Grand Canyon Overflights Amendment Fails

Nevada Senator John Ensign yesterday withdrew an amendment on Grand Canyon National Park overflights he co-sponsored with John McCain (R, AZ), Jon Kyl (R, AZ) and Harry Reid (D, NV).

The amendment received a blistering condemnation from Senator Jeff Bingaman (D, NM) on the floor of the Senate. When it was clear the amendment would not have enough votes to pass, neither Reid nor McCain blocked the procedural removal of it.

The McCain amendment would have reversed years of work by the Park Service, FAA and the full spectrum of stakeholders who had just recently completed a draft management plan to protect natural quiet in Grand Canyon National Park. The draft is due to be released within the next few weeks.

Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid introduced a similar amendment during the last Congressional Session. Reid appeared to be sponsoring legislation on behalf of a small handful of air tour stakeholders. Senator McCain was instrumental in stopping Reid’s prior amendment, citing the ongoing Working Group public process. Reid co-sponsored McCain’s amendment for the same small stakeholder group even as the larger cooperative stakeholder work was about to be implemented.

The amendment, favoring an increase in air tours over the park, came just weeks before the National Park Service is set to announce the release of a draft environmental assessment on the overflights issue.

According to sources on Capital Hill, Senate offices across the country received a large volume of phone calls from citizens who condemned McCain’s move to bypass the public process and damage Grand Canyon National Park’s soundscape.

River Runners for Wilderness would like to thank everyone who called and asked their Senators to protect natural quiet at Grand Canyon.