I activated Mt. Evans for Summits on the Air (SOTA) on July 15th. I took the route from Summit Lake to the top early in the morning since thunderstorms were in the forecast for the afternoon. I had the peak to myself for almost half an hour which was unexpected, considering that there is a road all the way to the top. I setup my vertical Buddipole for 20m and started my activation – so far nothing out of the ordinary besides the bad band conditions due to the recent CME.
I was talking to ACØA in Kansas when I spotted a National Forest Ranger running up the path from the parking lot. I could not understand what he was saying since I was
- distracted by my ongoing QSO and
- the lack of oxygen combined with his running up the mountain made his signal about a 22, with highly distorted audio.
He arrived at the summit breathless and stood next to me, courteous enough to let me finish my QSO (or just to catch his breath?). He then introduced himself and informed me that I have to take down the antenna immediately.
My first thoughts were that the antenna was considered some sort of a safety hazard for other visitors but NO. The reason is, he informed me, that you cannot build a structure on Nation Forest land without a permit. Sounds like a sensible rule to me…. who wants to see cabins etc. erected on public land everywhere. I argued that my antenna can hardly be considered a structure and my short survey among the few visitors on the summit (~10 people) came to the same conclusion – nobody considered my antenna a structure but he insisted. Furthermore he instructed me to drive to the Clear Creek Ranger District HQ in Idaho Springs to get a permit. Needless to say that I was not planning to make a ~60 mile round-trip to get a permit for my activities. I already had enough contacts for my Mt. Evans SOTA activation and the fact that I had planned another activation for later in the day I did not want to waste my time arguing and started to pack up. Luckily I had my tape-measure YAGI with me for my next activation and I was hoping it would pass the NOT BEING A STRUCTURE test by the National Forest (to make sure I did not ask).
I tried to follow up with the person in charge for the Clear Creek Ranger District… she is on vacation. Sure glad I did not drive all the way to Idaho Springs.
GOOGLing, I found Forest Rules You Need to Know, published by the Secretary of Agriculture. On page two, under the chapter OTHER PROHIBITED FACTS it indeed prohibits “Constructing, placing, or maintaining any kind of communication equipment without a special use authorization“. Again, that makes sense to me to avoid that every Tom, Dick and Harry sets up his own repeater on public land… it does however not make sense to me for a temporary, mobile/portable antenna as I was using.
It would certainly put a damper on SOTA activations and the upcoming 14er event. I am almost certain that on Field Day a lot of antennas go up on NF land.
I would be interested in your experience and/or opinion and I am planning to follow up with the Clear Creek Ranger District. Maybe I was just dealing with an overly eager Ranger? Stay tuned…
UPDATE: Read the conclusion