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August 26, 2010

Urgent Action Alert from the Nature Sounds Society--Comments needed on Soundscape Management Plan for Zion National Park before September 3

Zion National Park has issued a draft Soundscape Management Plan (SMP). This is the very first SMP to be issued by any national park, and other parks will use it as a template. Unfortunately, the park treated the scoping and public comment on the plan as a Utah local issue, and we and other national organizations have just learned of it near the end of the comment period.

 The plan and a link for posting comments can be found at:  

 http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=113&projectId=30628&documentID=35480

The plan expresses high ideals; that wilderness (comprising 90% of Zion NP) should be preserved "untrammeled by man," and that the sounds of aircraft and other machinery are "inappropriate" in wilderness. But then when it comes down to the actual technical standards proposed, human-generated noise is allowed for up to 25% of the time in the wilderness zone! 

This inconsistency is the result of the failure of the Air Tour Management Act of 2000, which mandated that a joint committee of the FAA and the NPS produce guidelines for low-altitude tourist flights over national parks. In ten years the committee has failed to come to an agreement, because the FAA's mission includes promoting aviation while the NPS's mission mandates maintaining natural quiet. The FAA controls the airspace over the parks, and negotiations haven't even started on the impact of high-altitude commercial air carriers. It would be a terrible mistake to codify this failure into standards for quiet in the parks. 

Please tell the NPS to stand its ground and set the highest standards for natural soundscapes in the parks, regardless of whether the current political climate makes it possible to meet those standards. Standards should be based on what should be, not on a political compromise. 

Please study the draft, note the 25% time audible (of human-generated sound) figure at the top of table 6 on p. 32, and submit a comment to Zion National Park asking that the standard be set to 0% time audible in the wilderness zone. 

Thanks, Sharon Perry

Chair, Nature Sounds Society

http://www.naturesounds.org - (415) 821-9776 - editor@naturesounds.org

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