Park Service and FAA review Glacier helicopter tour plan
WESTERN GLACIER – A new plan will manage how helicopter tours will be conducted over Glacier National Park in the coming years, which will achieve a goal outlined in the overall management plan approved there. over 20 years ago.
In a recent online meeting, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Park Service (NPS) explained the Glacier Air Circuit Management Plan project as a way to allow existing circuits to continue, but with controls that have not been put in place.
“Preserving natural sounds and protecting cultural and natural resources, wilderness and preserving the visitor experience is a priority,” said Acting Glacier National Park Superintendent Pete Webster.
“It protects the park’s resources by specifically placing restrictions on certain activities. It restricts hovering. It limits flights to one hour after sunrise,” Glacier Nation Park spokeswoman Gina Kerzman noted. The rules will also be in effect one hour before sunset.
Under the provisional operating authorization, the park’s control over the air circuits had been quite limited, including the routes taken. In the past, some flew north to Canada, but now tours will be maintained at a minimum of 2,600 feet above ground level, in a pair of loops on the west side.
“One of the other parts of the plan is that it removes the northern route that the air tour operators took. It went through the Divide and all the great valleys in the northern part of the park. Removing that route would provide greater wildlife and wilderness protection recommended in this part of the park. ”- Gina Kerzman, Glacier National Park spokesperson
There are only three operators who still hold permits to conduct tours, using a combination of planes and the draft plan foresees not to add any new operators in the coming years.
There had been as many as five tour operators earlier this year, and the three-year average of flights over the park has fallen to 144 flights per year, not counting companies that have pulled out. This will therefore be the limit for the remaining operators. In addition, no new operator will be allowed to fly over Glacier.
“So the plan includes a provision that once an air tour operator sells or ceases operations, its operating license expires and it is not transferable. In the long term, therefore, the goal is to eliminate visits. aerials in Glacier National Park, ”Kerzman explained. .
This is in line with the objectives of the 1999 General Management Plan which provided for the eventual elimination of air travel.
“The goal is that the current operators that are currently operating can continue to operate, but under a more stringent plan, and then completely eliminate aerial tours over Glacier National Park,” Kerzman told MTN News.
The public comment period has ended as the FAA and NPS continue to work on the plan.