Forest Service to limit those uses.

Wilderness study areas are designated by Congress as a possible precursor to outright wilderness classification. The Palisades’ study area designation allowed oil and gas companies to explore for deposits prior to any outright wilderness classification.

That designation affected High Mountain Heli-Skiing, a Jackson company that used to fly clients into the Teton, Gros Ventre and Snake River ranges. Under the 2006 court ruling, the firm can fly a maximum 60 skiers a year on the Wyoming side of the Snake River Range within the study area.

Cheney’s legislation would require Bridger-Teton National Forest to allow at least 1,200 skiers a year, the News and Guide reported.

Advocates for the Multi-Use of Public Land, a group that supports motorized recreation, backs the bill.

“These activities are historical uses that have occurred in the Palisades, Shoal Creek and High Lakes (study areas) since and prior to 1984,” said Advocates president Jesse Combs.

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Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com

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