Assistant Editors Note: This is an excerpt of an article written by Harriet Baskas on msnbc.com.
More than 4.5 million people visit the park each year, but up to 400,000 of those tourists may never step foot in the park. Instead, they fly over it in helicopters and small planes operated by a variety of air tour companies.
The flights offer breathtaking and unique views of the Grand Canyon, but also interfere with what park officials and others consider one of the area’s key attributes: the silence that’s part of the natural soundscape.
To reduce the level of aircraft noise heard in the park by both visitors and wildlife, the National Park Service is proposing a plan that would, among other things, cap the number of daily tours over the canyon at 364 and the number of annual overflights at 65,000. The proposal would also extend the curfew hours around sunrise and sunset when air tours are now prohibited.
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