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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

March 17, 2010
Contact: Kristina Johnson, Sierra Club, 415.977.5619

Sen. McCain's Rider Threatens Grand Canyon National Park

Last-minute Rider Would Lock-in Aircraft Noise and Lock Out the Public and the National Park Service

Phoenix, Ariz. -- In a secret attempt to permanently destroy years of progress toward restoring natural quiet to Grand Canyon National Park, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is attempting to attach a harmful rider onto unrelated legislation now being voted on in the U.S. Senate. The McCain rider derails progress on efforts to resolve aircraft noise at the Grand Canyon by legislating the existing conditions and by preventing the National Park Service from trying to improve protections for natural quiet at America's premier national park.

"The McCain rider is a blatant giveaway to the commercial air tour industry and a direct attack on Grand Canyon National Park," said Sandy Bahr, Director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter. "It prevents the National Park Service from managing a vital piece of the visitor experience at our flagship national park -- the natural quiet of this world class treasure, one of the quietest places on Earth."

The Grand Canyon is one of the quietest national parks, but commercial aircraft disturb this natural quiet and compromise the experience for visitors who come to the national park for contemplation and reflection.

The McCain rider defines "substantial restoration of natural quiet," required at Grand Canyon by the National Parks Overflight Act of 1987, to 50 % of the park for 75% of the time. This weak definition is one the National Park Service was trying to improve with its environmental analysis, due later this year.

"The current noise reduction levels mean that half of the Grand Canyon can be a total 'noise sacrifice zone,' while the 'protected' part still allows aircraft noise to be heard up to once every 4 minutes," said Bahr. "We can and should do better than that at the Grand Canyon."

The National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration are coming together around a common planning process, but Senator McCain's rider threatens to derail the entire effort to protect Grand Canyon National Park. The environmental impact statement is due later this year, but if the McCain rider passes then the public will not have any voice and no changes can be made in the future.

"If this becomes law, then the only thing that visitors and the National Park Service can do about commercial air tour noise at the Grand Canyon will be to listen to it," added Rob Smith, Senior Field Organizing Manager for the Sierra Club in Phoenix. "President Teddy Roosevelt called upon Americans to protect the Grand Canyon, but his words are not being heard above the noise today."

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