Proposed Regulations Threaten Aerial Tours of National Parks and Monuments

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National Park Service Proposals Will Limit Access to “America’s Crown Jewels”

Alexandria, VA, June 15, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Your opportunity to tour US national parks and memorials by air will end if the National Park Service (NPS) has its way. Recent proposed NPS plans, if approved, will eliminate public access to aerial tours over lands administered by the agency.

The NPS is proposing air tour management plans (ATMPs) and associated environmental assessments for four parks in two states: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and Haleakalā National Park in Hawaii, and Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. The draft ATMPs for the two South Dakota locations eliminate ALL air tours; those proposed for the Hawaii sites cut air tours by 50% or more. The NPS is issuing similar restrictions on aerial tours of other parks and monuments throughout the United States.

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“Our national parks and monuments draw 318 million visitors each year to experience their iconic natural beauty,” says James Viola, president and CEO of Helicopter Association International (HAI). “Limiting people’s access to our national parks—which after all belong to the American people—goes against the very reason why they were created.”

Besides closing off opportunities for thousands of visitors to enjoy the park experience, the NPS aims to cut back air-tour flights to such a degree that some tour operations will close.

“Helicopter tour businesses buy fuel and supplies from other local businesses. Their employees have mortgages, buy groceries, and pay taxes,” says Mark Schlaefli, owner of Dakota Rotors. “Aerial tourism is a generator for tourist traffic, bringing in people who stay and spend with other businesses in the area. These ATMPs will have a significant economic impact on smaller communities that are dependent on tourism.”

The public comment period for the draft plans will end Jun. 20, 2023, and HAI is urging everyone who values our national parks to voice their support for aerial tours by clicking on the links below. Because the government counts form letters as a single comment, HAI asks that respondents take a moment to personalize their response and share their reasons why the flights should continue:

“I urge the public to get involved and show their support for keeping our national parks open to all,” adds Viola. “The Park Service will continue to produce these ATMPs for other lands administered by them, so it is important that everyone speaks up now, even if the current proposals do not affect them directly. I suggest you also forward this message to your friends and colleagues so that the Park Service hears us loud and clear.”

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HAI is the professional trade association for the global helicopter industry and represents more than 1,100 companies and over 16,000 industry professionals in more than 65 countries. Each year, HAI members safely operate more than 3,700 helicopters and remotely piloted aircraft approximately 2.9 million hours. HAI is dedicated to the promotion of the helicopter as a safe, effective business tool that provides unique advantages to society and to the advancement of the international vertical aviation community.

CONTACT: Dan Sweet Helicopter Association International +1 503-970-4449 [email protected] 

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