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New Backcountry Wood Lockers Reduce Need for Helicopters at Haleakalā

PC: Haleakalā National Park

Haleakalā National Park will be implementing a new wood locker system for backcountry cabin users starting Nov. 1, 2018.

The new system is aimed at reducing helicopter noise and impacts to wildlife and visitors to the remote location.

Each of the park’s three cabins will be equipped with 18 lockers and each locker will contain three  logs. These logs will be stocked regularly by park rangers using mules.

This replaces the current  system in which large numbers of logs are flown in by helicopter and log use by visitors is unregulated.

In the past, two weeks’ worth of logs could be depleted in a single day, leaving no logs for subsequent cabin users.

Park rangers say Haleakalā National Park’s new wood lockers will promote responsible use of firewood, ensure that all visitors have plenty of wood (three logs per night), and will reduce noise pollution and wildlife disturbance in the crater, which is Congressionally designated Wilderness and world famous for being one of the quietest places on earth.

In 2018, the National Park Service spent an estimated $139,700 and flew helicopters for 26 hours in the crater to deliver logs to cabins. The new locker system should reduce costs significantly, with savings reallocated to maintaining and improving backcountry visitor services.

NPS helicopter operations will still be required in the crater for emergency searches and rescues as well as resource protection operations but will likely be reduced by at least 50 percent.

Locker combinations will be assigned and issued by park staff (one locker combination per night) at the time of check in for cabin permits at Headquarters Visitor Center (at 7,000 ft. elevation) in the summit district. Any visitors wanting to pack in more wood can purchase logs and fire starters at the gift store during check in.

“People frequently ask what they can do to help us protect this special place,” said park Superintendent Natalie Gates. “By using our new log system and burning responsibly, they are helping us reduce helicopters over the crater,” she added, “that’s mālama ‘āina.”