From: alra@governance.net
Subject: Pilgrim Airlift Plane Crashes – Airlift Continues

Land Rights Network
American Land Rights Association
PO Box 400 – Battle Ground, WA 98604
Phone: 360-687-3087 – Fax: 360-687-2973 – E-mail: alra@landrights.org or
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Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE – Washington, DC 20003
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Pilgrim Airlift Plane Crashes – Airlift Continues

The Associated Press article about the Pilgrim Family Airlift is below.  It has been reprinted in hundreds of newpapers worldwide and is on CNN.

A humanitarian flight to help save the Pilgrim family from the Winter elements in Alaska, and overcome the Park Service access blockade, crashed on Friday, October 10th.  The Pilot walked away but the plane was a total loss.

The official statement of the accident from local McCarthy sources:  "Landing gear structural failure upon landing at the Marvelous Millsite caused a ground loop. Fuselage broke in two pieces, wing and engine and prop damaged. No injuries to the pilot, no passengers aboard.."  Approx value of aircraft lost is $100,000.

The Pilot, airlift hero Kurt Stenehjem, was so supportive even after the accident that he tried to console local McCarthy airlift volunteers and the Pilgrim family who were so saddened and upset by his loss.

Everyone connected with the airlift suggested immediately that this accident was completely unnecessary and was a direct result of the Park Service denial of ground access.

Airlift volunteers were so motivated to keep the supplies moving that the airlift continued in a limited fashion even before the damaged Cessna 180 could be moved off the end of the Pilgrim family airstrip!

The airlift is continuing with winter feed, fuel, and supplies being transported by volunteer pilots.  Aviation fuel is being supplied with donations.

American Land Rights Association, is calling the Park Service's road closure a "blockade" and likening the effort to the Berlin Airlift of 1948, when President Truman ordered planes to carry supplies after the German city was cut off by Soviet troops.  "If Alaskans -- both rural and urban -- don't rally now to stop this agency in McCarthy, large parts of our state will be next for the Green Iron Curtain of Exclusion"...

The Pilgrim Family is very self reliant, but the American Land Rights Association recognized the need for help.  It must be understood that the Park Service blockade of the road to their home and the disruption to their normal ability to earn a livelihood in this remote area has enormously increased their costs.  And of course that is the exact intention of the Park Service and why they must not be successful in starving this family our of their home.

"It's just beautiful," Pilgrim said by telephone to the AP from his cabin.  "I cannot tell you the unity. They just poured out their hearts."

Airlift pilot hero Roland Hammack lives at mile 32 on the McCarthy Road.  When thanked for coming, he looked up and said, "When I broke my leg, the Pilgrims heard about it and brought me groceries. They didn't even know me."

"The response has been overwhelming here in the [Copper River] valley," said Lee Adler of Glennallen, who flew the first two loads Wednesday, October 8th landing his two-seat Citabria on the family's prospecting-era gravel airstrip. "There's a lot of stuff waiting on both sides of the river and even more in Glennallen."

The Airlift has flown nearly 25 flights with dozens yet to go.  “The airlift will likely go on for weeks as more materials come in.

“The Pilgrims' plight is drawing national attention and financial contributions have been barely be enough to cover costs of the airlift,” said Rick Kenyon, a McCarthy pastor and newspaper publisher.  "The Pilgrims are wonderful, loving people who I find to have a high degree of integrity," he said. "We're helping them because they're American citizens wronged by their government."...

The hero pilot who lost his plane, Kurt Stenehjem, hopes people will continue to support the airlift.  “This battle is about access to our Federal lands,” he said.  “I hope someone out there has another old plant they are not using that I can have to help continue the airlift."  For anyone interested in helping replace the plane, Stenehjem can be reached at (907) 336-1910 or by e-mail at cutterstone@gci.net

The central place for fuel, supplies, and food to be received and stockpiled for airlift to the Pilgrims at Marvelous Millsite in upper McCarthy Creek valley will be at the McCarthy B&B hanger on the McCarthy WEST airstrip located off the Mile 58.5 turnoff across from the National Park Service closed Kiosk.  Donated supplies will be received there.  Call John Adams at 554-4433 or 554-1133(cell) for more information.

This will be an expensive rescue effort.  Please do your part by sending a contribution for $25, $50, $75, $100, $500, $ 1,000 or whatever you can afford to the McCarthy-Kennicott Community Church or MKCC to meet some of the family’s immediate needs to replace their home that burned.   They need the funds to buy the building materials necessary.  They do all the work themselves.   The flights can only carry a little bit each time and a lot of material is too big for a plane at all.  

Make a notation on the check or money order that it is for the Pilgrim Fund. Mail to McCarthy-Kennicott Community Church, McCarthy #42, PO Box MXY, Glennallen, Alaska 99588. For more information, call Rick Kenyon, pastor (also the editor of the local Wrangell-St Elias News) at (907) 554-4454.

Flights by Wrangell Air, McCarthy Air and volunteer pilots will shuttle the supplies between the McCarthy State Airport and the Pilgrims (a 15 minute flight one way) as needed and as donations received for flight costs allow.

The Park Service is in the process of a legal attack on the Pilgrims.  They’re going to try to bankrupt the family.   American Land Rights has set up a legal fund and is working with a local lawyer and other interested parties.  Anyone wishing to help with the Pilgrim Legal Fund may send contributions to:  American Land Rights Association. PO Box 400, Battle Ground, WA 98604.  

A special thank you to all who have supported the Pilgrim Family airlift so far.


Airlift supplies family fighting Park Service
Park Service closed road that allows family
of 17 to get supplies to cabin in national preserve

Volunteer pilots have begun flying winter supplies to a family in Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve that is embroiled in a fight with the National Park Service.

Papa Pilgrim and his wife and 15 children have been unsuccessful in getting a Park Service permit to use the road leading to their back country cabin.

Friends and a group called the American Land Rights Association now have begun to assemble donations and willing pilots to make the trip.
Pilgrim gushed about the assistance he had received, estimating he's managed to get about 20 percent of the stores the family needs for winter. Pilgrim changed his name from Bobby Hale.

"It's just beautiful," Pilgrim said by telephone from his remote cabin. "I cannot tell you the unity ... They just poured out their hearts."

The family, which is deeply religious and trying to live off the land in a remote property they bought in the Wrangell Mountains, began squabbling this summer with park officials after driving a bulldozer into town.

They drove the bulldozer along an old 14-mile mining road, sometimes with the blade up and sometimes down, carving a way through the overgrowth.

That act sparked a tense relationship with park officials who have filed a civil action against the 62-year-old Pilgrim. At one point the two sides were communicating through notes posted to trees near their property.

National Park Service officials closed the road to motorized vehicles, leaving the Pilgrims with the prospect of either traveling by horse through the upper valley of McCarthy Creek or reaching their property by airplane. It also left them unable to ship up large or bulky quantities of supplies.

Local residents who support Pilgrim say the road is state property and should not be closed.

"The main thing we need is to be able to get past this illegal road closure by having pilots to come out," said Laurie Rowland, a McCarthy resident. "This is the Bush pilot's chance to be a hero and be an angel of mercy."

Chuck Cushman is executive director of the American Land Rights Association, a group critical of the National Park Service and what they call "heavy-handed" treatment of inholders such as the family.  Cushman learned of Pilgrim during a radio program and offered to help.

"They are very self-sufficient people. The airlift was not their idea," Cushman said.

Donations of supplies are being made in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Wasilla, Glennallen and Copper Center to replace some of the stores lost when their bunkhouse was lost in a fire, Cushman said.  Volunteers organized the airlift in an attempt to break a "blockade" imposed by the Park Service, Cushman said.

So far, three people have agreed to ferry supplies and land on the small airstrip located within Pilgrim's property, Rowland said.  Lee Adler, 67, of Glennallen made the trip on Wednesday, hauling grain and wheat in his two-seat airplane to the property.

Clearing the tops of trees at the end of the uphill runway in the canyon was not difficult for an experienced pilot, Adler said, but not the place for an amateur.

"Had the Park Service been a little more helpful, this could be avoided," Adler said.

While volunteers continue to make arrangements for more flights this weekend, Pilgrim has an attorney who is trying to get an emergency permit to drive on the road.

Pilgrim has tried since June 17 to get permission to use the road, said attorney J.P. Tangen. A formal request was made in September, he said.

Part of the problem is the Park Service has to perform an environmental assessment of the route and any damage that could be done by the numerous crossings of McCarthy Creek.

Park Superintendent Gary Candelaria said each journey requires about 13 stream crossings and park officials have to determine damage to spawning fish and unfrozen ground.

The family could use snowmachines in the winter, Candelaria said.  As for the family's predicament, it isn't considered an emergency under federal regulations, Candelaria said.

"There's a lot of personal choice, personal responsibility involved in this issue," Candelaria said.

Candelaria doesn't agree with Cushman that the Park Service is being heavy-handed, nor does he agree with assertions by the Pilgrim family and its supporters that the road is state property.  Alaska has listed the road as its own under obscure federal mining statutes, but the Interior Department hasn't agreed.

The 1866 mining claim statute allows the state to assert claim to historic rights of way across federal land. State officials have been reluctant to push the claim for this and hundreds of other routes it has identified.

Pilgrim accused the Park Service of trying to starve his family out, but said they are resolved to stay.

"I just trust before this is all over, we will all be on the same side and we are going to see the needs of people, and the basis of it all is to love each other," Pilgrim said.

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