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Restoring Natural Quiet to the Grand Canyon

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Council on Environmental Quality

March 28, 2000

President Clinton today announced new measures to restore "natural quiet" to the Grand Canyon by better managing sight-seeing flights over the National Park. The new rules continue to allow visitors to view the Canyon by air, but limit noise by significantly expanding "flight-free" zones over the Park and by restricting future growth in commercial air tour operations.

Restoring Natural Quiet. In 1996, concerned that noise from overflights was interfering with visitors' enjoyment of Grand Canyon National Park, the President directed the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a joint strategy for restoring the Park's natural quiet. Today's action, in the form of new FAA rules, reflects close consultation with local businesses, Native American tribes, and the conservation community.

A Peaceful Park Experience. The new rules, which will take effect later this year, establish new and modified air tour routes over and around the Grand Canyon, and require aircraft to increase their maximum flight elevation (altitude) from 14,499 feet to 17,999 feet. The rules also establish an innovative allocation system for limiting air tour flights over the park.

  • New Flight Zones: The rules expand the portion of the park protected by Flight Free Zones (FFZ) from 45 percent to 75 percent. They also expand the Grand Canyon National Park Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) to cover nearly the entire park. In addition, FAA is proposing an "incentive corridor" where aircraft meeting stricter noise standards would be permitted to fly.
  • Limiting the Number of Flights: One provision, effective in 30 days, establishes the first limits ever on the number of overflights, capping them at present levels. Flights will be allocated among air tour operators based on the number each flew in the year beginning May 1, 1997. Allocations can be transferred among air tour operators. The number of allocations may be revised in the future, depending on progress in noise reduction.

Other Steps to Protect Other National Parks. As Americans visit their national parks in record numbers, the Administration is undertaking other new initiatives to ensure that future generations can also enjoy them in all their splendor. On Earth Day 1999, Vice President Gore announced a long-term strategy to restore pristine skies and unspoiled views to national parks and wilderness areas by reducing pollution from power plants, cars, and factories hundreds, even thousands of miles away. New transportation plans emphasizing the use of public transit and clean fuels will help reduce congestion and pollution in major parks, including the Grand Canyon, where a light rail system is planned. A clean-fueled shuttle bus system at Acadia National Park carried over 140,000 passengers in its first summer of operation, and similar shuttles will soon be introduced at Zion National Park. And a new master plan proposed this week for Yosemite Valley will ease crowding and restore developed areas to natural conditions.

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