Back in August, Lance Williams, who lives near Manitou Springs, sent us a letter he'd written to U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, pointing out some alarming potentialities associated with helicopter training in the mountains. "If there is a crash on the heavily-forested Cone/Garfield massif, Manitou Springs would be in immediate peril," Williams wrote.
Given questions over the years from those who say chopper traffic is rising, we took a deeper look.
As you'll see here, we found that landing zones in the Pike and San Isabel forests have been dwindling as residents and the Forest Service have grown increasingly concerned about compatibility of flights with wildlife, recreation and fire risk.
We also found that the last Environmental Assessment of Fort Carson's use of the forests, conducted in 2007, concluded there would be "no significant adverse environmental consequences" of helicopter training. The fire threat was termed "very slight," and no public comment was submitted in response to the proposed decision in Carson's favor. So, on Jan. 8, 2008, Forest Supervisor Robert Leaverton approved continued use of the forests for helicopter training, noting it would not "significantly affect the quality of the human environment."
That all took place before the destructive Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Now, forest officials are more skeptical.
In four years, Carson's permit expires. What happens then?