Although Congress passed legislation in 1987 limiting where tourist-toting planes and helicopters could go over Grand Canyon National Park, the number of flights has nearly doubled. The National Park Service says noise pervades almost every nook and cranny of the park, even though 44 percent of it is off-limits to aircraft.
"The law has not substantially
succeeded in restoring quiet," says park superintendent Boyd
Evison. "They (the air-tour operators) know that, too."
Where the law failed, Evison hopes new
regulations may succeed. "I believe we can substantially improve
our control of noise without destroying people's livelihoods," says
Representatives of the booming air-tour
industry see the situation differently. At a three-day workshop in
March, they cited public opinion polls that said most people don't
mind the noise. Roger Clark, who attended the meetings on behalf of
the Grand Canyon Trust, says, "They argued that what should be
allowed in national parks should be a popularity contest."
But the Park Service's Evison says he made it
clear that new regulations were on the way. "I certainly can
understand their viewpoint, but we're not just trying to find a
middle ground," says Evison. "We're trying to do what's right."
While the specifics of the new rules are still
unknown, some observers say they expect them to include an
enlargement of noise-free areas in the park, restrictions on the
daily number of flights, and a package of incentives for tour
operators using quieter craft or carrying more people per trip.
These measures have all been advocated by a coalition of
The push to implement
tougher regulations coincides with a nationwide initiative
announced March 15 to control overflights at all national parks.
Environmentalists, who contend that natural quiet is as important a
park resource as wildlife or scenery, praise this move by the Park
Service and Federal Aviation Administration.
have tough rules that prohibit low-flying aircraft over the White
House and the Hollywood Bowl," says Paul Pritchard, president of
the National Parks and Conservation Association. "It's ludicrous to
allow hundreds of flights to buzz parks like the Grand Canyon day
in and day out."
Air-tour operators at the Grand
Canyon are feeling the sting of another new policy announced last
month by the Park Service. Companies that fly tourists over the
park must now pay a $25 "entrance fee" for every flight. With
187,000 flights in and out of Grand Canyon Airport on the park's
south rim annually, the fee will generate a sizeable chunk of
But environmentalists criticize the Park
Service for delaying the fee's implementation. Congress authorized
the fee last August and scheduled it to take effect last Oct. 1.
The loss in revenue is some $300,000 over the past five
For more information, contact Grand
Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023