Anti-noise Advocates Lose Grand Teton Appeal

Aviation International News » July 2002
April 18, 2008, 10:09 AM

Anti-noise Advocates Lose Grand Teton Appeal
A federal appeals court has dismissed a bid by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Wilderness Society to bar helicopter air tours over Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming. Writing for a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Judge Judith Rogers ruled that the court decided in favor of the air-tour operator, Vortex Aviation Services, variously based in Jackson, Wyo., West Yellowstone, Mont., and El Cajon, Calif. In her decision, Judge Rogers held that the noise “issues are not fit for judicial review because, in the end, they lack sufficient concreteness and…would require the court to conduct a purely hypothetical inquiry.” The environmental groups claimed the air tours, which take place outside the park boundaries, still inflicted “irreparable harm” to the park’s wildlife and natural quiet. (It should be noted that, in the wilderness, a little noise goes a long way; and at roughly 484 sq mi, Grand Teton National Park is a fraction of the size of 1,904-sq-mi Grand Canyon National Park, a hotbed of anti-air-tour noise activism. This means that noise generated at or near the park boundaries will, in the Teton case, carry much farther into the park.) Like other air carriers serving Jackson Hole Airport, which lies inside the park boundary, Vortex has a special-use permit allowing its helicopters to transit this portion of park property. The environmental groups further challenged the court to review the FAA’s decision that the 2000 National Parks Air Tour Management Act did not prohibit sightseeing-for-hire activities, such as those conducted by Vortex. At present the courts seem to be upholding Vortex’s right to operate. Meanwhile, as the height of the summer tourist season approaches, the 1997 ban on tour flights over Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park remains in effect, as does a cap on the total number of air tours that may be flown over the Grand Canyon.

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