Senator wants harsher fines for helicopter landings

Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana introduced legislation Monday that would impose stiffer fines for landing unauthorized aerial vehicles in national forest wilderness areas.

The proposal comes after Samuel Schwerin, 48, landed a helicopter last month in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in northwest Montana.

A horseback rider alerted the Forest Service after seeing the helicopter parked alongside the Flathead River, according to a Justice Department news release.

“Wilderness areas were created to be free of motorized activity, including helicopters,” U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

The pilot was charged the maximum fine of $500. Daines’ bill, S. 4028, would raise the maximum penalty to $20,000.

“Montana’s wilderness shouldn’t be taken advantage of and exploited as a playground for the rich and famous,” Daines said in a news release. “Montanans value wilderness for the solitude it provides and the adventure that is involved to travel to so many beautiful locations.”

Schwerin is a co-founder of private equity firm Millennium Technology Value Partners, the Billings Gazette reported. The incident was “an honest and unintentional mistake,” he said in a statement.