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NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

Contacts:
Rob Smith (602) 432-2995
Sandy Bahr (602) 999-5790
Kristina Johnson (415) 977-5619

Sierra Club Calls for Strong Action to Restore Natural Quiet of the Grand Canyon

Praises release of Park Service draft plan as important stepto restore essential experience of Grand Canyon

Phoenix, AZ – Today, the Sierra Club applauded the U.S. National Park Service’s release of a proposal to restore natural quiet to Grand Canyon National Park, and urged the Park Service to implement strong rules to reduce noise pollution from commercial air tours in one of the nation’s most precious and unique natural places.    

“The National Park Service is taking an important step towards restoring the natural quiet that is an essential part of the Grand Canyon’s unmatched beauty,” said Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter. “Arizonans and tens of millions of out-of-town visitors are uniting to call for the Park Service to implement strong noise pollution controls to help restore the astonishing beauty and natural quiet of the Grand Canyon.”

“We are excited to see this long-anticipated proposal,” said Sierra Club Resilient Habitats Campaign Director Fran Hunt.  “Now it is the public’s turn to weigh in on how best to restore natural quiet at the Grand Canyon.  Hopefully voices for the national park will be heard over the aircraft noise.”

The Park Services’ environmental impact statement has been pending for more than 20 years, since the U.S. Congress passed the 1987 Overflights Act that was intended to bring about “substantial restoration of natural quiet" to the Grand Canyon.  The Act directed the National Park Service to study the impacts of overflying aircraft on the Canyon’s environment, implement rules including flight restrictions over the park, and to prepare a report for Congress to determine whether or not the new rules had substantially restored natural quiet to the Park.

Since 1974 when Congress first directed the park to address aircraft noise issues, helicopter and fixed wing tours in the Grand Canyon have increased dramatically, almost ten to one.  The latest annual count from 2009 was more than 80,000 air tour related flights over the park.  Because of the low background sound levels, aircraft noise is particularly audible and annoying in the park.

“There’s no question that noise pollution here in our nation’s crown jewel National Park has gotten out of control,” said Dick Hingson, a local resident and member of Sierra Club’s National Parks Committee. “Sometimes when I go hiking and dozens of loud choppers are buzzing overhead, I feel like I’m at an airport, not the Grand Canyon.  We need to restore the Canyon’s natural silence.”

Jim McCarthy, an Arizona resident and member of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter’s Executive Committee, agrees.  

“I believe in the transcendent spiritual experience of the Grand Canyon, and I don’t want to see that destroyed for future generations,” McCarthy says.  “The noise regulations are even more important for my family, because my wife cannot tolerate loud noise because of an injury she suffered. We need the National Park Service to restore the beautiful quiet of the Grand Canyon so that there is somewhere left for contemplative recreation – a place to recharge our batteries.”

The National Park Services’ release of the draft environmental impact statement marks the start of a four-month period during which the public will be encouraged to submit comments on the plan.  The Sierra Club plans to mobilize thousands of its members and concerned citizens to urge the Park Service to implement stringent rules governing noise pollution, especially from aircraft tour rides and other tourism ventures that generate significant noise levels.  Sierra Club members will urge the Park Service to resist making concessions to the FAA and air tourism industry.

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The Sierra Club is America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 1.3 million members and supporters nationwide. The club works to protect the health of our environment and to preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation.   For more information on the Sierra Club, please visit www.sierraclub.org.

2009 News Release Archive

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