Near Rolla, Missouri lies the Mark Twain National Forest. It’s one of 155 such designated forests in the United States, the forests falling under the jurisdiction of the US Forest Service and the USDA. The forest is 1.5 million acres and most of it is located in the Ozark Highlands. It covers 29 counties in southern Missouri and represents 11% of all forested land in the state. Named after favorite son and famous author, Mark Twain, the Forest was set aside as a protected area in 1939.
I was somewhat surprised when I was reading the Rolla Daily News on Feb. 19th when I learned that the U. S. Forest Service wants to build 2 helicopter landing pads, or helibases, in the National Forest, in Phelps County. The article went on to state the acreages of the land needed for this project, and the types of buildings that will also be needed along with the helibases; 140 acres of forest to construct several landing sites, buildings for the pilots and other air staff,technology,etc. The Forestry Service wants to be closer to the forest in fighting wildfires, listing that as their main reason for wanting to build this complex.
The Forestry Service presents the information in the newspaper article as a done deal, doesn’t mention how many millions of dollars this project will cost, and near the article’s end, mentions that they are required to ask for the public’s comments until March 14th concerning the two helipads. For those citizens of Missouri who want to send their opinions about these Helipads: 1. One can mail a letter to the Houston/Rolla/Cedar Creek Ranger District, 108 S. Sam Houston Blvd., Houston, MO 65483. Attn. Mark Hamel. 2. Fax your opinion to Mark Hamel, Integrated Resource Analyst at 573-364-6844. 3. Or send an email to: email@example.com and include Helibase Development Project #48670 on the subject line of the email.
My opinions about this project? I have several. The current helipad that is in use for the National Forest is at Rolla’s airport in nearby Vichy, MO. Wouldn’t it be less costly to add the additonal technologies, another landing pad, and another building or two at an already exisiting airport? Trees wouldn’t need to be knocked down, and with the University of Science and Technology next door in Rolla, couldn’t the university be consulted, professors and students be utilized, in coming up with green energy ideas for the current Vichy site? I think using taxpayers’ dollars in the most cost-effective way possible is always a good thing to strive for, I think keeping the helipad and building a new one at the Vichy site is a win for the city of Rolla, I think not cutting down forest in a National Forest is a good thing, and I think utilizing the University for any help they could supply would also be beneficial.
Here is the article from The Rolla Daily News, article written from Staff Reports.