Helicopter Tour Operators Fight Proposed National Park Restrictions

Certain parks could limit or eliminate air tours if proposed rules take effect.

Helicopter tour operators are pushing back against flight restrictions proposed at four U.S. national parks that would affect or eliminate access to the parks by air tours.

The Helicopter Association International, or HAI, has called on its members and supporters to comment on the draft air traffic management plans published by the Nationals Park Service and the FAA, including “their reasons why the flights should continue.” The period for public feedback ends June 20.

“Both the NPS and the FAA are seeking public feedback on draft Air Tour Management Plans (ATMPs) and associated environmental assessments (EAs) proposed 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 HAI said in a statement.

“The current draft ATMPs for the two South Dakota locations eliminate all air tours; those proposed for the Hawaii sites cut air tours by 50 percent or more.” HAI added.

The group said the proposed restrictions would prevent thousands of visitors from enjoying the parks’ natural beauty and would result in some tour operations shutting down. Limiting air tour access to the parks also is likely to harm local economies, HAI said. 

“The purpose of the ATMP is to ensure that park resource values, including natural sounds, visitor experiences, wildlife, and other natural and cultural resources, are protected,” the NPS and FAA said in their statement regarding proposed restrictions at Mount Rushmore. Separate statements for each additional park contained similar wording.


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