July 28, 2009

Wyden Vows to Ground Helicopter Tours at Crater Lake

Gets Commitment from Parks Service Nominee to Preserve Park's "Ultimate Silence"

Washington, D.C. - Determined to protect the natural quiet and unique character of Oregonians' beloved Crater Lake, U.S Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today pressed Jonathan Jarvis, the administration's nominee to head the National Parks Service, during his confirmation hearing on his attitudes towards a proposed plan to allow commercial helicopter overflights in Crater Lake National Park. Jarvis appeared before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources today to face tough questioning on the topic from Wyden, who is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests.

Yesterday, Wyden met one-on-one with Jarvis to warn him that he would face tough questioning on the issue of allowing helicopter overflights in Crater Lake National Park. He brought up the negative impacts to the tourist experience and the hazards to public safety that such helicopter businesses have had on National Parks such as the Grand Canyon. Wyden stressed that he wanted the next head of the Park Service to share the priorities of Oregonians to block such flights and not ruin the silence that attracts thousands of visitors per year to the park.

"I let the nominee know that, with or without him, I intend to ground helicopter tours at Crater Lake National Park," said Wyden. "It sounded to me like he shares our Oregon values. People go to Crater Lake specifically for the absolute pure quiet of the place. I'm satisfied that Mr. Jarvis will protect the park and not sacrifice it to commercial profits. As the former Crater Lake park biologist, he has a real connection to and understanding of what makes the park a national treasure."

During the hearing, Wyden emphasized Oregonians' focus on keeping Crater Lake the unique and quiet sanctuary it is. Jarvis spoke of having lived at Crater Lake when he was the park biologist, sharing that both his children were born during his tenure there. Wyden asked what kind of guarantees Jarvis could offer to block helicopter tours of the park.

"I believe that we would make a determination - I can't predict the final outcome on this - but I do believe that it would be our responsibly to ensure that the visitor experience and that ultimate quiet that you find at Crater Lake is preserved," said Jarvis.

Wyden pushed back, calling Jarvis's answer "a recitation of current law." He asked for his commitment to ban helicopter overflights.

Jarvis replied, "I can make you this commitment that the resources of Crater Lake National Park that are dear to Oregonians as well as the American public - and one of those key resources in my mind is that extraordinary experience of standing on the rim, looking down at that lake, unobstructed, in the dead quiet… the only sound you hear is the rustle in the pines, the mountain hemlocks, and the Clark's nutcrackers, will be preserved."

Wyden thanked the nominee for his answers.

"You're making some headway. Look, I understand there's a legal process. We just want you to be a guardian of Oregon's fragile beauty. Can I put you down as a guardian?" asked Wyden.

Jarvis replied, "I am a guardian."

Wyden concluded his questioning by asking about how Jarvis could help address the U.S. Forest Service's foot-dragging on the issue of expanding the Oregon Caves National Monument boundary.

Jarvis said, "I think the key challenge, the work I need to do as Director if confirmed, is to walk across the street to the U.S. Forest Service and sit down and talk about these issues at the most senior level."

"Do walk across the street and do it in a hurry because we have been waiting and waiting. And the legislation I have is in line with your own management plan. I look forward to working with you in the days ahead," said Wyden.