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Heli-ski operator says land encroachments were 'minor'

Posted: January 10, 2014 - 12:07am

JUNEAU — A Haines helicopter ski operation that has agreed to plead guilty to unauthorized use of federal land says the encroachments were “minor, infrequent and unintentional.”

Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures, or SEABA, released a statement through its attorney on Wednesday.

Last week, a bill of information accusing the company of unauthorized use of federal land and a separate plea agreement were filed in federal court. Court documents referred to the company as Southeast Backcountry Adventures. The plea agreement has yet to be accepted by a judge. A court date is pending.

The company statement said the intent of the plea agreement is to ensure payment of fees that would have been paid to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for recreational access by SEABA onto BLM property. According to the bill of information, had the land been open to commercial activity, SEABA user fees would be a minimum of about $11,500.

Prosecutors said the company operated in an area it knew was closed for about 54 of 78 total days of operation in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Similar language is included in the plea agreement.

The company said “a similar number of client ski day land boundary infractions occurred over a couple of year period so that transit onto Federal land was infrequent.”

“The boundary intrusion most often was only for helicopter access with the actual ski runs occurring on state land,” the statement says.

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