Invasive Helicopter Tours Threaten Our Community, Again
Despite current and historical opposition to scenic aerial tours in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) and adjacent public land, our community still finds itself faced again with unwanted air traffic. Operators from Montana have been reported flying over noise sensitive wildlife habitat and areas where helicopter noise impacts recreationists’ wilderness experience. Currently, one scenic helicopter tour outfitter operates out of Jackson Hole Airport, but allowing their permit has set the stage for more operators to start flying over the Tetons.
In April 2020, the Airport Board granted Tony Chambers of Wind River Air, LLC a permit, largely because they lacked the authority to prevent commercial tours over Grand Teton National Park and adjacent public lands under the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA).
In April 2021, Chambers successfully renewed his permit, in spite of continued community opposition and unanimous resolutions from the Teton County Commission and Town of Jackson calling for a congressional ban on all helicopter tours out of Jackson Hole Airport. While proposed flight patterns do not overlap with the National Park except for takeoff and landing, the airport cannot legally restrict the route that helicopter tour operators might take once they depart (see above image). Out of state operators have been buzzing the park, too, venturing as far as the summit of Grand Teton and further emphasizing the need for more comprehensive management of these commercial tours.
There is every reason to expect that the success of one outfitter will encourage more, seeding issues like those in the Grand Canyon and Hawaii. 20 years ago, our community fought long and hard against a similar operation. The Alliance, in partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association, now calls on concerned conservationists, business owners, recreationalists, visitors, land workers, and community members to once again say, ‘Heli No!’ to commercial helicopter tours in our skies.Heli No! Campaign History Resources
*Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance enthusiastically supports the use of helicopters in search and rescue efforts.
What's At Stake
Wildlife and Lands:The auditory and visual disturbances associated with helicopters are known to have detrimental impacts on wildlife (Shannon et al. 2016, Alquezar and Macedo 2015). Terrestrial animals may flee from panic (Frid 2003) and experience long-lasting stress responses (Ditmer et al. 2015, Brambilla and Brivio 2018). Noise pollution is especially impactful to acoustic sensitive species, such as frogs (Kruger and Preez 2017), birds (Gallardo Cruz et al. 2021), and bats (Dorner et al. 2021). Frequent and pervasive helicopter tours threaten not only wild populations, but the ecosystems they compose and inhabit.
Local Economy: The viability of our local economy is inextricably linked to the health of the wilderness that surrounds us. A wide variety of businesses and livelihoods are negatively impacted by increased helicopter activity: scenic floats and wildlife tours, ranches, and hunting and fishing outfitters suffer directly, and all hospitality, recreation, and tourism-based businesses – as well as community members employed by them – depend on the unique wildness that draws so many to Jackson. Long-term prosperity and sustainability must be protected against short-term commercial gain that harms many whilebenefitting very few.
National Park Designation: Grand Teton is the only national park in the country with an airport within its boundaries. Though flights are not permitted to fly throughout the entire park, the airport board (due to FAA authority) has to grant operators access to take off and land from the Jackson Hole Airport. These aerial tours have an enormous impact on the noise-sensitive lands and natural soundscape that national park designation is meant to protect.
Community Values: Scenic helicopter tours threaten the peaceful atmosphere that attracted so many of us to the Tetons in the first place. Many neighborhoods will be experiencing the buzzing reverberations of passing aerial tours for years to come if proactive preventative measures are not taken. Allowing helicopter tours to proliferate unchecked threatens the sound and landscape around which so much of the Jackson community is based.
What You Can Do
The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the National Parks Conservation Association have partnered in opposition to all proposed commercial aerial tours in Jackson Hole. There are several avenues toward supporting community oriented, sustainable, and long-term solutions to helicopter tours in Jackson Hole. Here are a few ways to support this work:
Contact Caroline, our Public Land Community Organizer, at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about more ways you can engage with this issue or help with our campaign!