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Court Orders Management Plans For National Park Flight Tours

A small airplane coming in for a landing

The federal appeals court in Washington D.C. ordered the National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration last week to craft management plans for flight tours in Glacier National Park and 22 other national parks within the next two years.

At the heart of the matter is how long the Park Service and the FAA have taken to comply with federal law ordering the agencies to make rules for flight tours in national parks. No plans have come to fruition over the past 19 years. Meanwhile, some flight operators have continued flying under provisional permits.

The lawsuit pushing for the agencies to create permanent rules went straight to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. due to a provision in the Air Tour Management Act, which Congress passed in 2000.

The D.C. appeals court heard oral arguments back in December. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed the case back in 2018. General Council Paula Dinerstein is happy with the recent ruling.

"And the court was very clear and strong that there really can be no excuse or explanation for this long of a delay and that they’re going to be watching over these agencies."

The court ordered the Park Service and the FAA to turn in a schedule outlining how they plan to bring some national parks, including Glacier, that are subject to the Air Tour Management Act into compliance within the next two years.

The court will approve that timeline and track progress every 90 days. The Park Service says it’s reviewing the ruling.

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