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Hawaii Volcanoes NP publishes draft air tour management alternatives

Effects of Noise on Wildlife, Human impacts, News, Science, Wildlands Comments Off on Hawaii Volcanoes NP publishes draft air tour management alternatives

In what must be one of the slowest EIS processes on record, the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration is moving…methodically…to develop a new air tour management plan (ATMP) for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  After being upgraded from an EA to an EIS in 2005, the joint planning process began work on the EIS in 2007.  Four years later, rather than releasing a Draft EIS, the project planners have released a first draft of the proposed alternatives, and are asking for comment on these.  After incorporating comments, the DEIS will follow.  Sometime.

All ribbing aside, the fact is that this is actually one of the faster moving ATMP’s coming out of the seemingly uncomfortable partnership between the FAA and the NPS, which were  jointly charged in 2000 with developing ATMPs for all parks with existing or proposed flight tours.  The Park Service has taken a lead among federal agencies in addressing impacts on natural soundscapes of parks, while the FAA’s focus is more on air safety than resource protection.

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“Hawai‘i Volcanoes is known for spectacular volcanic landscapes, significance of Native Hawaiian culture, Hawaiian species found nowhere else in the world, and for vast expanses of designated wilderness that stretch from summit to sea,” stated Cindy Orlando, Park Superintendent. “Whether it’s the crackling of new lava, song of a honeycreeper, or a magical Hawaiian chant floating across Halemaumau Crater or just silence—the soundscapes of Hawaii Volcanoes are unusual and valued as part of the park experience. We also protect some of the quietest places in the park service —secluded locations that are quieter than even humans can hear. Natural quiet is becoming an increasingly important attribute of the national parks.”

You can download a newsletter that shares the draft alternatives, and submit comments, from this page; see the full project planning website here; and check out a short video and news report on the process here.

Zion finalizes first NPS soundscape management plan

Human impacts, News, Wildlands Comments Off on Zion finalizes first NPS soundscape management plan

Zion National Park has become the first of its brethren to adopt a formal Soundscape Management Plan, the culmination of three years of work.  For the first time, soundscape measurement metrics that have been in development at the NPS Natural Sounds Program office in Ft. Collins, Colorado, will be driving forces in ongoing Park management and assessment procedures.  One of these metrics is the “noise-free interval,” or average time between the audible presence of human sound.  According to Frank Turina, an NPS Natural Sound Program planner, “Now it’s two to three minutes before you hear a human-caused sound, usually involving an overflight, and we want to expand that to a seven-minute period. If we meet that goal we will reassess the situation to see if a longer interval is warranted.”

While some environmental groups had pushed for the Park Service to set a higher standard for back country visitors, this first step, if successful, would effectively reduce sound intrusions to less than half their current level.  And the fact is, even this first step will depend on cooperation from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has so far been slow to take on the necessary shared responsibility for National Park overflight issues.

In more active areas of the Park, such as around visitor centers and within the first mile of trailheads, where the vast majority of visitors spend their time, the goal is to reduce noise by changing some Park staff and maintenance procedures. For example, the use of leafblowers may be reduced in favor of rakes, and new vehicles will be assessed for possible noise-reduction systems.  “Surveys have shown that 90 percent of people who visit the national parks want natural quiet and to be able to hear the sounds of nature,” said Kezia Nielson, who worked on the plan. “They cannot have that experience with human-caused sound.”

For more, see this article in the Salt Lake Tribune, or visit the NPS Natural Sounds Program website.