Wilderness rules snag Davenport
Chris Davenport’s plan to show a film of him climbing and skiing 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado has run into a challenge as great as the feat itself.The White River National Forest and five other national forests in Colorado denied two requests by Davenport and filmmaker Ben Galland to commercially film him skiing high peaks within wilderness areas, White River Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson announced Monday. Galland’s request sought to use shots from a helicopter of Davenport skiing a big peak.Commercial filming in wilderness requires a permit. Violating the rule is punishable by a $5,000 fine, up to six months in jail or a combination.The U.S. Forest Service concluded the film would not promote the wilderness characteristics of solitude and untrammeled nature, according to a statement from the agency.”I’m a little bit disturbed by their take on that,” Davenport said.The 36-year-old Aspenite set out in January 2006 to climb and ski all 54 of Colorado’s “fourteeners” within one year. He accomplished his goal on Jan. 19, with three days to spare.Davenport said he wasn’t thinking of his adventure in terms of a commercial film when he first set out. Two friends from Aspen shot film of him tackling some peaks early in the quest. They didn’t know if they would capture anything “good,” he said, but the trio liked the footage.Davenport applied in August 2006 to use film up to that date and to undertake additional shots in wilderness for commercial use, according to Rich Doak, acting recreation staff officer in the White River National Forest.The agency denied Davenport’s request within a 60-day requirement. In the meantime, California filmmaker Galland approached Davenport about making a film and, after some thought, he agreed.The Forest Service received a second request from Galland on Feb. 26 to use footage already shot: “In the proposal submitted by Galland, the movie starring [Davenport] involved the use of a helicopter to film skiing on one or more peaks located in wilderness,” the Forest Service statement said.Doak said there is virtually no scenario where filming with a helicopter would be allowed because of the disruption to wilderness solitude. He noted that even mountain rescue groups must get permission to use a chopper for their operations.The agency has more discretion to approve commercial filming that doesn’t use helicopters. In this case, the film wasn’t seen as beneficial to wilderness, the agency’s statement said.”The film does not promote wilderness values or ethics but rather focuses on the concept of the ‘ski challenge,'” the forest supervisor’s office said.Doak said the Forest Service decision wasn’t intended to reflect on Davenport’s accomplishment. The issue is the film’s relation to wilderness.”I don’t know that they could have made this compatible,” he said. “Really good skiing doesn’t promote wilderness.”Davenport countered that his experience embodies part of the wilderness experience. The film could showcase the solitude that exists in the highest ground during winters. Davenport noted that he ran into only four other skiers on the high peaks, outside of people accompanying him, during his quest. As for untrammeled nature, he pointed out that his group skinned up the peaks on snow, causing no damage to the delicate terrain.He said he understands the Forest Service’s concerns for wilderness, but the agency’s concern should be directed at the masses – estimated at 500,000 – hiking and climbing the peaks during summers.”The wilderness is already overrun in the summer,” he said.Davenport is the featured speaker Friday at a Colorado Fourteener Initiative fundraiser. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to preserving the state’s 14,000-foot peaks through trail maintenance and user education.The forest supervisor’s statement raised a concern that Davenport’s film might inspire more people to visit the fourteeners during winters – putting themselves at risk and placing more pressure on the peaks. Davenport scoffed at the perceived threat. Few people possess the skills to tackle the feat, he said.Despite their differing philosophies, Davenport said he will comply with the Forest Service decision and edit out shots of him on a fourteener in wilderness. It will alter the film significantly, but it can be salvaged, he said. Some of the fourteeners, like Long’s Peak, the last Davenport scaled, are outside of wilderness. A permit to use footage on peaks on national forest but outside of wilderness isn’t as tough to acquire.Galland couldn’t be reached for comment. An attorney for the filmmaker who has corresponded with the Forest Service didn’t return a telephone call.Davenport said he wasn’t surprised by the Forest Service decision. “I had my fingers crossed,” he said.He said he didn’t break any rules: “The film, which is finished, has no shots in it taken by a helicopter,” he said.As for shooting film without a permit, he said there was no intent at the time to use it commercially.Doak said he is personally unaware of any criminal action against Davenport or Galland.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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