SEABA investigated for heliskiing in Glacier Bay National Park
September 3, 2020
Heliski company Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (SEABA) had “significant activity” on Glacier Bay National Park land on March 17, according to the Haines Borough’s 2020 heliski season-end report.
“If it occurred, it wouldn’t be a gray area for us. There’s multiple violations of law,” Glacier Bay National Park superintendent Philip Hooge said, adding that the park is looking into the issue.
One potential violation would be operating in the park without a permit.
“There’s not rotary-wing aircraft landings in the park allowed except with special permit,” Hooge said. “There would be citations for that type of activity. It’s not like it wouldn’t be deliberate.”
By press time, borough clerk Alekka Fullerton had yet to respond to questions about how the borough came by the information regarding SEABA’s location. Under borough code, heliski operators are required to use GPS equipment to track their flight routes and landings, and provide the information to the borough upon request.
In an earlier interview with the CVN, Fullerton confirmed that SEABA had operated over Glacier Bay National Park and BLM lands, but said the activity doesn’t fall under the borough’s enforcement purview due to ambiguity in current heliski code. She said she has requested the Tourism Advisory Board review heliski code to clarify the borough’s role in enforcement for activities that do not occur on borough land.
One of the primary reasons heliskiing is heavily regulated in the region is due to wildlife concerns.
“(Heliskiing) has been shown in a number of scientific studies over the past twenty years to have potentially very serious impacts to wildlife, primarily mountain goats, but also denning bears, and wolverines,” Takshanuk Watershed Council executive director Derek Poinsette said. “The mountain goat hunting here is in such a state that even a very small decrease in a localized population will cause (the Alaska Department of Fish and Game) to close down that hunt.”
This isn’t the first time SEABA has been accused of out-of-bounds activities. In 2014, the company pleaded guilty to one count of trespassing on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The investigation was opened after the death of a SEABA guide on closed BLM lands. Subsequent review of SEABA flight data indicated that the company had operated commercially on closed BLM lands 54 out of 78 days in 2012 and 2013.
SEABA management declined to comment on the report of activity in Glacier Bay National Park.