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Responding to years of public pressure, two Acts of Congress, as well as Presidential Executive Order, the Federal Aviation Administration has finally released a proposed rule designed to help mitigate the noise problems created by the unbridled growth of the air tour industry over Grand Canyon. Although in several ways this rule falls short of the goal to substantially restore natural quiet, we hope that it could be the first step towards ending the continued degradation of natural sounds within Grand Canyon.

The FAA rule proposes to nearly double the amount of "flight-free zone" area over the park, protecting an unbroken stretch of river and backcountry area from Point Sublime to Toroweap Overlook. Also a new flight-free zone has been proposed for Marble Canyon from Lee's Ferry to the Little Colorado River. The Fossil Corridor, largely unused by the air tour industry, would be closed. However, the eastern heart of the Canyon is still broken up by two air tour routes - the Dragon Corridor, which crosses the river in the quiet stretch just above Crystal Rapid and was recommended for closure by the NPS - and the Zuni Corridor, just west of Desert View, both heavily used by air tours.

Also the draft rule suggests a 2-year cap on the number of air tour flights, to be held at 1995 levels. However, this cap MUST be permanent and immediate; it is the most vital component of any sincere effort to restore natural quiet to Grand Canyon.

When the National Park Service studied the impacts of the rapidly expanding air tour industry, they determined that in 1989, only 43% of the Park was free of the drone of tour aircraft. More recent studies have shown alarming deterioration to only 31% of the Park experiencing natural sounds in 1995. Further, the NPS estimates that, if new measures are not taken, that figure is expected to fall to a mere 10%.

A 1995-level moratorium would still allow for the 800,000 people who currently fly over the Park every year on more than 100,000 flights. Setting the cap at 1987 levels would still allow for some 50,000 annual flights, a level Congress already deemed inappropriate when they passed the Overflights Act that year. Either way, this rule will allow visitors to continue to tour the Canyon by air, while allowing those on the ground to find solitude.


Urge him to force the FAA to do what he - and Congress - directed them to do. Please ask him to help protect natural quiet in Grand Canyon.

You may express your views via Internet to:

to: president@whitehouse.gov
cc: gcrg@infomagic.com

You can also send written comments to:

President Clinton
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

and send a copy to:

The Honorable Frederico Pena
Secretary of Transportation
400 Seventh St., SW
Washington, DC 20590

It would also help to send copies to your senators and congressmen.

Please tell them how important natural quiet is to you at national parks like the Grand Canyon; relate specific experiences if you have them. Also, please stress these most important points:

  1. An immediate and permanent limitation on the number of flights is the most vital component of any effort to substantially restore natural quiet to Grand Canyon. 1987 levels would still allow for visitation by air as well as allow those on the ground to find solitude.

  2. The rule should call for a gradual shift to eventually make Grand Canyon airspace available to only the quietest aircraft.

  3. Grand Canyon is not a giant cash register, but the crown jewel of our national park system, and a World Heritage Site. Offering tours for economic gain within our national parks is a privilege, not a right.

  4. Flight Free Zones should be implemented as proposed, including the new zones protecting Marble Canyon and Western Grand Canyon.

  5. The National Park Service's definition of natural quiet should prevail; their expertise, after all, is resource protection. The FAA is attempting to redefine natural quiet in order to protect the profits of the air tour industry. The FAA should instead focus only on public safety.

For more information, contact:

Grand Canyon River Guides
P.O. Box 1934
Flagstaff, AZ 86002
(520) 773-1075 phone
(520) 773-8523 fax

or visit our Natural Quiet web site at: http://www.rhinonet.com/quiet/

This is really important. The economic interests of the air tour industry are a powerful force. We need your help.

Jeri Ledbetter
Vice President
Grand Canyon River Guides

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