Efforts by the Grand Canyon National Park Service to curb noisy emissions from overhead aircraft have resulted in a deadlock with Congress legislators. Talks are still on and both parties are yet to meet middle ground on the issue of preserving the ‘Natural Quiet’ of the Grand Canyon National Park.
A survey initiated by the park service focused on hikers, air tour operators, rafters and other park visitors and collated large amounts of data. Results from the survey were in favor of preserving the sanctity and natural silence that the Park offers to countless visitors, by decreasing the number of aircraft tours that disrupt the sense of peace that pervades throughout the Canyon.
There are many sides to the issue. As the park service still keeps up its efforts to decrease noise from helicopters and small planes from flying overhead and the Congress promptly vetoing this move, environmental activists have begun to accuse legislators of accepting bribes from air tour operators. Air tour operators maintain that there is a high demand for Grand Canyon tours and shutting down these operations will result in the loss of hundreds of jobs – an unwelcome scenario in an already tottering national economy. This $120 million-a-year tour industry, which operates out of both Nevada and Arizona has provided 1,250 jobs in Arizona and the Las Vegas area alone, and claims to have already invested substantial amounts in the development of quiet aircraft technology. Tour operators are being given increasing incentive to adopt and convert their fleet to quiet technology.
The National Park’s move is to ban aircraft tours from 77% of the park; even if the park service goes ahead and announces this final noise rule, it can easily be superseded by the Congress.
One opinion is that since the air tour industry is only allowed to fly over Canyon from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in the summer and from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm in the winter, there is a lot of free time for people to enjoy ‘natural quiet’. Another opinion focuses on the effect of money on governance and wants the decades-long efforts to restore natural quiet to one of America’s most-loved scenic wonders, to fruition.