For Immediate Release
Sean Smith, Policy Director,
National Parks Group Urges Federal Aviation Administration and Park Service to Protect Mount Rainier
Wilderness Group submits comments outlining concerns on Air Tour Management Plan
SEATTLE - The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA)
today filed scoping comments with the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) on a potential Air Tour Management Plan Environmental Assessment,
which will determine if sightseeing overflights should be continued,
and if so, how they will be conducted in Mount Rainer National Park.
Citing public safety concerns, potential impacts to wildlife
habitat, and potentially adverse experiences for the millions of people
who visit Mount Rainier annually, NPCA urged the FAA to consider broad
alternatives for flight management, including no flights at all. The
group also called for the completion of a legally required
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the issue.
“We go to places like Mount Rainier National Park to get away from
the sights and sounds that surround us in our daily lives, like
aircraft buzzing overhead,” said Sean Smith, NPCA’s policy director and
private pilot. “Given the iconic wilderness that surrounds Mount
Rainier, sightseeing overflights—if not properly managed—can disrupt
natural sounds, dislocate wildlife, and reduce visitor enjoyment.”
NPCA recommends that the FAA and the Park Service consider or
include the following as the federal Air Tour Management Plan process
continues for Mount Rainier National Park:
Mount Rainier National Park’s
topography and unpredictable weather challenges even experienced
pilots. Over the past 50 years there have been at least 15 aviation
crashes in the park resulting in 68 deaths. The park’s topography and
weather also make search and rescue operations difficult, so the plan
should include expected costs of search and rescue efforts.
With nearly half the park in
subalpine, alpine or ice environments, air tour noise has the ability
to impact large sections of the park where there is no tree cover, as
well as the experience of most park visitors.
The wildlife that lives in the
park’s various habitats will each react differently to air tours. The
assessment must pay particular attention to high elevation wildlife
such as the Pika, Marmot and Mountain Goat, as they will bear a
disproportionate burden of these impacts.
The Environmental Assessment should include these three alternatives for analysis:
1. No commercial air tours over the park (focus on viewing the mountain from airspace beyond the park boundary).
air tours capped at the current level of 114 per year, with existing
percentages of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
air tours capped at the current level of 114 per year, with stricter
limits on helicopter tours as a percentage of total tours.
NPCA's full comments are available here (PDF, 1.5 MB).
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association
(NPCA) has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting
our national parks. With 325,000 members and supporters, NPCA is the
largest independent, membership organization dedicated to protecting
the natural, cultural, and historic treasures of our National Park
System. Our mission is to protect and enhance our national parks today
for our children and grandchildren tomorrow.
NPCA is a non-profit, private organization dedicated to protecting, preserving, and enhancing the U.S. National Park System.