Aerial circuit management plans adopted for arches, canyons and natural bridges
Aerial tour management plans for Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Natural Bridges National Monument in southeastern Utah were developed by the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The purpose of Aerial Tour Management Plans is to ensure that park resource values, including natural sounds, wildlife, and other natural and cultural resources, are protected in Arches, Canyonlands, and Natural Bridges,” Patricia Trap , group superintendent Southeast Utah, said in a statement. “The plans strike a balance between protecting the park’s landscapes while ensuring continued aerial visitation opportunities over the parks.”
According to the Park Service, commercial aerial tours have operated over Arches, Canyonlands and Natural Bridges for many years without defined operating parameters. Aerial tour management plans should protect national park resources and values by providing management oversight and ongoing training. The plans, however, do not specify any decibel limits on ground-level noise from overflights or require aircraft to use “quiet technology” to reduce engine noise. The Traveler contacted park staff to see how these issues would be addressed as part of the plan.
Many air tour plans drawn up this year have been criticized for circumventing the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirements for environmental studies and simply maintaining the number of flights allowed.
The Arches Plan allows up to 309 aerial circuits per year on four defined routes above the park and up to half a mile outside the park boundaries. There were an average of 309 reported aerial visits per year over Arches National Park from 2017 to 2019.
The Canyonlands plan allows for up to 367 aerial tours per year on 13 defined routes flown over the park and up to half a mile outside the park boundaries. There were an average of 367 reported aerial visits per year to Canyonlands National Park from 2017 to 2019.
The Natural Bridges plan allows up to 73 aerial circuits per year on five defined routes above the park and up to half a mile outside the park boundaries. There were an average of 73 reported aerial visits per year over the Natural Bridges National Monument from 2017 to 2019.