The U.S. government has withdrawn legal claims against Sawtooth Mountain Ranch owners David Boren and Lynn Arnone following a statement filed in court by Boren’s brother, Michael Boren, that he did not intend to harass a trail construction crew near the Stanley Airport with his helicopter and will not fly over the site again.
The trail between Stanley and Redfish Lake is being built under direction of the U.S. Forest Service, which has been sued by David Boren and Arnone in an attempt to stop its construction on part of the planned route that crosses their ranch via an easement.
The government filed counterclaims for trespass and nuisance, as well as a motion for a preliminary injunction on June 24 following an incident on June 20 in which the crew alleged that Michael Boren’s helicopter hovered dangerously close over them.
In a declaration filed in U.S. District Court in Boise on July 6, Michael Boren stated that he left his ranch in the Sawtooth Valley on the morning of June 20 to take his son, Jack, for a combined scenic flight and trip to Challis to purchase fuel for his helicopter.
“I visited the trail construction site not to harass or intimidate the workers, but simply to observe the status of the work taking place on my brother’s property and photograph the trail’s interaction with the airport runway,” Michael Boren stated. “I did this out of my own interest in the construction activities, not at the direction of my brother or anyone else.”
He stated that he wanted photos of the trail because he thought the Federal Aviation Administration might have to shorten the runway to accommodate it.
Michael Boren disputed the construction crew’s reports that the helicopter was between 8 and 20 feet off the ground and 40-50 feet away, and that it made three passes over the construction site.
“We made one pass over the site, not three,” Michael Boren stated. “I never flew within 100 feet of the people and work and was mostly well over 400 feet. I never flew directly over the Trail or the easement.”
Both Michael Boren and Jack Boren also disputed the construction crew’s claim that a passenger in the helicopter had made an obscene hand gesture.
“My father had both hands on the controls, and I had both of my hands gripping my phone to take stable pictures,” stated Jack Boren, who noted in his declaration that he is over 18. “Neither my dad nor I flipped anyone off, nor would we ever think to do that. I have no hard feelings toward the contractors who are completing the work on the Trail, none of whom I have ever met.”
Michael Boren stated that “had a representative for the defendants or a member of Hobble Creek [construction company] contacted me, explained their point of view, and asked me not to fly my helicopter over the work site, I would have gladly complied with that request and would have apologized for any inconvenience or concern I had caused. But, no one did contact me.”
Michael Boren stated that he respected the court’s concerns about the safety of the construction crew, and stated that even though he did nothing dangerous, he would not fly near the trail construction activities in the future.
“If I had any idea flying near the site would bother the workers or interfere in any way with the contractor’s work, I would not have done it in the first instance,” he stated. “In short, there is no threat to the crew’s safety or need to fear repetition of these events.”
Following the filing of those statements, the U.S. government filed its notice to withdraw its motion on July 9.
“In light of Mr. Michael Boren’s commitment to refrain from further inference [sic] with construction of the Trail, Defendants see no need to pursue the pending motions, at this time,” the notice states. “Although Defendants dispute many of Mr. Michael Boren’s factual statements (e.g., the video evidence and statements from the work crew disprove that Mr. Boren’s helicopter stayed 400 feet away from the work crew), Defendants accept his representation to the Court, under oath, that there is no future ‘threat to the crew’s safety.’”
The Stanley-Redfish Lake trail is scheduled for completion or near completion by this fall.
On June 30, federal District Judge Candy Dale denied a motion for preliminary injunction filed by David Boren and Arnone to stop construction, but their lawsuit remains active. They claim that the trail is inconsistent with the type of primitive trail common on the SNRA and that its approval by the Forest Service violated federal environmental laws.