FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Quiet, Please! The Latest Threat to the Big Wild

Photo Source mark byzewski | CC BY 2.0

It was another long summer of smoke-filled eyes in the West. An early snow storm in the Northern Rockies ushers in a season of peace and solitude. Wildfires frighten tourists, excite the media and reacquaint homeowners who built in the forest to Mother Nature’s laws.  Hey, I get it, fires are deadly and sexy – good ratings. But after decades of kicking the environmental can down the road, at the first sign of smoke most politicians want someone else to blame for their pathetic past performances.

Three of the last four summers (2015, 2017, 2018), Glacier National Park erupted in a fury of smoke and flames. Tourists scampered away to Yellowstone, “inholder” homes were evacuated, some incinerated. But that’s not why I picked up the pen today. Let’s talk about quiet, yes quiet.  Where has our quiet gone?

This summer one could not avoid the heightened noise levels associated with firefighting in Glacier’s wilderness backcountry.  Most fires are managed as war zones (cash cows), and business is booming.  Helicopters, low-flying bombers spewing toxic fire retardant, the din of heavy equipment, all drown out the possibility of solitude.  Day after day natural silence is shattered by the sounds of war.  War and lying is the business model that just keeps on giving.

Indoors, where there’s less smoke, there’s no escaping the incessant chatter of media-dweebs wearing those yellow shirts that somehow magically transform cub field reporters into super-journalists.  Our world has devolved into a collage of visual snippets, no other senses need apply, only “refrigerator shots,” please.   How do we not hear the sounds of war banging and clanging around us – paradise lost?

Are America’s halcyon days gone forever, even in Glacier National Park?  Even when nothing’s burning in the Park, low-flying, helicopter-tour overflights shatter the silence with the unmistakable sounds of the Vietnam War.  Kill solitude and you’ve killed the whole wilderness experience. Noisy overflights are a persistent and growing blight degrading many of our national parks.  Thankfully, there is a grassroots coalition of park lovers and organizations called Quiet! Glacier.  Led by Mary T. McClelland, a tenacious activist raised in West Glacier, Quiet! Glacier applies constant pressure on every governmental agency responsible for permitting commercial overflight tours to denigrate Glacier’s natural soundscape.

In 1932, Waterton National Park (Alberta, Canada) merged with Glacier National Park (Montana, U.S.).   Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, World Heritage Site and Bioreserve — the world’s first — is our Nation’s only such designation.   As far back as 1987, when Congress passed the National Parks Overflight Act (PL 100-91), Glacier has been considered a priority candidate for noise-pollution cleanup.  In a 1994 National Park Service’s (NPS) report to Glacier again sat atop the (NPS) priority list for resolution of the overflights/noise problem.   So, after numerous additional studies and extensive public participation, why isn’t there immediate administrative action?

The National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 (NPATMA) required that the FAA and NPS jointly establish and advisory group to help resolve escalating conflicts caused by commercial overflight tour operations over national park airspace.  The National Parks Overflights Advisory Group (NPOAG) was established in 2010. Glacier NP has an existing Air Tour Management Plan (2003) that recognized, analyzed, and proposed several action alternatives to phase out commercial overflight tours, consistent with the Park’s General Management Plan and Decision (1999).  Glacier is 95% defacto wilderness and is generally managed to protect wilderness values.  To be perfectly clear, t’s the FAA acting in bad faith here.

Currently, Congress recognizes Glacier’s outstanding wilderness characteristics.  Both houses of Congress are currently considering the bioregional legislation: The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA), HR-2135; S 936.  NREPA includes legislative Wilderness Act protection for all of Glacier’s wilderness backcountry.

Why the incredible delay?  In 2004, it was the Federal Aviation Assn. (FAA) that threw a monkey wrench into Glacier’s best efforts to complete its overflight phase-out plan.  FAA is apparently, still, going on 15 years now, “consulting with their solicitors,” but has failed in all that time to cooperate with Glacier Park officials to enact any of the park’s alternatives.  The overflight phase-out plan remains stuck in bureaucratic limbo.  The FAA is the bad actor here, obstructing at every turn, in opposition to the letter and spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  The purpose of this MOU is to establish “a framework for cooperation and participation between the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) and the National Park Service (“NPS”) to implement the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000, Public Law No.106-181.”  The so-called “cooperative” effort referred to throughout the memorandum is more than a little ironic.

Under “interim direction,” noisy chopper overflights have largelyignored advisories to areas sensitive to noise, altitudes, and wildlife security — and have for the last 20 years.   For example, air tours routinely fly over wilderness and through the major raptor migration route over the Continental Divide. For scofflaw federal agencies like the FAA, war becomes perpetual war, perpetual funding, gridlock. Bureaucracy adapts, evolving into ideocracy.

In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one can argue, to whom one can present grievances, on whom the pressures of power can be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule of Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless, we have a tyranny without a tyrant. 

– Hannah Arendt

“Millions of dollars of taxpayer money have been spent to prevent Glacier from achieving one of its primary stewardship responsibilities,” said Mary T. McClelland, speaking on behalf of Quiet! Glacier’s 32-member grassroots coalition.   “We will continue this fight until theFAA steps up to honor the NPATMA law they helped write and respect the NPS directive to protect the natural sounds -Quiet- in a Wilderness National Park.”

In the meantime, bureaucracy business is good.  Noisy chopper overflights continue under “interim direction” and the FAA and its NPOAG continues to string the public along with yet another public comment period to rehash, yet again, the same issues that created passage of the National Parks Overflight Act in 1987.  Several other federal statutes give the NPS all the regulatory authority it needs to protect natural quiet in national parks. That’s an impressive 31 years of bureaucratic “delay with full pay.”

“Glacier determined over a decade and a half ago in their GMP that helicopter air tours impair park resources (natural sounds) and conflict with people and wildlife seeking solitude,” McClelland added.  “We implore federal agencies to come together and finalize the plan in honor of the ‘peace and quiet’ people seek when visiting a National Park like Glacier.”  Clearly, this is what Congress intended over 30 years ago, for today and for future generations.

As cold Fall rains turn to snow, tourists return home, migratory birds wing it South, and grizzlies seek out a comfortable spot to den for another long Glacier winter.  Wolverine, bald eagles, wolves, elk and other ungulates never leave this incredibly challenging, rugged landscape.  Glacier returns to a wilderness wonderland of ice and snow, and awesome silence.  We must try to do our part to preserve and restore the natural soundscape in Glacier National Park.  Make America great again; don’t quit growling like a grizzly or howling like a wolf until some sonofabitch “in power” does something to Defend the Wild.

Here’s a little something you can do right now.   See: https://www.change.org/p/glacier-national-park-needs-our-help-to-restore-the-natural-soundscape-please-sign-quiet-glacier-petition

 

More articles by:

Steve Kelly is a an artist and serves as a member of the board of directors of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.  

January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers Strike: Black Smoke Pouring Out of LAUSD Headquarters
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail