The Las Vegas effect

  • Ray Ring

 

On a recent visit to Las Vegas, Nev., I strolled along the Strip, checking out the extravagant casino hotels and ogling tourists from around the world who had come to gamble and be entertained. Popular shows included hypnotist magicians, Cirque du Soleil's spinning acrobats, and four tuxedoed white Australians singing classic Motown hits.

Vegas is always a hoot. But I was amazed by the many hucksters selling Grand Canyon National Park air tours. Storefronts along the Strip have garish signs promoting the flights; there are fliers and ads everywhere. The air-tour companies will even send a limo to your hotel to whisk you to a nearby airport, where they'll load you onto a helicopter or plane heading to the canyon.

I know the thrill. About 25 years ago, I bought a helicopter flight in Tusayan, Ariz., a Grand Canyon gateway town. I'll never forget the rush as the helicopter flew toward the rim and suddenly the ground dropped and the spectacular abyss opened up all around us.

I took that flight because I was writing about how aircraft noise disturbs hikers and other canyon visitors who want peace and quiet. John Dougherty's cover story for this issue of HCN explores how the controversy has evolved since then. The National Park Service has finally released a draft environmental impact statement, making recommendations for reducing the noise and conflicts. The agency is accepting public comments until June 20.

The air tours are popular, and the industry has the backing of powerful Western senators. The Vegas hotel owners probably also want the air tours to continue; they attract more customers who then spend more nights on the Strip.

In Tusayan, the leading air-tour operator and some Italian developers are manipulating local politics to encourage the construction of major new hotels and other commercial projects. All this would impact the national park in many ways.

I have mixed feelings about the canyon flights. They haul a lot of people over the canyon and probably help build support for its general protection. But I've also experienced the conflicts. On our honeymoon 27 years ago, my wife and I backpacked from the North Rim, making a tough hike down to Deer Creek Falls and along the Colorado River and up Tapeats Creek, past Thunder River, a huge spring that roars from the rock wall. I've also taken an oar-powered raft trip through the canyon, feeling the natural touch of water, stone and sand. On both of those trips, the aircraft noise was a noticeable intrusion at times.

The demand for air tours is understandable. But the flight patterns should be adjusted to restore more of the natural quiet. The Grand Canyon is not just another Vegas sideshow.

High Country News Classifieds
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.