Critical that NPS assess significant impacts of an airport within a national park
JACKSON, WY – The National Park Service (NPS) announced its decision today to grant a 20-year lease extension to the Jackson Hole Airport, allowing it to continue its operations on land within Grand Teton National Park. This is the only commercial airport that is permitted to operate within a national park.
The Jackson Hole Airport requested an early lease extension in order to remain eligible for grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA requires that any commercial airport seeking federal funds must own its land or have 20 years remaining on its lease agreement in order to receive funding for airport operations and improvements. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has recognized that NPS and the Jackson Hole Airport Board of Directors are bound by FAA laws that limit restrictions on airport operations, yet it is still critical that NPS use all tools within their jurisdictional authority to protect the park from excessive noise and harmful impacts to its native wildlife.
“Due to the airport’s sensitive location, it is essential that its operations are subject to the utmost scrutiny in order to protect the national park from noise, artificial light, chemical pollutants and other intrusive impacts to its world renowned scenery and wildlife,” said Sharon Mader, NPCA Grand Teton program manager. “The Park Service’s primary mission is to preserve and protect park resources for the enjoyment of future generations. We can’t lose sight of that mission when considering the significant impacts of an airport within a national park.”
After years of debate about the controversial decision in 1983 by then Interior Secretary James Watt to allow continued operation and jet aircraft in the park, the Park Service’s announcement today solidifies the early 80s decision by extending the airport’s lease, which would have expired in 2033, through 2053. The final Record of Decision strengthens the Jackson Hole Airport Use Agreement and urges stronger measures to protect park resources from the effects of the airport.
“This effort shows strong leadership by NPS and is a step in the right direction,” Mader added. “Yet there is a noticeable absence of specific time frames and deadlines for completing mitigation actions, particularly in reducing noise levels at the Grand Teton National Park. The Board is aware of the need to reduce the airport’s effects on the park, but has struggled to implement meaningful operational changes such as using the radar control tower to direct pilots to land and take off from the south — a voluntary provision in the existing use agreement. Despite the fact that this provision has been in place since the 1983 use agreement was signed, 85 percent of all flights still land from the north over Grand Teton National Park.”
The Record of Decision provides strong language that restricts future growth of the airport beyond the existing boundaries and warns that efforts to expand the airport’s footprint will likely result in moving the airport out of the park to an alternative site in the region. NPCA has not advocated for the relocation of the airport outside of the park during this process. Instead, NPCA is focused on ensuring that reasonable and enforceable mitigation is in place to protect park resources as airport use continues to grow. While the lease extension document is not perfect, NPCA will continue to work on protecting and preserving Grand Teton National Park’s outstanding scenery and resources for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
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