BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice has dropped a request asking a federal judge to prohibit an Idaho man from flying his helicopter near work crews building a public trail on an easement crossing private land.
The department said it accepted Michael Boren’s statements in court documents that he won’t again fly near the work crew that’s building a trail connecting the popular tourist destinations of Redfish Lake and Stanley.
The trail is at the center of a federal lawsuit filed by Lynn Arnone and David Boren, Michael Boren’s brother, who want construction of the trail stopped.
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating reports made by the work crew following their encounter with the helicopter on June 20. The crew reported the helicopter flew within 10 feet (3 meters) of the ground near them, kicking up debris and blowing off one person’s hat.
The Justice Department, which is representing the U.S. Forest Service, said that it will seek emergency relief again if the Borens try to interfere with construction.
The high-elevation area is one of Idaho’s most scenic outdoor adventure draws, with rugged mountains, rivers and streams and several mountain lakes. It was traditionally used mostly for ranching, but wealthy home buyers in recent decades have moved to the area.
David Boren and Arnone own the property called Sawtooth Mountain Ranch LLC, where the trail is being built. Boren is a founder and a board member of Clearwater Analytics, a financial management company headquartered in Boise.
He and Arnone filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service in April 2019 seeking to halt work on the trail. But a federal judge denied their requests, so crews this summer are building the trail that could draw hundreds of hikers and bikers. It’s expected to be finished this fall.
Michael Boren is also listed as a founder and a board member of Clearwater Analytics. He's also a member of Republican Gov. Brad Little's coronavirus testing task force.
Michael Boren in court documents said he and his adult son, Jack Boren, decided to take a scenic flight to Challis, Idaho, on June 20 to buy fuel for his helicopter. Court documents say they left their ranch in the Sawtooth Valley near Stanley at about 9 a.m., and decided to investigate after seeing the trail work.
Court papers filed by Boren's attorneys say he never intended to harass anyone or interfere with the work and operated the helicopter within a safe distance of the workers. He “will refrain from flying near the construction activities in the future.”
The U.S. Forest Service has a conservation easement deed dating to 2005 that allows a trail 30 feet (9 meters) wide to cross about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of the private property on Sawtooth Mountain Ranch. The Forest Service says David Boren and Arnone were aware of the easement when they purchased the property.