Should there be more uniformity across the National Park System when it comes to regulations pertaining to such activities as air tours, mountain biking, and personal watercraft use, just to name three sensitive issues?
That question seems timely in light of the recent attempt by U.S. Sen. John McCain to legislate air-tour rules for Grand Canyon National Park. At the exact same time, Oregon's senators were trying to legislate a ban against air tours over Crater Lake National Park.
In past years the late-Sen. Craig Thomas worked to control air tours over Grand Teton National Park. Interestingly, when the National Park Service Air Management Tour Act was adopted, it contained a ban against air tours over Rocky Mountain National Park. And now Mount Rainier officials are working to rewrite their Air Tour Management Plan.
Should the National Park Service work to be more uniform on such issues? Should there be a nationwide ban against air tours over national parks, or should the current process, which can be overrun by politics as the Grand Canyon and Crater Lake matters demonstrate, continue? How much should be read into the "national" prefix to these place names?
When U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon succeeded in getting the Senate to pass their amendment banning air tours over Crater Lake, a release from their offices stated that the amendment allows the Park Service the ability to deny air tours over the park without first having to prepare an air tour management plan, as is the case with every other National Park.
“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. “From today on, the precious quiet of Crater Lake will be something future generations can count on as much as we do today.”
Added Sen. Merkley: “Crater Lake is unique not only in the state of Oregon, but in the entire nation, in its natural beauty. This is an important provision to preserve this special place. Future generations should be able to travel there without noise disruptions and enjoy the same experience travelers from all over the world see today.”
Well, if that argument is good enough for Crater Lake, shouldn't it be good enough for the rest of the National Park System? Sen. Wyden didn't want to touch that question with his amendment.
"While we cannot agree on what to do about air tours over every single national park, we can agree that if we are going to ban them anywhere it should be Crater Lake," the senator stated in defending his amendment.