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High altitude tree cutting by heli-skiing outfit draws criticism

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MAZAMA — Numerous high elevation trees — some of them apparently hundreds of years old — were cut down or topped in the North Cascades last winter by a Mazama-based helicopter skiing company, officials say. The Methow Valley Ranger District says North Cascade Heli-Skiing cut the trees to create safer helicopter landing sites, but the company was not authorized to remove vegetation in its permit to bring skiers into high elevations on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest west of Mazama. Backcountry skiers reported two more areas where trees were cut after the Forest Service met with the company and issued a notice of noncompliance for one of the sites in March, adding to the seriousness of the permit violation, said Jennifer Zbyszewski, recreation manager for the Methow Valley Ranger District.

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