National Parks & Conservation Association post on the Huffington Post about the Grand Canyon and NOISE!

National Parks: Are We Giving Up on Peace and Quiet to Allow More Noise?

The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided gorge carved...

Posted: 08/07/2012 6:39 pm

After a 14-hour drive and, hopefully, a good night’s rest, you get the family up early and together you hike the trail or stand at an overlook along the rim. There it is before you; one of the most magnificent sights on the face of the earth, a place that Theodore Roosevelt said could not be improved upon, the Grand Canyon. As you stop, basking in its glory, you are grateful to share the moment with your family. Then the perfection is shattered. The “whomp, whomp, whomp” of helicopters hovering above you shatters the quiet. In five minutes you are transported back to hustle and bustle of your busy life and your 12-year-old is now more interested in the helicopter than the vast canyon.

A similar story could be told about Yellowstone National Park, where the sounds of bursting geysers, bubbling mud pots, and chattering trumpeter swans get drowned out by the roar of snowmobiles in the wintertime.

National parks have a “wow factor” that captivates us — incredible views, natural wonders and amazing stories. During these trips, visitors look for experiences where you can take a moment to hear and see new things. If you visit a national park when you are a child, years later when you take your child or your grandchild you expect a similar experience. That is the promise made when a National Park site is designated. Most people come away from their visits inspired by their experience and ready to add another park to their bucket list.

Recently, the National Parks Service (NPS) announced a new winter plan for Yellowstone, which could double the amount of snowmobiles entering the park each day. This is concerning because the technology once promised to become cleaner and quieter is actually getting worse. The snowmobile manufacturers promised to improve these vehicles, but they are noisier and more polluting than the models built seven years ago. Sadly, the National Park Service’s latest proposal to increase snowmobile use is taking us backwards.

Additionally, Congress just weeks ago subverted a nearly final plan to reduce helicopter and other air tour noise heard by visitors enjoying the overlooks and hiking trails in the Grand Canyon. By sneaking in an amendment to the recent transportation bill, Congress carelessly cast aside the time, money, and public involvement spent on developing a new air tour plan for the Grand Canyon. That plan was fair for all visitors — it allowed air tours to continue while identifying areas where visitors on the ground could enjoy noise free areas. While these two actions individually directly impact these two National Parks, on a wider scale they contravene the NPS policies that promise visitors the opportunity to hear natural sounds — a wolf howling, a rushing river, or bursting water from Old Faithful.

Are we going to allow more noise in our National Parks?

National Parks are special and unique places where families can share a sense of wonder and pride that we take care of these awe-inspiring places just as President Roosevelt expressed. Is our generation giving up on the protection we have provided to these places? By downgrading protections for our greatest National Parks in order to allow noisy vehicles to drown out nature, we are not protecting these wonderful experiences so many generations before us have enjoyed. NPCA believes every generation deserves the chance to hear the sounds of nature (not just machines) that people expect in our National Parks.


Arizona Senators attempt to defend their actions…..poorly

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

Grand Canyon, Arizona. The canyon, created by ...

by John McCain and Jon Kyl – Jul. 21, 2012 12:00 AM

Our Turn

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.

Thanks to the Grand Canyon River Guides Association for this info.

Congressional end run on Grand Canyon National Park overflights – need your help!

Calling all Grand Canyon National Park Advocates:

Don’t know if you saw the AZ Republic front page headline the other day, but Congress (mainly Senators McCain and Kyl and Congressman Gosar in the House of Representatives) has basically torpedoed the Overflights EIS by sneaking in an amendment to the enormous transportation bill that just passed. The amendment basically locks in the status quo and may negate any improvements the park would make in the yet-to-be-released Final EIS and Record of Decision. You can read the article here:

Also, please see the attached fact sheet about this current situation. We’re asking for park advocates like you to write letters to the editors to their local newspapers expressing your thoughts (disbelief, displeasure, outrage, all of the above…) about this end run by Congress, the enormous waste of taxpayer dollars, and the disenfranchisement of all of us who weighed in on the draft EIS in order to restore natural quiet in our icon park. Why should noisy commercial air tours be allowed to damage the Grand Canyon’s natural quiet?

To make things easy, here are a few links to the “letter to the editor” forms for newspapers that may be in your area:

Arizona Daily Sun:
Arizona Republic:
Prescott Daily Courier:
Las Vegas Sun:
Salt Lake City Tribune: (scroll down for instructions)

If you don’t see your newspaper listed here, it is easy just to Google it. GCRG has members in all fifty states, so lets’ do a media blitz!

And if you’d also like to decry this Congressional sneak attack and “end run” around the EIS process direct to your Congressional representatives, you can do so at:

This was a complete surprise to the NPS and indeed to many other Congressional representatives who are environmental friends as well. It remains to be seen how the NPS will respond and what the fate of the EIS will be. But we’re not ready to give up….

Thanks for your help and please forward as you see fit.

Grand Canyon River Guides

Overflights Fact Sheet 07 03 2012 – final-1.pdf