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Death Valley in Queue for FAA Air Tour Management Planning

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Death Valley has become the sixth National Park to initiate a formal Air Tour Management Plan process since the 2000 passage of legislation mandating such plans in National Parks with commercial helicopter or plane overflights.  It’s the first new plan to begin since 2004, when similar planning began at Lake Mead, Mt. Rushmore, and Badlands National Park, and two Hawaii national parks.  The process, under the auspices of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  has been shockingly slow; initial scoping (information gathering) for Environmental Assessments or EISs took place in 2004 and 2006 in these parks, but there have yet to be any draft EISs released.  Air tour management began at the Grand Canyon well before the 2000 legislation, and continues to move slowly toward final resolution.

At Death Valley, existing helicopter tours operators are hoping that the new process will not limit their activities, which have so far seemed to not cause significant visitor conflicts.  Death Valley also is home to a small airport at which up to 30 private planes land each day, mostly day trippers from Las Vegas or southern California.  The decision to proceed with an ATMP was made at a late June meeting of the National Parks Overflight Advisory Group (NPOAG) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). The ARC is hoping to expedite the process at Death Valley by having all stakeholders more directly involved from the beginning, in hopes of demonstrating a process that can complete ATMPs in a more timely fashion at other parks in the future.  Full minutes of that meeting are available here.

See FAA ATMP website

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