Antenna Restrictions on Mt. Evans?

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…

Matt/KØMOS

Matt Schnizer, KØMOS, is a special contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at k0mos at schnizer.com.

10 Responses to “Antenna Restrictions on Mt. Evans?”

  • w8vfm:

    More bureaucratic crap to put up with. We have a Federal Licence to operate our radio equipment; you would think that would mean something. Now, what if you went up to the parking lot and used your vertical/mobile antenna on your car/truck/camper/RV; along with your transceiver on battery power; would that qualify for SOTA activation. You would be close to the summit.

    Ned/W8VFM

  • Fred Bernquist AE2DX:

    Sounds like more Government intrusion into our lives. Wonder if their were any trees in the area you could hide the ant behind and have the rig in a cooler. or back pack. I would sure think of something to be able to operate under cover hi hi.

  • Steve, KB0OLF:

    Here’s the text in full:

    Constructing, placing, or maintaining any kind of road, trail, structure, fence, enclosure, communication equipment, or other improvement on National Forest System land of facilities, without a special use authorization, contract, or approved operating plan. (261.10a)

    When I read this, the key word I see is “Constructing” which to me implies the installation of a permanent structure for commercial use. One could argue that you are not CONSTRUCTING (which implies permanent structure) an antenna, your are “setting up” or “temporarily placing” an antenna for short term communications.

    Being a Colorado resident, I have not heard of a single person having trouble with park rangers for setting up an antenna for Amateur Radio use.

    There are very active groups in CO, one being the Colorado 14ers, who work from mountain summits regularly.

    But, the KISS method says, when in doubt, ask. So, if you are worried about the rule, then simply call the Forrest Service for the area you intend to work and ask what their policy is. I am guessing they won’t mind.

    Steve

  • Alden, K6ZU:

    Would this apply to a camera tripod or a telescope tripod? I wonder if it has anything to with Agenda 21? Bottom line is that it is most disturbing when this is obviously a “temporary” set up.

    Alden

  • Steve, KB0OLF:

    I just left a voice message for Liz Moncreef (sp?) with the US Forrest Service to inquire about the permit. Initial response I got from another employee was that the permit requirement only applies to commercial radio use.

    I will post an update as soon as I get a response from her. If I can get a link to anything in “writing” regarding use of Amateur Radio equipment on U.S. Forrest lands, I will post it as well.

    Steve

  • Bob KK8ZZ:

    As a long term park professional, I would say that you encountered an uninformed US Forest Service seasonal employee, overly impressed with his/her summer job. It is unfortunate that so many of these kids are selected long-distance from resumes only, no in-person interviews, and far too many are socially and professionally unqualified for their temporary summer jobs. Perhaps if you had produced your FCC license and told him/her that you were Federally licensed to be operating, their profound lack of knowledge would have prevailed. de KK8ZZ, Chief of Interpretation, Cleveland Metroparks

  • Joe KB3PHL:

    More bureaucratic crap is right, pretty soon we’ll have to have a permit to take a crap! Give someone a badge & they think they have a right to bully anyone. UNBELIEVABLE

    Joe KB3PHL

  • Marty AG3EK:

    If you had a backpack antenna, then it would fall into whatever classification the FRS radios were in and surely they don’t make everyone that’s using one of those go get a permit.

    Once you get the ranger to agree to that, you just have to take him gently down the slippery slope of “what if I sit down with mybackpack resting on the ground?”, “what if I then took my backpack off and just let it sit next to me?”, followed by “what if I unhooked the antenna and held it in my hand?” and “what if I set the antenna down next to me?” all the way to where it would be obvious just how silly it is to say that someone would need a permit and/or be prohibited from what you were doing.

  • Chris WX0PIX:

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the ranger here. I and some of my other ham friends are considering an HF outing on one of the summits before the snow flies. It will be interesting to make the call to the ranger station. I’ve operated off the grid at Cherry Creek State Park a few times (a state park, of course) without any issues using a G5RV-Jr and the solar panels. If anything … the rangers have stopped to chat because they were curious about Ham radio as a hobby. I think Bob, KK8ZZ, hit the nail on the head …. some person with a little power trip going on. 73!

  • KC9WIP:

    Resistance is futile…

    From the above listed “Forest Rules You Need to Know”

    “INTERFERING WITH A FOREST OFFICER
    • Threatening, resisting, intimidating, or interfering with any Forest Officer engaged in or on account of the performance of his or her official duties in the protection, improvement, or administration of the National Forest System. (261.3a) ”
    So basically if you don’t say “yes sir” you are in violation of this rule even if you wen’t in violation of the other rule. Figures.

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