A Sedona business owner has agreed to pay fines for damaging a wilderness area near Oak Creek as well as operating without a permit. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the incident occurred while conducting search and rescue instruction.
Last fall, Ropes That Rescue held a training course in the rugged Illusions Canyon near the headwaters of the West Fork of Oak Creek. It’s located in the federally designated Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness and also within the Oak Creek Research Natural Area.
Authorities say the organization lit fires in order to test a new method of rescuing injured canyoneers. But, the flames caused damage to the canyon, which is a sensitive riparian area. In addition, they were charged with operating a commercial business without a permit.
Jennifer Burns is recreation staff officer for the Red Rock Ranger District. She says that because of the area’s vulnerability commercial permits are not issued on the Red Rock Ranger District.
“I don’t think we would have certainly allowed that activity in a sensitive location, nor would we certainly have allowed burning of vegetation,” Burns said.
Burns says the clients were unaware of the lack of permit. The owner of Ropes That Rescue will pay a $500 fine for the permit violation and $5,000 in restitution for damage to the canyon.
According to the Arizona Daily Sun, Forest Service officials also discovered that the group had been operating without a permit in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness since the 1990s.