Can a two billion year old national park wait two months to keep helicopter noise down? Not if John McCain, with his notorious hair trigger temper, has his way. This afternoon, the Senate will vote on his Sendate amendment 3528, duplicitously claiming to promote "substantial restoration of natural quiet" in the Grand Canyon, attached to an unrelated bill.

His amendment seeks to make an end run around the environmental impact process close to finishing its work and disregard public opinion. Can you please email or call your Senators today?
McCain helped pass the National Parks Overflight Act of 1987, which was supposed to limit the amount of helicopter flights over national parks. However, its implementation has been delayed by lawsuits and jurisdictional wrangling between the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration. Last summer, the two agencies began to work together on reasonable compromises. The two agencies are only a few weeks away from releasing an environmental impact study regarding the noise, after which the public will have the opportunity to comment.

Unless Senator McCain deprives us of that chance to be heard.

During the 1987 Senate floor debate, McCain said “When it comes to a choice between the interests of our park system, and those who profit from it, without a doubt, the interests of the land must come first.” Running to the right in a primary against a teabagger, he seems to have forgotten those words.

His rider to an unrelated bill on FAA authorizations, H.R. 1586, would define "substantial restoration of natural quiet" as 50% of the park for 75% of the time — in other words, half the park can be noisy as all heck and the other half can suffer through a helicopter flight one out of every four minutes. The NPS-FAA document, coming soon, will improve the definition, but apparently he doesn’t want it improved. His amendment would also make it impossible to reduce the number of air tours over the park and would create a process to increase them. And if his amendment passes, public opinion will likewise be disregarded. He says he doesn’t want to wait any longer for the NPS plan. Not even a couple of months, Senator McCain?

The Sierra Club seeks public help to oppose the amendment, and the National Parks Conservation Association also asks people to call their Senators against McCain’s plan. McCain’s amendment is supported by both Nevada senators, because many flights over the Canyon originate in Las Vegas, but opposed by Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

Please make one call to your Senators to tell them:

I oppose Senator McCain’s Amendment 3528 because it’ll increase, not decrease, noise in the Grand Canyon. The National Park Service is only weeks away from releasing a plan calling for public input, but McCain’s amendment seeks an end run around the voice of the people.

People visit the Grand Canyon to experience the profound stillness of a vast chasm. They don’t visit it to hear helicopters buzzing overhead. The National Park Service has been working for months, if not years, to limit unnatural noises, and the EIS will give the public an opportunity to comment. McCain’s temper tantrum shouldn’t trump our voice.