Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Quieter Canyon

The National Park Service has an interesting plan to increase flights over the Grand Canyon (that right, increase flights), while making the Canyon quieter overall. The plan calls for an end to non-tourist flights over the Canyon and the implementation of noise reducing technologies on low flying aircraft over the next ten years. Read more details here.

This is just another chapter in the ongoing saga in our National Parks' quest to balance recreation and conservation. Animals will certainly benefit from the quieter, more natural environment and hikers, who have often griped about the intrusion of noisy aircraft into their backcountry solitude, will appreciate it too.

Of course, the air tour companies and their lobbyists are upset. Ask the greedy bastards to make less noise with their aircraft and they start making more noise with their mouths. They're complaining about regulation, saying that it is unfair and will negatively affect their profits. This A.P. article cites the president of the United States Air Tours Association here:

"Steve Bassett, president of the United States Air Tour Association, said setting the goal at more than 50 percent is "unconscionable" and would drive the industry out of business."

Interestingly enough, a search for the United States Air Tour Association doesn't find a website for the USATA. The first link is a law suit they filed against the FAA, in which the court rejected the USATA's case. You should read the outlandish stuff they claim, such as their assertion that only half the Grand Canyon's visitors see the Canyon on foot. 

If air tours lose some money because of this noise regulation, too bad. The way I see it, they're lucky to make a profit off of a National Park in the first place. It's not just their land, it's ours. Parks should be run in such a way as to make them as pleasurable as possible for the largest number of people while keeping a close eye on the environmental impacts of recreation; those who wish to profit off parks do so at their own risk, knowing that environmental and recreational regulations will occur differently than with private land. They have no greater claim to the Grand Canyon skies than the people and animals on the ground.

I've taken a helicopter tour of the Canyon and it was terrific, but it wouldn't be any worse in a quieter helicopter.

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