Here is a recent Arizona Republic editorial by Senators McCain and Kyl, followed by a letter-to-the-editor response from Rob Smith of the Sierra Club:
Parks’ noise rules at Canyon went too far
by John McCain and Jon Kyl – Jul. 21, 2012 12:00 AM
For over 100 years, people have found different ways to experience the magnificence of the Grand Canyon. Some spend weeks rafting down the Colorado River, while others are content with viewing a fraction of the Canyon’s landscape from man-made overlooks on the South Rim.
Many visitors choose to hike the Canyon, but its challenging trails aren’t for everyone. Fortunately, air-tour operators offer a unique sightseeing experience that’s invaluable to elderly and disabled visitors — including our wounded warriors — who may not otherwise be able to fully explore the Canyon.
The 1987 Overflights Act was intended to restore the park’s “natural quiet,” and we’re proud that today the Grand Canyon isn’t buzzing with the same free-for-all air traffic as it was then.
Regulations were created that tightened air-tour routes, created flight-free zones across much of the park’s airspace, and raised the altitude ceilings for aircraft. Air-tour companies also took the initiative and voluntarily installed $200 million worth of noise-reduction technology in their aircraft. Indeed, the National Park Service has already exceeded the original goal it mandated of making more than 50 percent of the park free of aircraft noise.
Regrettably, the new Park Service plan would have threatened this progress, arbitrarily moving the “natural quiet” goal post from 50 percent to 77 percent of the park and banning tours around sunrise and sunset. This would have deprived many visitors the chance to experience one of the most breathtaking sights in the world. That’s not what Congress intended when it passed the 1987 law, and it’s not justifiable today.
We share the Park Service’s goal of protecting the Canyon, and we have legislated a balance that was already achieved, as well as provided additional incentives to increase the use of quiet-aircraft technology.
We waited 25 years for the Park Service to develop reasonable standards, and when they failed to do so, it was time to act. The stunning beauty of the Grand Canyon will be shared among many Americans in many ways, just as it is today, ensuring that everyone has maximum opportunity to enjoy its full majesty.
John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Republicans, represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate.
McCain, Kyl back aerial clatter at Canyon
Jul. 24, 2012 12:00 AM
How sad that Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl would say that visitors to the Grand Canyon should hear air-tour noise instead of the park’s natural quiet (“Parks’ noise rules at Canyon went too far,” Opinions, Saturday).
They say listening to helicopters and airplanes once every four minutes where most people visit is fine. And that’s supposedly the “quiet” half of the park.
And they say early-morning and evening hours should be times of aerial clatter, not magnificent stillness and calm.
And, to top it off, they blame the National Park Service for moving slowly when they themselves have led several congressional attempts to stall the agency from solving this problem for nearly 25 years.
Thanks to The Republic for speaking up for the Grand Canyon (“Congress bungles noise restrictions,” Editorial, July 5). I wish that voice could be heard by our senators above the commercial air-tour noise at the Grand Canyon.