Bryce Canyon National Park Air Tour Management Plan

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Dear Friends of Bryce Canyon National Park,

The National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have initiated development of the proposed Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) for Bryce Canyon National Park. The objective of this Plan is to develop acceptable and effective measures to mitigate or prevent the significant adverse impacts, if any, of commercial air tours on natural and cultural resources, visitor experiences and tribal lands.

As part of this process, we are inviting public feedback on the proposed ATMP for Bryce Canyon National Park. The proposed ATMP may be accessed under "Document List".

The NPS and the FAA will host a virtual public meeting regarding the plan during the 30-day comment period on Monday September 27, 2021 at 2:30-4:00 PM MT. A link to join the virtual public meetings may be accessed under "Meeting Notices". You are invited to attend this meeting to share your thoughts and ask NPS and FAA representatives any questions you may have.

We also invite you to submit written comments from September 3, 2021 thru October 3, 2021. On the left column, click on 'Open For Comment' to open the comment fields.

A summary of the proposed action, background information, and existing conditions for air tours at the Park is provided below.

PROPOSED ACTION:

Commercial air tours are currently conducted at Bryce Canyon as described under the "Existing Conditions" section below. The proposed action is to implement an Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) that would delineate acceptable levels of commercial air tours including, but not limited to, frequency, duration, altitude, and routes, consistent with the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 (Act). Congress developed the Act out of concern that noise from tour aircraft could harm national park resources and experiences for visitors.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:

The Act, as amended, requires that all commercial air tour operators conducting or intending to conduct a commercial air tour operation over a unit of the National Park system apply to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for authority to undertake such activity. The Act further requires the FAA, in cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS), to establish an ATMP or voluntary agreement for each park that did not have such a plan or agreement in place at the time the applications were made, unless a park has been otherwise exempted from this requirement.

The Act applies to areas within and 1/2 mile outside of a park, and to elevations below 5,000 feet above ground level (AGL). The Act requires that an ATMP include incentives for the adoption of quiet aircraft technology and provide for the allocation of opportunities to conduct air tours when the ATMP limits the number of operations.

An ATMP may prohibit commercial air tour operations (in whole or in part), and can establish conditions for the conduct of air tour operations (including routes, altitudes, time-of-day restrictions, restrictions for particular events, maximum numbers of flights, or other provisions).

In establishing an ATMP, the Act requires the agencies to publish the proposed plan for notice and comment and hold at least one public meeting. A virtual public meeting for this ATMP will be held on September 27 from 2:30 to 4:00 PM MT, and comments will be accepted thru October 3, 2021.

Air tours at Bryce Canyon National Park (BRCA) have been conducted since before the Act was enacted. The Act directed FAA to grant interim operating authority (IOA) to air tour operators that were already conducting tours at BRCA when the Act became effective until an ATMP was developed. An operator's IOA was based on the number of tours the operator reported it was conducting annually at the time the Act was passed. An IOA does not set routes or operating conditions for an operator except to limit the number of air tours the operator is permitted to fly each year. An ATMP was never completed for BRCA. Implementation of an ATMP will replace IOA.

EXISTING CONDITIONS:

Nine commercial air tour operators hold Interim Operating Authority (IOA) to conduct a combined total of 3,131 commercial air tours at the Park each year. Six of those operators have reported flying commercial air tours at the Park from 2017-2019. The table below presents the annual number of air tours flown by each of the active operators at the Park based on the three-year average of reporting data from 2017 to 2019, as well as each operator's IOA, aircraft type, routes, and altitudes. Commercial air tours may occur at any time and on any day of the week.

Under existing conditions, the annual number of commercial air tours at Bryce Canyon National Park is limited by the IOA; however, there are no designated parameters on route, time-of-day, or altitude restrictions to further protect Park resources or visitor experience. Currently, no procedures are in place that allow the Park to establish no-fly periods for special events or planned Park management. There are currently no training or education requirements for commercial air tour operators flying over the Park. The provisions and conditions in the proposed ATMP address these parameters in a manner designed to protect resources and visitor experiences from the effects of commercial air tours and support Park management objectives.

Existing Commercial Air Tour Operators and Their Current Stats:

Aero-Copters of Arizona, Inc. (Helivision, Canyon Airlines, Bryce Canyon Helicopters, Bryce Canyon Airlines)
- IOA: 1,481
- Annual Operations (2017-2019 Average): 462
- Aircraft Type: BELL-206-B, CE-206-206
- Routes/Altitudes: Five routes; 1,000 - 3,000 ft. AGL

Adams, Bruce M. (Southwest Safaris)
- IOA: 23
- Annual Operations: 1
- Aircraft Type: CE-182-R
- Routes/Altitudes: One route; 1,000 ft. AGL

American Aviation, Inc. (Frog Air, American Air Charter)
- IOA: 138
- Annual Operations: 3
- Aircraft Type: CE-172-N, CE-207-207, CE-207-T207A
- Routes/Altitudes: One route; 2,000 ft. AGL

Grand Canyon Airlines, Inc. (Grand Canyon Airlines, Scenic Airlines, Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines)
- IOA: 1,305
- Annual Operations: 38
- Aircraft Type: CE-208-B, DHC-6-300
- Routes/Altitudes: Three routes; 2,000 - 2,700 ft. AGL

Maverick Helicopters, Inc.
- IOA: 15
- Annual Operations: 1
- Aircraft Type: EC-130-B4, EC-130-T2
- Routes/Altitudes: Two routes; 1,000 ft. AGL

Papillon Airways, Inc. (Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, Grand Canyon Helicopters)
- IOA: 12
- Annual Operations: 10
- Aircraft Type: AS-350-B3, BHT-206-L1, BHT-206-L3, EC-130-B4, EC-130-T2, MDHS-MD-900
- Routes/Altitudes: Four routes; 300 ft. AGL

NOTE: AGL refers to altitude expressed in above ground level (AGL) units and is a measurement of the distance between the ground surface and the aircraft.

CONSULTATIONS:

Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act:
There are no records of the listed threatened Mexican Spotted Owl or the non-essential experimental population of the California Condor having a presence at BRCA, UT. However, critical habitat exist in the project area. One nesting pair of Peregrine Falcon, a non-listed raptor, was recently observed in the park. Previous to 2021, the last observations and monitoring of the peregrine were in the late 1980s. The NPS and FAA have begun informal consultation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and anticipates a recommended determination for evaluation of Not Likely to Adversely Affect for raptor or migratory bird species. The Utah Prairie Dog is listed as threatened in UT, but its habitat is on land and in burros underground away from the air tour routes; therefore, the anticipation is for a No Effect determination.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA):
Pursuant to 36 CFR 800.2(a)(2), the FAA has been designated the lead federal agency acting on behalf of the NPS and is fulfilling the collective responsibilities of both agencies under Section 106 of NHPA. Section 106 consultations are ongoing and will be documented in the PEPC project file.

Thank you for your interest and participation.

Sincerely,

Jim Ireland
Superintendent
435-834-4700

Contact Information

Please submit comments to:
https://parkplanning.nps.gov/BRCAATMP

Written comments may by submitted to:
National Park Service
Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division
BRCA ATMP
1201 Oakridge Dr., Suite 100
Fort Collins, CO 80525