Crater Lake National Park Given Power to Ban Sightseeing Flights

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Sightseeing flights over national parks long have been contentious. Officials at Grand Canyon National Park have grappled with buzzing helicopters and droning planes, they’ve been an issue at Denali National Park and Preserve, Mount Rainier National Park, and many other park units.

One of the big issues is who should have the final say on policy between the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration. Well, at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, the issue was recently decided when the president signed into law a bill that reauthorized the FAA. Amended to the bill was language crafted by U.S. senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley that gives Crater Lake officials the final say on what, if any, overflights will be permitted.

When the Senate first approved the language back in 2010, the two Democrats said it was intended to preserve the quiet nature of Crater Lake.

“I see this as a first step in keeping our national parks free of noise pollution that can ruin visitors’ experience of our national treasures,” Sen. Wyden said at the time. “From today on, the precious quiet of Crater Lake will be something future generations can count on as much as we do today.”

“This is an important provision to preserve this special place,” added Sen. Merkley. “Future generations should be able to travel there without noise disruptions and enjoy the same experience travelers from all over the world see today.”

Crater Lake officials are still a ways from exercising their authority, as they’re in the second year of a study of the impacts overflights could have on the park.

Still, in recognizing the final success of that legislation, National Parks Conservation Association officials wrote Wyden to thank him for his efforts.

“On behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and especially our more than 5,000 Oregon members, we want to thank you for your successful efforts to protect the natural soundscapes and overall park experience at Crater Lake National Park,” wrote Sean Smith, NPCA’s policy director. “Specifically, we greatly appreciate your efforts to protect the park from the impact of disruptive, intrusive sight-seeing helicopter air tours.”

At the same time, Mr. Smith urged Sen. Wyden not to stop at Crater Lake.

“Unfortunately, the need for this legislation illustrates a larger, still unresolved problem: the confusion between the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration over who has primary authority to determine the impact of sight-seeing air tours on park resources,” the NPCA official wrote.

In affiliation with National Parks Traveler. Environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. Photo by Christopher Boswell/Shutterstock. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit www.patagonia.com.

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